Using Cloud Academy

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February 6, 2019 by Kenneth Fisher

The other day I talked about using Microsoft Learn. Well, honestly, Cloud Academy is the learning tool I’ve been using the most recently. It’s not free (we’ll get to pricing in a minute) but it is something that my company is paying for and encouraging us to use. In fact, when we first heard about it I went out looking for anyone who had a review and had a rather hard time finding one. So here we go.

General Format

First of all, as you probably figured out from the name Cloud Academy focuses on the cloud. Primarily AWS but they do have a fair amount on Azure and even some on Google. One of the things you get is a score based on your overall cloud knowledge. I’m honestly not sure how it’s calculated but hey, a score is a score right? Now, since my company is paying for it we also get a ranking based on that score that’s compared to others in the same company. Oh, and from what I understand management gets reporting on how much people have been working on it, how many courses we’ve finished etc.

Speaking of courses, at the top level CA (Cloud Academy) has Learning Paths. This is usually how I start and each path is a collection of courses, quizes, labs, and at the end an exam.

Courses

This is, of course (pun not intended but I still found it funny when I re-read this) the meat of everything. I’d have to say these are pretty good. They are basically just a series of videos of someone talking over Powerpoint presentations. But they do cover the information pretty well. I’ve seen better, but I’ve also seen a lot worse. Also if you prefer to read along they have a transcript of the text at the bottom.

One thing I do need to give them credit for, given that this is a cloud training site they make a good effort to keep their material up to date. If you go into a course that you’ve already finished, but that has been updated you’re given notice and the option to re-take the course.

Labs

Here we get to try something out. The first page has the login information and download buttons for the encryption keys which is kind of handy. It’s also where you start up the demo environment. After that, you get a detailed walkthrough on whatever the lab is trying to show you. There is also plenty of additional information on what’s going on to help reinforce the lesson. The instructions are sometimes a little confusing although they do have images following the description that helps. In the end, I found this useful because it forced me to work a little harder and learn more. Lastly, the labs are of course timed. The one time I got close to the end of the timer it was because AWS was being particularly slow creating some of the objects. If you get into the lab and realize you aren’t going to be able to finish (I had to help with dinner in one case) you can always stop it and start over.

Quizes

These are your pretty standard multiple choice questions. Given my admittedly limited knowledge of the subjects, they seem to be pretty good questions. I didn’t notice any of those questions where you could make an argument for more than one of the answers or where none of the answers really make sense.

Each question is timed. Generally one or three minutes. The only downside to this is that I did have at least one question that I wasn’t able to finish reading in the one-minute time limit.

After answering the question you get an immediate response as to the correct answer and an explanation as to why it’s the correct one.

Exams

These are pretty similar to the quizzes but the whole exam is timed not the individual questions (usually more than enough time). And of course, you aren’t given a grade until the very end. Also, you can’t go backward. If you skip a question or realize you made a mistake there is no way to go back.

Cost

This is the only place where I really have anything bad to say. The cost for an individual is $79 a month. This is more than double the cost of PluralSight ($35) and of course, Microsoft Learn is free.

I have no idea about the business cost so that may be more cost-effective at scale. In the meantime, given that my company is already paying for it, I’m quite pleased.

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