In December 2009, thousands of IT students received a nasty holiday surprise as leading IT certification bootcamp providers ComputerTraining.edu and Vigilar's Intense School suddenly announced they were going out of business, effective immediately.
Online IT forums flooded with panicked posters desperate to determine whether they would be able to continue their coursework and obtain refunds for training they'd never receive. Many posts took on a tragic tone as concerned colleagues and other training firms lamented the fate of the victims. "The worst are the clients who have bought classes that will not be delivered or clients who have bought a large quantity of vouchers worth absolutely nothing, some of them losing their yearly training budget. This is the tragedy in all of this," stated Sondra J. Schneider, the founder and CEO of Security University. It appears both training firms may have fallen victim to the ongoing credit crunch.
Although the suddenness of the announcements came as a shock, industry insiders were not surprised that investors and banks abandoned training programs based on antiquated business models. Many noted that although expensive classroom instruction was once the primary option for IT certification, elearning has replaced it as firms focus on cost-efficiency and increased ROI. For organizations struggling to do more with less for the foreseeable future, e-learning advancements may even represent the difference between potential growth and stagnation.
Are Classroom Bootcamps Worth the Risk?
There's no denying the value classroom training bootcamps have provided the IT industry. Courses are usually led by highly qualified subject experts. Students receive attention in small to moderate sized groups. Ideally, their focus is not diverted from the subject by outside distractions and competing job duties. Although some executives continue to view classroom training bootcamps favorably, the exorbitant cost is unfortunately becoming a luxury few organizations can now justify. Training firms that continue to count on luxury spending in 2010 will undoubtedly struggle and fail.
Although companies still rely on quality IT certification training, only 48% of the IT certification courses conducted in 2009 occurred via traditional instructor-led classroom-based training. (1) In 1999, that figure was 71%. In 2010, only the training firms that offer a variety of affordable e-learning alternatives can be expected to survive.
Vetting IT Certification Bootcamp Providers
In the wake of the closings of bootcamp providers ComputerTraining.edu and Vigilar, IT bootcamps may pose a significant investment risk. Since courses are often paid for weeks or even months in advance, and the training firm's financial records are not common knowledge, there's no way to anticipate where the ax could fall next. Even training institutions that appear to be thriving could be in trouble.
For example, Vigilar's Intense School advertised a 95% pass rate on exams. The company's website continued to post news of awards and achievements during the months before the school's closing, including an appearance by school representatives on the Today Show. News that the school had been named a finalist in the 2010 SC Awards for outstanding achievement in IT security came mere days before the Intense School closed its doors for good.
Statistics like these prove that there is no foolproof way to vet IT certification bootcamp providers in today's economic climate. Unlike e-learning products that can be provided immediately upon payment, bootcamp courses are usually scheduled in advance, increasing the risk of loss if the company's fortunes fade quickly. In a statement posted on the company's website, ComputerTraining.edu representatives claimed to have been shut down by BB&T Bank "with no forewarning or notice.
Several training providers have offered to provide similar courses for free or at a reduced cost to Vigilar and ComputerTraining.edu students. Clients can also contact their state educational regulators to try to recoup some of their lost investment. Many remain hopeful, but these limited and often inconvenient options just aren't good enough. IT executives are wary of becoming overly dependent on training programs wedded to outdated business models and fearful of bootcamp failures derailing their own training objectives.
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