IT Career JumpStart

Apr 10 2009   6:54PM GMT

Game Your Way to (Cisco) Certification?

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

Last Tuesday, April 7, SearchNetworking news writer Dan Morisy interviewed me for a story entitled “Cisco’s Game Face: Can games replace traditional certification prep?” The impetus for  his story is a joint effort among Cisco Systems, Cisco Learning (aka Learning@Cisco), and Larry Holland’s TotallyGames computer game development studio. They’ve created a gaming environment called Cisco Mind Share that covers about half of the content for the entry-level CCENT exam, with an eye to capturing a bigger audience for their learning materials, sold through Cisco Press online and in book stores everywhere. Topics covered include binary notation and arithmetic, IOS fundaments, the OSI model, IP addressing and subnetting, IP routing, switch operation and behavior, wireless networks, and NAT and PAT. Serious (and useful) stuff, in an attractive and entertaining wrapper!

The real questions that arise from this effort might be paraphrased as:

  • Will cert candidates use a game as a preparation tool?
  • Can gaming work as a reasonable study strategy?

Personally, I’m of the opinion that a game can be like other supplementary forms of cert prep materials, such as Exam Cram books, flash cards, practice tests, and so forth. I remain to be convinced, however that Cisco Program Manager Jerry Bush’s contention “We realistically think someone will use this as a study guide and spend 20 to 30 hours with it just like it was a study guide” holds water. This particular game, in fact, covers IP basics from routing to subnetting, to help candidates get ready for CCENT. But does that mean it will become a primary learning tool? I wonder…

Personally, I think that because most people have to prepare for cert exams in their spare (leisure) time, that when they want to study, they’ll turn to study guides first and foremost, and only then to alternate materials possibly including the Cisco Mind Share game. When they want to play instead of study, I have to believe they may sometimes turn to this game, but for real recreation they’ll be more likely to turn to their favorite MMORPG or FPS extravaganza. Work and play can be hard to mix, and my gut feel is that Cisco will encounter some resistance in getting exam candidates to cheerfully blend these two categories of activity.

But hey, I could easily be wrong, especially for younger demographics. Why don’t you take a look at the online demo — where the first five levels of the game are freely available — and tell me what YOU think? My opinion only goes so far, and I could use some opinions and reactions to what Cisco is offering here. For April this game is available at a 30% discount off the normal $50 list price for $35. Most study guides go for prices in the same range, so from a pure numbers basis it’s not out of line to compare these two types of prep materials. Would you spend either (or both) amounts for this kind of tool? Again, please tell me!

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