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In-house training

By stretch | Monday, September 22, 2008 at 7:57 a.m. UTC

Recently I've been tasked with training a colleague in the ways of the networker. The goal is to take him from a relatively modest background in help desk and systems administration to CCNA level within a couple months, and perhaps advance to CCNP level at some point in the future. While I have no doubt we can accomplish this, it got me wondering what structured training plans readers have used in their own workplaces.

I wonder because, aside from textbooks and documentation, I have little formal material on which to base classes. I do have access to Jeremy Cioara's excellent CBT Nuggets videos and a number of great books, but these are better-suited for self-study. Also, since I'm going to be helping out one person already I figured I'd try and expand my efforts to include a few of the other junior staff I work with. I'd like to setup weekly classes but would like some input before I attempt to develop a lesson plan. Can anyone share an approach they've taken in a similar situation?

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September 22, 2008 at 8:55 a.m. UTC

Hi, i would begin with giving him the "bible" of networking for reading: Computer Networks.


September 22, 2008 at 9:04 a.m. UTC

@vsaltao: Thanks for the suggestion, but I'm looking for material on which to base a class, not just books for newbies to read. Believe me, I've got plenty of books.

September 22, 2008 at 9:22 a.m. UTC

In my opinion Jeremy's cbt is the best.

September 22, 2008 at 11:42 a.m. UTC

Testout has a good training program also. Where as Jeremy's course is filled with content, the Testout course provides a simulator of sort that allows someone to practice typing the commands in that they learned along with giving them some leeway to try other commands to discover what is not working with a configuration.

September 22, 2008 at 11:47 a.m. UTC

Try with student guide and lab guide from official courses. Cheers

September 22, 2008 at 11:54 a.m. UTC

Linux and dynamips helped me a lot. I dont think you can learn fast from books. Best way to learn is to test..Under Linux you can set up a pretty nice lab.

Nickelby Thane
September 22, 2008 at 12:23 p.m. UTC

My personal approach would be to come up with my own syllabus which will mirror the CCNA/CCNP core topics but with an additional 'section' whereby real life experiences is shared e.g. how to troubleshoot a webpage that doesn't display because of MTU values.

That way, the candidate will be exposed to both the theoretical and real-life environment. As a bonus, he'll be able to help you on your work in the near future :-)

September 22, 2008 at 12:32 p.m. UTC

Just start looking at the ToC of a CCNA book. This will get you an idea of how to structure by topic. Then develop some slides that contain the basic concepts. I think its important not to come up with as much text material as possible, but with explanations in a Q&A format during class. There are tons of network books out there, no need to develop another one ;)

Explain the content of the slides, use a whiteboard for dry concepts. As soon as possible, add cli sessions to the explanation - show the students what it looks like in the real world.

From my experience, people pay more attention when there are "moving parts", and when you present problems, not complete solutions out of the box. You can even fool them into thinking that you "broke" the presentation by starting "fake troubleshooting"; students love to see stuff break, but they will be with you and the content.

Then, add hands on labs the students should solve after each topic (hopefully at least one per session).

September 22, 2008 at 1:02 p.m. UTC

When I was getting started myself ~9 years ago I had two coworkers to train. One was a new Engineering grad with no experience, the other was an electrician who had been working with our team doing the data cabling and physical installs.

For the new grad, I'd throw him some gear and a set of tasks. He had enough drive to figure stuff out and to ask questions where need be.

For the electrician, we put him in the Cisco Network Academy in the evenings. On the days after class, I'd go through some of what he learned and try to relate it to stuff we were doing in our network.

Both of them are doing very well for themselves, so I must have done something right.

September 22, 2008 at 4:20 p.m. UTC

I have only taught myself but I would follow the exam objectives and try to find the official student guide. Sprinkle with Jeremy's examples and expanded explanations and with your own experiences and I think you will be good.

September 22, 2008 at 5:34 p.m. UTC

Having access to CBT Nuggets is a great place to start and whether Cisco Press or Sybex, there are enough good books to go around.

When working with students, I’ve found timed labs are the key. Labs that reinforce the concepts and troubleshooting skills integrated with a controlled level of frustration results in active learning. Given the appropriate hardware, using two VMware Workstation VMs and connecting them via dynamips devices – you’ll have enough material to get techs up to the CCNA level.

Also, keeping students accountable for the material is important and can be approach two ways – Lab Exams and Practice Teach. I learn a lot more when held accountable to present the information.

Outline – start with Net+ outline to cover basics, next - move students into the CCNA material that reflects their job responsibilities.

September 23, 2008 at 8:49 a.m. UTC

The Cisco Learning Network online --https://cisco.hosted.jivesoftware.com/index.jspa?ciscoHome=true has the most current visual and hands on structured certification training information. Some nice perks are CCNA TV, CCNP TV, and theTechnology Library.

September 23, 2008 at 5:43 p.m. UTC

Good suggestions.. what I would do is just model the exam blueprint for your syllabus and break it up how you want to teach it and the order you feel it should go in. Also it's good to add in a bit of extra things that may be a bit beyond the scope of any particular exam.. combined with real world tips and tricks.. In your experiences I'm sure you have came across some things that you had to really spend a lot of time on to solve.. maybe put extra emphasis on those topics.

Brent Bice
September 23, 2008 at 5:48 p.m. UTC

I've only done some training for junior admins, but I started with a class on IP networking where I explained how subnetting worked, what the netmask really meant, arp broadcasts and caches and routing tables (on hosts), etc (real rudimentary), then a quick intro to ethernet and serial interfaces on a cisco router, then had the student/s config a few routers and CSU/DSUs with a T1 cross-over cable.

Next, I made them break their tidy /24 subnets on their ethernet segments into lots of smaller pieces and re-configure the routers so they could learn about static routes (and get sick of using them - grin). The next class was then about RIP and OSPF (while static routes and the pain they can be was still fresh in their minds). Since these were junior admins, this was usually where the networking classes ended, but it might be a start.

Hal Logan
September 23, 2008 at 7:22 p.m. UTC

It probably moves slower than you would like, but the Cisco Network Academy is not a bad structure to start with. In addition to numerous diagrams and visual aids, it has flash simulators to reinforce the lab exercises. URL is http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/netacad/index.html.

The only problem is getting a login. There's probably a community college in your area that teaches the network academy curriculum; if you offer to do a guest presentation or two one of the instructors there would probably be glad to give you a login.

Ron Eo
September 24, 2008 at 8:16 a.m. UTC

Hi, first off, great website. Cheat sheets are fantastic! (guess u know that) This is the lesson plan that I am currently using and hopefully it may help u.

1: Basic networking concepts Covers: OSI model, TCP/IP model, Ethernet 802.3, Wireless 802.11, TCP and UDP.

2: IPv4 Addressing & Subnetting Covers: IPv4 Classful addressing, Public/Private addresses & NAT basics, Subnetting, VLSM.

3: IOS & Managing Cisco Devices Covers: Intro to IOS, Basic IOS commands, Password recovery, Saving/backing up IOS, SDM.

4: Routing Covers: Routing concepts, Static routing, Routing with RIP2, OSPF & EIGRP, Route summarization.

5: ACL & NAT Covers: IP ACL, IPv4 NAT

6: Switching Covers: Switch operations, STP, VLAN, VTP

7: WAN Covers: WAN Basics, PPP, Frame Relay

8: Extras Covers: IPv6, VPN, Network Security.

Books: McGraw Hill CCNA Study Guide (I feel its easier to read and use as a classroom text than most of the others I have tried.)

September 24, 2008 at 1:57 p.m. UTC

You might want to start with Network Plus and work your way up

September 24, 2008 at 4:12 p.m. UTC

It probably moves slower than you would like, but the Cisco Network Academy is not a bad structure to start with. In addition to numerous diagrams and visual aids, it has flash simulators to reinforce the lab exercises. URL is http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/netacad/index.html.

The only problem is getting a login. There's probably a community college in your area that teaches the network academy curriculum; if you offer to do a guest presentation or two one of the instructors there would probably be glad to give you a login.

A great idea that Jeremy knows I would endorse but I doubt there's an accessible "community college in his area" unfortunately. Also any login an Academy would give out would be as a student - instructor logins are subject to a range of Cisco required quality controls. For workplace training perhaps you could try the Networking Academy Cisco Press Lab Guides and Companion Guides - these follow the Academy curriculum exactly.

September 24, 2008 at 6:43 p.m. UTC

I recommend a baseball bat and paracetomol.

Paracetomol are for you.

September 25, 2008 at 6:38 p.m. UTC

Just start the class with very basic Networks which deals with how a computer connected to internet, how we can access the web, what are the background process taking place to just connected with internet. Once this basic needs of communication are digested, you can very well go indept into each protocol, their packet structure, purpose of each field in a packet and various real time scenarios. Once this process is over, give him/her, a troubleshooting scenario and ask him/her to get the solution. In the sidebyside process we can ask him/her to access Cisco documentation and CBT nuggets video. I hope the way described in this scrap helped many future networking geeks.

September 29, 2008 at 3:11 p.m. UTC

Throw the Guy in the deep end, sink or swim ;-) I found applying the task to real life situation is the best, it has more meaning.

Try to get him involved in network meetings and projects.

But CISCO Press Books and CBT nuggets are great for passing the exam, but don’t prep you enough for a real life network issues and implementation.

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