If you’re planning to take the A+ Certification exam, the folks at Sybex can help you get ready. I’ve been taking lessons from their computer-based training (CBT) e-trainer course, and I have to admit, I’ve learned a lot. Here’s my report.

I liked the interface
I liked two things about the A+ e-trainer course right away. First, it needed only 5 MB of disk space to install itself. Second, even though the documentation stated 64 MB of memory were required, the program ran just fine on my home Windows 95 machine that only has 32 MB of RAM. The interface had some nice features:

  • The screens had a clean look. I liked the use of the Sans Serif font on white background.
  • The program bookmarked itself automatically. When I came back, it asked if I wanted to go back to pick up where I left off.
  • I liked the VCR-style controls and mouse-activated tiptext.
  • The voiceovers were pleasant and easy to understand.
  • I liked being able to take a pre-test before drilling into the lessons in each section. You get a feel for how much you have to learn.
  • After you take an exam, the program gives you instant access to a list of topics you need to review.

True or false: A customer who has a bad tech support experience will tell only four people about it. (Look for the answer below.)
I wished for keyboard navigation options
I didn’t like the fact that you have to use the mouse for all navigating. The program doesn’t allow any keyboard shortcuts such as pressing [Tab] to move between options or pressing [Enter] to advance to the next screen. The program acknowledges only [Escape] to exit and [Alt][Tab] to cycle between open windows.

All of the questions are in the multiple-choice format, and I don’t like that you have to click in the bullet-style radio buttons to make a selection. I would prefer a Web-style interface that lets me click hypertext associated with a radio button to select it.

There’s one more annoying behavior that I’d like to see changed. When you click the main menu’s Assessments option, there’s no way to back up. If you don’t go ahead and start a timed evaluation, then pressing [Escape] is the only way I found to get out—you get kicked out of the program and back out to Windows.
If you’ve used a Sybex e-trainer product, or if you’d like to recommend another CBT product, please post a comment below or drop us a note.
I learned a lot
In “Choosing the right CBT,” Bob Potemski outlines several principles that should guide your thinking when you evaluate CBT. According to Bob, one of the most significant questions to ask is how well does the CBT transfer knowledge?

The A+ e-trainer course worked very well for me—that is, I felt like I learned a lot. (Actually, I found out I’d forgotten a lot about Windows 3.x, batch files, and electricity.) The documentation boasts “adaptive learning with custom study plans,” and that’s what the program delivers—it kept close track of every lesson I took and every question I missed.

Potemski notes that “self-directed learning may not be the best choice for training most individuals.” But I like CBT. I don’t mind reading text onscreen, and I enjoy listening to lectures. Make no mistake—the bulk of the information you need to absorb doesn’t appear onscreen—it’s read to you by the voiceover artists.

So if you have the basic skills needed to earn a certification, will Sybex’s e-trainer CBT help you prepare for the exam? If you’re someone who likes listening and can process spoken words effectively, the A+ e-trainer course’s 28 modules will challenge and confirm your knowledge of hardware, software, and customer service issues. By the time you’ve passed the CBT practice evaluations, you’ll be ready for the real thing.

The street price for the A+ Certification e-trainer course is $49.99 U.S. For more information, check out the Sybex home page. The answer to the sample question is false. A customer who has a bad tech support experience will tell an average of 11 people about it. A customer who has a positive experience will tell only four people.
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