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With many IT professionals under COVID-19 restrictions, it's the ideal time to pick up some new training skills online.
Course delivery style is very personal, and deciding between different types can be difficult. Most of the online IT training providers mentioned here offer a limited trial edition -- also limited to certain courses -- so prospective students can evaluate and see what works. Used judiciously, you could even complete multiple courses and gain that knowledge, subscribed or not.
Let's look at five of the key players in the online IT training market and how their offerings compare.
Pluralsight is the dominant provider in the IT training space. Pluralsight offers a wide array -- and expansive catalogue -- of materials. And some of the most well-known names in the IT blogosphere and training circles present the courses.
The course delivery and content tend to be very good -- and there are plenty of courses due to Pluralsight's acquisition of other vendors, such as Train Simple and Code School. In addition, Pluralsight has acquired non-technical companies such as Digital-Tutors, expanding its course topics. Pluralsight's strength, however, lies in its courses designed for corporate IT.
Pluralsight covers topics such as Windows Server, Microsoft Azure, AWS and VMware in massive depth. It also supports corporate single sign-on for login, to make things easier for corporate customers.
However, Pluralsight does have a few rough edges: Depending on the course, readers are expected to provide their own VMs or materials for experiments unless they have an enterprise account.
Also, speaking personally, some courses drag just enough to make focusing an issue.
At time of publication, Pluralsight offers potential learners a 10-day trial period. A monthly personal subscription costs $29 for the lowest tier.
Pros: Pluralsight offers a wide and varied library of courses. Some tools, such as quizzes and scoring systems, highlight areas where you need to make additional revisions to your work. These require higher subscription tiers and are not core to the experience, but they can be useful for those students who want to dig deeper.
Cons: Students must supply their own VMs on lower tiers. Some course chapters are too long and require a lot of focus.
Cloud Academy is also well respected but has a Linux-centric background. Consequently, its courses historically gravitated more to Linux, but this is changing. Cloud Academy now offers a wealth of training grouped by technology type. With Cloud Academy, the tools necessary for course exercises -- VMs, for example -- are usually included.
Courses typically have a somewhat broader topic coverage than the tight focus that other online IT training providers offer. That is not to say that the courses are not as good, they just don't cover every aspect the same way as Pluralsight, for example. It also means prospective learners can browse the diverse catalogue and pick a course that piques their interest.
Cloud Academy offers a seven-day trial. The monthly cost for individuals is $39.
Pros: For Linux admins, this is perhaps the best place to start, as there are mountains of Linux-related content.
Cons: Cloud Academy offers a limited number of courses compared to other training providers. The interface seems a little dated, but that's a personal thing.
CBT Nuggets does not offer a free trial, but it does provide a free week with a subscription. For this reason, if no other, be cautious when evaluating. CBT Nuggets is also one of the most expensive providers out there, with a monthly subscription that costs $59. However, it does include test labs. CBT Nuggets tends to be a "love it or hate it" proposition.
Pros: This platform offers a narrow selection of courses, but covers topics in-depth. Most courses also include good practice exams.
Cons: Trainer quality can be hit or miss, and it lacks a trial option.
LinkedIn Learning is the new online IT training provider on the block. This shows in its offerings: LinkedIn Learning is trying to be everything for everyone.
As one might expect -- given the nature of LinkedIn's main business -- the courses focus much more on soft skills -- for example, strategic thinking -- and beginner-level courses that cover topics such as Excel and graphic design basics.
To some, that variety might be a bonus. Most of the other providers mentioned in this article focus purely on technical skills, but the best IT professionals have a bit of both. However, this might not be the best fit for those exclusively looking for technology courses. LinkedIn Learning offers a 31-day free trial. The monthly subscription costs $29.99.
Pros: LinkedIn Learning includes courses on soft skills as well as technical topics, even if the number of courses is a little limited.
Cons: It's an immature platform that's oriented more to business than IT.
ITProTV is the wild card of the bunch. It has taken a bit of a different route than other online IT training providers. The content is delivered in a highly dynamic and enthusiastic conversation between the instructors -- usually in pairs.
The best way to describe ITProTV would be "training reimagined." Courses are designed to have a relaxed, friend-teaching-friend dynamic. However, this delivery method is not a good fit for all learners. Like CBT Nuggets above, ITProTV is a take-it-or-leave-it proposition.
ITProTV offers a free membership with access to a limited number of courses. The standard membership costs $29 monthly, but practice tests and virtual labs are only available with a premium membership.
Pros: This platform offers a very different take on training that is easy to consume.
Cons: The videos are merely watch-along, rather than follow-along exercises. Additionally, some courses lack depth in comparison to other providers.