Linux For The Real World

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The recent Linux Foundation report about the Linux jobs market highlighted a need for experienced professionals, but the traditional Linux training and certification programs don’t always impart the kind of skills actually required by employers. In an attempt to bridge this gap, veteran Linux trainer and Linux Journal associate editor Shawn Powers has teamed up with CBT Nuggets to develop a series of Linux training videos entitled “Linux for the Real World.” According to the description, this course “goes beyond the hypotheticals to walk viewers through real-world situations.”

The course is a user directed series of classes covering topics that fill in the blanks left by the normal certification process. Powers describes it as a “virtual internship,” in which he shares his professional experience to give students practical hands-on experience with Linux system administration tasks.

Each 30 to 40 minute class, or nuggets as they’re called here, presents a single topic. Powers attempts to provide information suitable for all skill levels, from basic to advanced. The new Linux enthusiast can watch introductory material for each topic, as well as follow along as Powers dives into more technical aspects. Intermediate and advanced users can brush up on the basics of each task, and ideally learn a new thing or two.

I chatted with Powers recently about the course, and what “user directed” video training actually meant in the context of video training. It’s not like students can interrupt the videos to ask questions. Powers told me that although he has a basic outline for the course, he has not yet recorded anything other than the first lesson. After each video, viewers will respond to a survey in which they can ask for more details and help influence the contents of future videos. Powers will collect and review the responses, and incorporate common themes into the next video he records.

CBT Nuggets did a similar course called “Cisco for the Real World”, in which user feedback directly influenced the course. I reviewed a few of those videos and admit I was pleased with the result: the beginning of each video highlighted the themes from the feedback, or addressed a specific question pertaining to the previous topic, before diving into the next topic. Thirty to 40 minutes is just about right for absorbing content in this way: not so long that you get really bored if it’s largely review, but not so brief as to preclude interesting side-notes and in-depth discussions.

As a professional Linux trainer and a professional system administrator, Powers is keenly aware of the knowledge gaps created by certification programs. People with certifications may not have any practical experience, which puts them at a disadvantage both on the job and during the job hunt. According to Powers, one of the primary goals of “Linux for the Real World” is to present students with some real-world situations, not just fabricated examples to demonstrate a specific technology. While I think calling this a “virtual internship” is a little much, I can’t fault the desire to fill the knowledge gap.

I’ve just watched the first video in the “Linux for the Real World” course, on Linux installation. As a full-time Linux sysadmin, it didn’t present me with anything really new, but neither was it so rudimentary as to be a waste of time. Powers covers basic network installations of Ubuntu and CentOS, setting up a local mirror from which to install, and finally touches on Kickstart files for unattended installations. Powers’ demeanor is warm and personal, and his pacing is just right. True to his word, he presented a couple of real-world situations that are likely to come up during the installation process and showed how to deal with them.

It’s true that all of the information in this video is available all over the Internet, and in countless books at your local bookstore. Not everyone learns well from reading, though, so video instruction like this is actually quite beneficial to some students. Auditory and visual learners will be well served by listening and watching, respectively, what Powers says and does.

That first class is free for everyone to watch. Similarly the survey is open to everyone, so if you have an interest in guiding the development of “Linux for the Real World”, watch it and take the survey. For $600 you can subscribe to the full course, as well as the LPIC-101 and LPIC-102 training courses. You should be able to pass the LPIC-1 and LPIC-2 certification tests at the end, as well as benefit from all the real-world Linux education that Powers shares.

CBT Nuggets is also running a little contest until April 1: describe in 200 words or less what you would do with a year’s subscription to their entire video training library. If you’re interested, submit your answers.

In related news, the Linux Professional Institute has announced a Linux Essentials curriculum that “prepares the next generation to acquire the advanced skills needed to fill increasing shortages of workers in today’s mixed IT environments.” This program targets people new to Linux looking to make sense of it and the larger open source ecosystem. Scheduled to officially launch in mid-June, it looks like a pretty solid introductory course.