Imagine sitting in the comfort of your own home, feet kicked up on your La-Z-Boy, cool drink in hand, and a Windows 2000 courseware video playing on your TV. Won’t work, right? Wrong.

Count me as a converted skeptic. When LearnKey’s training catalog arrived in my mail, I almost tossed it aside. I thought there was no way a set of videotapes could truly help someone prepare for an IT certification exam.

Well, curiosity got the best of me. I requested LearnKey’s Windows 2000 Professional Administration self-paced computer training video series. After watching all five tapes, I believe these videos can substitute for a full-fledged class, as long as you possess industry experience.
Receive Paperchase Digest in your e-mail box each Friday. Catch every column, along with timely tips and reviews not found on the site! It’s easy, and it’s free. Just go to the TechMails page and sign up for Erik Eckel’s Paperchase Digest to ensure that you keep up-to-date on the latest certification tips, shortcuts, news, and more!
What’s covered?
Just to make sure I wasn’t crazy, I contacted the MCT who’s featured in the video series. His name is Aaron Spurlock, and although he’s just 28 years old, his resume boasts some 15 years of IT experience installing and configuring systems for such companies as Lucent Technologies and Scientific Atlanta.

First, I asked how he determines the content to include on the tapes.

“My main goal is to ensure that I cover everything that Microsoft is looking for on the test,” said Spurlock, who’s also earned MCSE+I, CNE, and CNI certifications. “I take a look at their exam objectives, and that becomes my skeleton. I just flesh it out from there, knowing that I need to talk about these topics and that people are going to be taking a look at this for the exam.”

But he doesn’t stop there.

“The funny thing is, as you’re going through that, it highlights holes Microsoft’s left wide open that you need to fill in.”

And does he fill in holes. On the five-tape series, which runs 551 minutes (just shy of 10 hours), Spurlock addresses all the objectives Microsoft tests in the #70-210 exam—and then some. He usually begins covering a topic by providing a brief overview on camera, switching to PowerPoint slides to highlight important facts, and wrapping up with onscreen demonstrations of the technology. You’ll find information on everything from unattended installs, cloning, and troubleshooting to security, the use of user profiles, and group policy usage.

How’s it work?
Each videotape in the Win2K Pro series is labeled to indicate which subjects it covers. In addition, each tape includes a card indicating the tape’s length, which topics are covered, and where that topic is covered on the tape.

Here’s the cool part. While the tape plays, a small icon appears in the bottom-right corner. The icon displays a letter and number, which correspond to a particular lesson.

Thus, it’s easy to return to a particular section you want to brush up on. It also comes in handy when others living in your house rewind the video, mistakenly believing the tape in the VCR is Elmo’s World.

When the time comes to sit back down and pick up where you left off, it’s no big deal. Just fast-forward to the section you need using the icon as your guide.

What else do you need?
While LearnKey’s video-based training series for Win2K Pro does an excellent job of addressing the skills and knowledge you’ll still need to pass the 70-210 exam, I don’t believe the tapes are sufficient all by themselves. As I’ve discussed before, I believe there are five steps to proper exam preparation. However, these tapes can replace the most expensive and time-consuming step: classroom instruction.

The only caveat is that you need to have at least a fair understanding of IT principles. So you’ll probably want to ensure that you have some industry experience; otherwise, classroom instruction may be your best bet.

“With Microsoft upping the bar for the MCSE 2000, this particular series is aimed at somebody who has been there,” Spurlock confirmed. “That was kind of the idea I had in mind when I started creating the content and putting it together.”

While LearnKey recommends that you watch the videos while seated at your computer, I sat myself squarely in a La-Z-Boy. I didn’t miss having the PC immediately next to me. If I didn’t catch a point on the first run, or if my attention wandered, I just hit the rewind button on the remote. No problem there.

But you’ll want to work with the OS and know it inside and out before hitting the testing center.

“If you have any way of just getting two computers and beating the heck out of them to figure out how [they go], that’s by far the best way to learn, I think,” Spurlock added.

What’s the price?
LearnKey’s Windows 2000 Professional video training series is complete. As a result, you’re not going to get it cheap. Currently, the retail price on the LearnKey site for the entire Win2K Pro series is $365. You can also purchase individual sessions. For example, if you wanted to view just the Windows 2000 Professional installation session, you could have it for just $89, not counting shipping.

While several hundred bucks is a steep price for a few videos, remember that they can replace a class costing several times that amount. Ultimately, I recommend that IT managers purchase LearnKey’s library of Windows 2000 tapes and sign them out to network administrators and support personnel looking to get certified.
If you’d like to share your opinion, please post a comment below or send the editor an e-mail.