About.com is a large site with an interesting business model: find experts in a huge number of areas, make them Guides, and use them to develop lots of content. One topic they have identified and found an expert for is certification. This site does include trainer certifications, but it also goes far beyond that area.

As training and learning professionals, we are often asked to direct company employees to resources to help them with certifications. Certification.about.com is certainly a place to recommend—both for your own information and for questions your students or colleagues may have about getting certified.

Main site sections
The site is set up like all About.com subject areas, which makes navigation especially easy if you are familiar with their site. Even if you aren’t, the site provides easy navigation and clear areas, including:

  • Subjects: the content “meat” of the site
  • In the Spotlight: the home of a variety of other related tools and features
  • Essentials: forums, chat, e-mail your guide, and a newsletter
  • Related Guide Links: a short list of other About.com features that might be of interest to those visiting this site

In this review, I’ll focus on the Subjects and In the Spotlight sections of this site. It might be helpful to note that while the Related Guide Links aren’t especially pertinent to trainers in general, they may be helpful to certification candidates or to specialized technical trainers.

The biggest research value for this site is in the Subjects section. There are 20 topic areas you can explore and a handy set of descriptions of each topic as well. Each Subject is a page of other topical resources and links throughout the Web. In many cases there are also links to free practice exams and training software for that particular platform.

Many of the topics are from companies who offer certifications, including Adobe, Cisco, Lotus, Microsoft, and more. Some of the additional topics are unique in that, while they are interesting and related to certification, they cover a broader spectrum of issues not usually examined on certification sites. These topics are what make this site more complete and more useful overall. Some of the most interesting include:

  • Certification Options
  • IT Jobs
  • Salary Survey

Each of these Subjects is full of useful information. The IT Jobs section, for example, has a large collection of sites where an IT professional might look for his or her next job. This section includes brief descriptions and is a very useful compilation. The Salary Survey area has specific surveys and other articles that discuss salaries by region, types of jobs, and more. This section may be useful to training staffs, especially in smaller companies where training is a part of the broader HR function.

In scanning the Subjects, it is obvious that some articles and content are in more than one topic area. This is fine, however, because all the inclusions make sense. One of the beauties of the Web is giving people various avenues to useful information. The Guide in charge of this site, Donna Matthews, has done this very well.

In the Spotlight section
The Spotlight section allows the Guide to, well, spotlight some offerings of the site. At the time of this review, the Guide had chosen to feature information on Certified Internet Webmaster training as well as to list other events, including an upcoming Certification Expo in Las Vegas.

The Certified Webmaster feature explains the certification process and has links to the companies that offer the training and the exams. The certification is designed for people who design, develop, administer, secure, and support Internet or intranet services. After completing the foundation track, there are a variety of specialist tracks to follow, including site design, server administration, and internetworking.

Final impressions
Overall, this is a great site. While many training professionals might not use it themselves, it certainly is a resource they can recommend to help their clients who are considering certifications. The About.com model is a good one, and this specific topic is a good example of how well that model can work.

Figure A shows the summary of my review.

Figure A
Here’s Kevin’s summary of his review of Certification.About.com .

Kevin Eikenberry is president of the Discian Group , a learning consulting company in Indianapolis, IN.

If you would like to comment on this article or have any questions or suggestions of other Web sites to review, please follow this link to write to Kevin.