Last Tuesday, I got an e-mail from Learning@Cisco entitled “A ‘Bundle’ of Useful Information.” Upon opening this email, I discovered it to be the latest Cisco Learning Network Store Newsletter (July 2012, Volume 2, Issue 09). Turns out it’s a promotion for the Cisco CCNA Premium Study Bundle, and it’s got a lot of bits and pieces and a pretty hefty price tag to with it — namely $699! But I think it might be the next big phenomenon in the cert prep business, and I ‘d like to lay out the contents of that bundle to explain my reasoning:
- The bundle includes a Pearson VUE exam code that covers the cost of the 640-802 CCNA exam, plus a coupon for an 80 percent discount on the retake exam for $59 (each try normally costs $295). This exam combines the coverage of the two-part Cisco ICND1 (640-822) and ICND2 (640-816) exams, which cost $150 each. Thus this part of the offering gets you completely past the exam requirement, with a very low price retake, if needed.
- Cisco CCNA Premium Study Bundle Install Guide (no charge)
- Cisco CCNA 640-802 Premium Study Planner ($29.99 MSRP)
- Cisco Certification Practice Exam for 640-822 ICND1 ($49.95 MSRP)
- Cisco Certification Practice Exam for 640-802 CCNA ($79.95 MSRP)
- Cisco Learning Labs for CCENT and CCNA ICND1 25-hour 240-day labs ($75.00 MSRP)
- Cisco Learning Labs for CCNA ICND2 25-hour 240-day labs($75.00 MSRP)
- Cisco Press: CCENT/CCNA ICND1 640-822 Official Cert Guide, Premium Edition eBook and Practice Test, 3rd Edition ($39.99 MSRP)
- Cisco Press: CCNA ICND2 640-816 Official Cert Guide, Premium Edition eBook and Practice Test, 3rd Edition ($39.99 MSRP)
- Cisco Press: CCNA 640-802 Network Simulator, 2nd Edition (MSRP $149.99)
- Cisco Press: CCNA Video Mentor: (CCNA Exam 640-802), 2nd Edition ($74.99 MSRP)
The MSRP total for the $699 package tots up to about $910, including the total costs of a single exam; total costs go to $758 for $1,205 MSRP total for those who must spend another $59 for a second exam re-take on 640-802. Given that you can buy most of the Cisco Press items listed above (including the video mentor and network simulator) at discounts of up to 30% from Amazon and other online vendors, the deal isn’t necessarily as stunning as it might look on first blush. That said, it remains an excellent value, and a great combination of components. And in fact, Pearson boosts the lab time for its learning labs to more than double the usual amount, and the overall study guide, designed by veteran CCNA expert Wendell Odom (a double CCIE), explains to owners which materials to use, when, and how to help them learn the materials and tasks necessary to pass the demanding 640-802 CCNA exam.
But to me, the real “big deal” here is that one organization is offering a complete and very high-featured self-study collection for a highly popular certification at a very good price. $699 is just over twice what you’d pay to take and pass the exam on the first try, and $100 over the cost of two exams, and includes a great deal of well-written reading material, good practice exams, learning labs, and a network simulator. I expect this kind of bundling to become matter-of-course for other Cisco certifications, now that Cisco Press has figured out how to do it for its most popular entry-level credential.
I also expect to see other big cert sponsor press organizations — such as Microsoft Press/O’Reilly, Wiley/Sybex, and Osborne/McGraw-Hill jump rapidly into this game. Pearson is already doing it with Cisco Press, and it’s no great leap to extend it to Exam Cram and some of their other popular cert prep lines (and given that Pearson also owns VUE, they have a better opportunity to make money from programs that offer exams through the VUE testing centers). I also expect to see bundles start to include e-copies or e-access to materials and facilities as part and parcel of the overall package as well. No reason why candidates shouldn’t be able to download or access remotely on their tablets and smartphones what they can access directly on paper or on their PCs in the office or at home.