The first thing I noticed about Transcender’s new CertificationTrainer video is that it’s not an actual VHS tape. Nor is it a DVD. Instead, Transcender’s new CertificationTrainer is a CD that contains more than seven hours of instructional video.

While many other training companies sell instructional CDs that include video segments, few vendors sell training tools that consist almost entirely of video instruction. And most offerings have been from companies that aren’t exactly well known to IT professionals. With the introduction of Transcender’s first CertificationTrainer video (on Microsoft Exam 70-270: Installing, Configuring and Administering Microsoft Windows XP Professional) that’s all changed.

A name you can trust
I admit that I’m not easily tempted to save money by purchasing lesser-known brands. Whether we’re talking power tools, appliances, or certification training aids, I’ve found the additional confidence that comes with purchasing proven brands almost always offsets discrepancies in price. I’m happy to say that holds true for Transcender’s CertificationTrainer line. With these videos, Transcender has built a first-rate training aid.

In the past, I’ve never felt compelled to sit through an entire instruction program on a CD. Inevitably, too many distractions and other projects would sidetrack me. However, Transcender’s CertificationTrainer is so well produced, thorough, and easy to use that it successfully held my attention. I can easily see myself using CertificationTrainer products to build my skills down the road.

Due to its ease of use and presentation quality, I bet the new product line will capture the attention of many overworked IT professionals and win its way into their certification study routines. IT professionals considering Windows XP certification should give Transcender’s CertificationTrainer a try. There’s much to like.

Installing the CertificationTrainer was a breeze. I dropped the CD into my PC and within 25 seconds, I had the first CertificationTrainer video up and running. Despite holding more than seven hours of video instruction, the Transcender application ate only three megabytes of hard disk space. The catch, of course, is that you have to have the Transcender CD in your computer whenever you want to run the program. However, requiring the CD is an increasingly popular anti-piracy measure, and one I can’t really complain about.

Best of all, despite depending upon audio and video playback to be effective, the CertificationTrainer’s system requirements are quite reasonable:

  • 300 MHz or faster processor
  • 64 MB or more RAM
  • 30 MB or more free hard disk space
  • 800 x 600 or better screen resolution
  • 8-bit or higher color
  • A Windows-compatible sound card
  • Windows Me, 2000, or XP
  • Internet Explorer 5.0 or later
  • Windows Media Player 6.4 or later

Effective learning
Transcender has built an appealing, straightforward user interface that’s complemented by a relaxed, clear-speaking, and conversational narrator/instructor. You’ll find the training software itself easy to use.

A navigation bar anchors the interface’s left edge, while the majority of the screen is reserved for the video display. Depending upon the content being taught, the video screen displays: an instructor talking, PowerPoint-like slides outlining lessons and listing facts and important items to remember (as shown in Figure A), or the actual screens and menus that must be configured to administer Windows XP.

Figure A
The CertificationTrainer often displays slides listing important facts to remember for the exam.

Often, the video presentation will guide you through the configuration of various dialog boxes, menus, and screens (Figure B). The narrator explains why the selections that are made onscreen are appropriate. When several entries or selections must be made in a row, Transcender has added red circles that momentarily appear on screen to help you spot the entries and values that are being selected or changed.

Figure B
The CertificationTrainer will walk you through the menus and screens used to administer Windows XP.

At the bottom of the video display screen are the usual stop/pause buttons and slide bar. You can easily stop, pause, restart, and jump around within each video segment. Just click the appropriate button or move the slide bar to the point you want to skip or review.

In the case of the Windows XP product, the exam’s content is broken down into seven categories that map directly to objectives covered on the certification exam:

  • Installation
  • Resource Administration
  • Hardware Devices
  • System Performance
  • The Desktop Environment
  • Network Administration
  • Security

Each section is further broken down into separate lessons. At the end of each lesson, a PowerPoint-like slide show summarizes the important elements covered in that lesson, which serves as an excellent review.

As you finish each section, the corresponding item in the left navigation bar is marked as complete. This auto-tracking feature makes it easy to start and stop training sessions. You’ll also find a helpful Search feature in the left navigation bar, which you can use to locate specific topics covered in the video lessons.

Eckel’s take
IT professionals may well find the CertificationTrainer can substitute for classroom instruction. All you need is a little willpower to sit down at the PC, and the video presentation software will take it from there.

I wouldn’t recommend that you try the exam having only sat through the CD presentation, though. Be sure that you can perform the procedures and administrative tasks on a test system and try your hand at simulation tests before you take your certification exam.

Transcender sells the Windows XP Certification Trainer for $129. Should you or your organization be planning to purchase Transcender simulation exams as well, you can save $30 by buying them at the same time.

CertificationTrainer is definitely worth a look, especially as Transcender releases more titles covering various certifications. You’ll be hard-pressed to find an easier training method.