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CRN Reseach: Small VARs Prefer Self-Paced Certification Training

Last week's research report detailed the methods that large solution providers prefer for delivery of certification training. This week we look at small solution providers--those with less than $5 million in annual revenue--and their training preferences, drawing on data from the CRN Certification Study 2003, which appeared in the Aug. 25th issue of CRN.

CRN Certification Study 2003

This exclusive study focuses on the certifications that solution providers think will be most important to their business operations over the next six to 12 months, as rated by the solution providers themselves (a list can be generated using CRN's exclusive online database).

CRN asked respondents to specify which type of training they preferred for the certification(s) they hold, specifically for initial training, as opposed to training to maintain or update the certification. Five possible choices were specified: on-site classroom, remote classroom, self-paced programs (books or CDs), instructor-led online and self-paced online.

In most cases, small solution providers strongly prefer self-paced programs--either online or through books and CDS--to classroom methods when it comes to initial training for certifications. This trend is most evident among those holding the 3Com Certified Solutions Expert or Cisco CCNA certifications, where nearly two-thirds prefer self-paced programs. The Citrix CCA and Oracle Certified Professional (DBA) certifications are exceptions; in these cases, VARs narrowly prefer classroom training.

These responses contrast sharply with those from large solution providers, which have a strong preference for classroom training for initial certification. One reason behind these trends lies in the differences between the two groups of solution providers in which certifications are most important. Some of the newer and more specialized certifications that appear on the list for large solution providers, such as Cisco CCIE security and Microsoft MCDBA, are not on the small VAR list. These certifications are among those for which large VARs have the strongest preference for classroom training.

But even among certifications that appear on the list of most important certifications for both large and small solution providers, the latter group has less of a preference for classroom training. Forty-two percent of large VARs, for example, prefer classroom training for the Microsoft MCSA certification, compared with 34 percent for small VARs.

Time is money, especially for small solution providers in a less-than-robust sales environment. Self-paced programs save time that would otherwise be wasted by sitting in a classroom, giving technicians the flexibility to study as time allows so they can maximize the number of hours spent working on billable projects.

Small solution providers are more positive about online training methods compared with their larger counterparts. On average, 43 percent of smaller VARs prefer online methods--either instructor-led or self-paced--for initial certification training, compared with 33 percent of large VARs (those with at least $5 million in annual revenue).

Even so, vendors still have room for improvement to make online an effective method of delivering certification training. On average, only 40 percent of technicians, regardless of the certifications they hold, think that online training is "effective" or "very effective" when it comes to providing needed skills for either initial or maintenance training, while nearly one in five think such training is "slightly" or "not at all" effective.

Unlike larger solution providers, training preferences among smaller VARs do not change when it comes to training to maintain or update an existing certification. Indeed, the preference for self-paced programs becomes even stronger.

The differences can be dramatic. While 48 percent of those holding the Check Point CCSA certification prefer self-paced methods for initial training, this figure jumps to 65 percent for maintenance training. For the Microsoft MCSD certification, the figures are 50 percent and 66 percent, respectively.

Even among certifications for which solution providers prefer self-paced programs for initial training, the preference grows stronger when it comes to maintenance training. Fifty-two percent of those holding the Microsoft MCSE certification prefer self-paced programs for initial training, and that number rises to 61 percent for maintenance training.

The same reasons cited above for initial certification training also hold for maintenance training when it comes to self-paced programs. Technicians also cite the fact with maintenance training, individuals of different skill levels are often lumped together in the same classroom, resulting in more knowledgeable personnel wasting time while lesser-skilled people are brought up to speed. Self-paced programs allow these technicians to avoid this situation.

Next week: What Factors Drive the Decision by VARs to get Certification Training

John Roberts is director of editorial research at CRN. He can be reached at

Percentage Of Large VARs Preferring Self-Paced Programs
(Either online or through books and CDs)
Certification For Initial Training For Maintenance Training
3Com Certified Prof. 62% 70%
Cisco CCNA 61 70
Novell CNE 55 64
Microsoft MCSE 51 61
Oracle Cert. Assoc. DBA 51 60
Microsoft MCSA 50 59
Microsoft MCSD 50 66
Symantec SCSP 48 69
Symantec SCSE 48 58
Check Point CCSA 48 65
Check Point CCSE 46 63
Oracle Cert. Prof. DBA 39 49
Citrix CCA 37 53
Base: A total of 1,239 responses from large solution providers for the certifications listed above.
Source: 2003 CRN Certification Study

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