In the last year or so, there has been a quiet revolution going on with how Microsoft delivers training and certification.
Previously, the main option was Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) courses delivered by Certified Learning Partners. For some years, I've been saying that I don't see that as the longer-term model for Microsoft. I believe that's for three reasons:
- The learning experiences team in Microsoft have needed to be a profit center.
- The product groups want as much information out there as possible and as free as possible.
- The creation and delivery processes for MOC courses don't lend themselves well to constantly-evolving information.
That has to lead to real challenges within the company.
The partnership that Microsoft has done with edX (https://www.edx.org/) is an interesting alternative. If you haven't been involved with edX, they are an amazing organization that allows you to access some of the best learning in the world, mostly for free. If you'd like to see some of the best lecturers from MIT, Harvard, Berkeley, Hong Kong Polytechnic, University of British Columbia, etc. you can now do that. You can use it to learn almost anything, right from your home and at your leisure.
So where does Microsoft fit into this?
Microsoft have been putting many courses up onto edX and you can learn all the material for free. This fits directly with the needs of the product groups, to get information about their products and services, and how to use them, out there for everyone.
So what about certification?
Microsoft still needs to be able to certify people. When you take a course at edX, you have the option to choose a Verified course. This currently (typically) costs around $99 USD per course. And if you pass the right combination of courses, you can achieve one of Microsoft's Professional Program certificates (https://academy.microsoft.com/en-us/professional-program/tracks/). Here are the current tracks:
So you can choose to learn any of it for free, or pay to be verified and certified. That's a great combination. I currently see this as a much better learning model than the previous official curriculum model which was far too hard to keep up to date.
I've previously completed the Data Science track, and the Big Data track, and hope to complete the DevOps track this week.
But what has me really interested is the new Artificial Intelligence Track (https://academy.microsoft.com/en-us/professional-program/tracks/artificial-intelligence/). The AI track requires 10 courses, and there is a small overlap with the Data Science track. In my case, as soon as I'd enrolled, I found that I had 3 courses already credited:
- Introduction to Python for Data Science
- Data Science Essentials
- Principles of Machine Learning
The Python topic was optional in the Data Science track so those that did the R courses would not have this one. (Luckily I decided to do both the R and Python courses as I had an interest in both).
I'm looking forward to this track. Here are the overall areas covered:
I'd encourage you to check it all out and to consider enrolling if it's of interest to you.