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Cisco U. Stops Partners From Getting ‘Lost In The Sea Of Trainings’

Gina Narcisi

The new Cisco U. will provide partners with information on where they should go next, says Kent MacDonald, senior vice president of strategic alliances at Cisco Gold partner Long View Systems. ‘Sometimes that’s the other challenge—I don’t quite know what I need or what I should do. That functionality will help so we don’t feel lost in the sea of trainings.’

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The Cisco Learning and Certifications organization unveiled its new digital learning experience for partners and customers at Cisco Live 2022 that will serve up the training that IT administrators and partners are looking for to grow their own knowledge and fill in skills gaps within their teams.

Cisco U. is an AI-powered online learning platform that’s designed around the needs of the learner, said Par Merat, vice president of Cisco Learning and Certifications. Cisco U. offers courses as well as a community for people or teams seeking training to earn a certificate, take on a new role or build a new IT solution.

[Related: Cisco Catalyst Gains ‘Industry-Changing’ Simplicity With Meraki Cloud Management Option ]

“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is solve problems and provide information and knowledge so that [IT professionals] can be successful in their careers,” Par Merat, vice president of Cisco Learning and Certifications, told CRN.

And right now, learning is hot, she said. “We’re [focused on] how we evolve our program and meet our community where they are because the world has changed. So, we’re introducing a new learning experience,” Merat said at Cisco Live 2022.

“The thing that [partners] tell Cisco and most of our technology partners is that our biggest limitation for growth is getting skilled people. To be able to have better access and be able to do a self-assessment and develop the new skills that everybody is looking for, it doesn’t just enable our team it also lets our end users have better experience with that technology,” said Kent MacDonald, senior vice president of strategic alliances at solution provider Long View Systems, an Alberta, Canada-based Cisco Gold partner.

Struggle To Gain Necessary Skills In Training

Gaining the right skills is a headwind that many companies are facing, MacDonald said. Long View is interested in training for security, cloud and software-defined technologies. Cisco U., which has been injected with AI, will give partners and customers helpful recommendations of where they should go next, he said.

“Sometimes that’s the other challenge—I don’t quite know what I need or what I should do. That functionality will help so we don’t feel lost in the sea of trainings,” he said. “More skills mean more transformation for our business.”

The platform includes pre-skill assessments, modular learning, advanced search and a focus on goal setting, Merat said. It also offers personalized recommendations and feedback and can guide learners along the way. Cisco U. offers learning content for some third-party technologies from technology providers that partner with Cisco as well.

Cisco U Platform Cheered By Partners

The ability to make recommendations to users on new trainings is “way overdue,” said Joe Berger, senior director of Cisco partner World Wide Technology’s digital workspace practice.

“This brings a bit more continuity to the training sessions,” Berger said. “I think that does help train the engineers and the technical folk and creates tracks for them to go get deeper into specific technology.”

Users of Cisco U. will also be able to tap into the community to easily interact with others and exchange ideas, said Gary Tondini, senior director of experiences for Cisco Learning and Certifications. “That‘ll be kind of future direction we want to go—we call it a blended learning approach. But it begins with this digital-first approach to bringing the learning and amazing content all in one place, and then bring in the people.”

In time, users will also be able to sign up for in-person classes in addition to the digital learning experience, Tondini said.

Cisco U. by itself isn’t “groundbreaking,” but it’s meeting IT professionals where they are, he said. “Historically, when we get a little bit of information from somebody and when we help them set a goal or provide them nudges, our completion rate is dramatically better than when somebody just comes into this impersonal site and they don‘t care about the journey or finishing,” Tondini said.

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