Free and Low Cost Computer Training Options: Part 1

You might not want to spend a lot of money on technical training right now; but there will come a time when you need to invest some money, like  a course with Pragmatic Works.  But for right now, you are in the exploration stage of your technical journey; so you need some free but good training. This post will give you an overview of three free sites and one low cost, but well worth the money, site. In subsequent posts, I will ‘deep dive’ into each of these sites; and I will highlight courses I have taken, point out insights/pros/cons of each site, and show you courses you might want to take next. So join me for this two part blog as we look at Pragmatic Works’ Training on the T’s, Microsoft Virtual Academy, SQL Server Central Stairway Series, and

Pragmatic Works

I can never say enough good things about Pragmatic Works; the company and the people are fabulous. Pragmatic Works is a local consulting and training company that started small and now has served over 7,500 national and international clients. Regardless of their phenomenal growth, this group of guys and gals are always humble and fun to be around. When you check out their website, take time to view their ‘Company Culture’.  Their five company business tenets are Be Humble, Deliver Wow, Achieve Mastery, Value Community and Mentorship, Every Second Counts, and Be Fun, Creative, and a Little Weird. Hey, that’s what we want to be! Click here to read the full statement.

This blog is not meant to be a love fest about Pragmatic Works, but my technical journey was due in great part to their purposed effort to give back to the community and to mentor new folks in the tech field, with things like JSSUG and SQL Saturdays. Pragmatic Works started the Jacksonville SQL Server Users Group (JSSUG) many years ago and continues to be instrumental and participatory in both JSSUG and the SQL Saturdays each year. Without Pragmatic Works’ involvement in the community, I probably would not have begun my technical journey or this blog; but enough about that, let’s look at their weekly live, free webinars called Training on the T’s.

Every Tuesday and Thursday  at 11:00 AM, Pragmatic Works provides a live webinar on different technical and professional topics.  View all their training options here.  Under the ‘free’ training tab, you will see  topic areas like  SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), SharePoint, Business Intelligence, Big Data, DAX, Azure; the list goes on.  Every webinar is presented by experts in their field; many of them being Microsoft’s Most Valued Professional (MVP).

Click on the link for the Training Center; from here you’ll see a tab for ‘Future Webinars’ and ‘Past Webinars’. The ‘Future’ tab shows a list of upcoming training for the next few month, but pay attention as sometimes they have a week’s worth of daily webinars on a specific subject; more about that in future blogs.

On the ‘Past Webinar’ tab you are able to view previously recorded training sessions. Sometimes your schedule doesn’t allow you time to view a webinar live, but you have access to all the past webinars 24/7. Clicking on the past webinars, you will see the most recently recorded topics, or you can do a search for a specific topic area. There are currently 418 entries in the ‘Past Webinar’ section; that’s 418 HOURS of excellent, free training on a broad range of technical topics. We’ll spend much more time in an upcoming blog about specific webinars (and topic areas) worth watching on the site. But don’t wait until then, check out the upcoming webinars now. All you need to do is complete an online registration to register for future  webinars or click to watch previously recorded ones.

Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA)

Microsoft provides free online IT training courses broken down by either topic or products, as shown by the screen shot.

Microsoft Virtual Academy

In addition to previously recorded trainings on the site, MVA has upcoming trainings you can view ‘live’; and they are free as well. To get started with MVA, you need to sign up for a free account. You can create your own ‘My Learning Plan’, and I recommend you do this.  The Learning Plan will put all your courses in one place, making them easy to locate and view .  Also, when you complete a MVA course, you earn ‘learning points’. You don’t win any prizes, but it shows a potential boss that you’re serious about training and staying on the cutting edge of technology. We’ll go into more detail about MVA in a later blog, but for now, I’d like you to check out the link to an article written by Michael Otey of Windows IT Pro. At this link, Michael answers the top ten questions about MVA.

I decided to break this blog post into two parts because I want you to 1)  have time to explore these two sites at your leisure and to 2) not overwhelm you with too much new information.  Also, by the time we dive deeper into each of these sites, you will have had ample time to become familiar with their training topics and formats.  Lastly, by giving you more time to explore these new sites, you will get more out of the upcoming ‘deep dive’ training posts on Pragmatic Works and MVA.  See you next time for Part 2 of ‘Free Training Sites’.  Until then!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to  Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!




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