Free and Low Cost Computer Training Options: Part 2

Welcome back to part 2 of ‘Free and Low Cost Computer Training’.  I decided to break up the blog because I wanted you to have time to explore the different sites at your leisure and to not overwhelm you with too much new information.  Also, by the time we dive deeper into each of these sites, you will have had ample time to become familiar with them; so you’ll get more out of the blog posts.  So let’s check out part 2 as we look at SQL Server Central Stairway’s tutorials and Lynda.com.  If you missed Part 1 of ‘Free Training Options’, click here to read it.

SQL Server Central Stairway

SQL Server Stairway is another free training site, offering series of tutorials with detailed training on different topics. The mission statement of the Stairways series is so well written, I’ve included part of it to give you a flavor for the site; notice the emphasis to take you from “zero knowledge of a particular SQL Server topic, to a level of practical understanding… (the) learning gradient is steady and manageable, but also brisk. You won’t be wasting your time.” That’s what I’m talking about!   Read the entire statement and see the different ‘Stairways’ of studies.

Here are a few of the ‘stairways’ available for immediate consumption: Stairway to Data, Integration Services, MDX, Database Design, PowerPivot and Dax, SQL Dialects, Powershell, SQL Server Agent, Reporting Services, T-SQL: Beyond the Basics and more. You’ll need to create a free account for this site as well.  So what’s stopping you; ‘start climbing’!

Lynda.com Website

Lynda.com is the only site I’ve listed that charges on a monthly basis, but it’s worth every penny of it. Membership is $25 per month for 24/7 access to hundreds and hundreds of topics. Lynda.com covers so much more than just ‘technical stuff’; it has courses in Business, 3D, CAD, Design, Developer, Photography, Video, and Web; along with project management, WordPress, etc. This list is extensive, so I won’t try to list everything; check out the site for an overview ; click here for Lynda.com.

Free 7 Day Membership with Lynda.com

When you click on this link, you will be able to try Lynda.com free for 7 days, with unlimited access to over 2,700 courses.

If you like, sign up for the free 7 day trial subscription to get a flavor for what’s available. I’ll do a ‘deep dive’ on Lynda.com in upcoming blogs as well; so you can check the site out now or wait until we talk about it in depth. Regardless, you now have lots of training options!

Personal Suggestions

I would recommend you start with watching the past webinars on Pragmatic Works as a first start. These webinars are only an hour in length and many of them are targeted for the beginner. Personally, I would wait on taking a MVA course until you’re further down the road; these 6-8 hour videos can overwhelm a beginner if you’re not careful. The same might be said of SQL Server Stairways, but you can view some of them and make your own call. Regarding Lynda.com, review the site and sign up for the free membership when you have the time; you’ll want to make the most of those 7 days!

Depending on what courses you decide to take first, you might need to spend a little money on software. In the next blog, we’ll talk about what software you’ll need for what studies and where to find them for the best price. If we have time, we’ll discuss the Office 365 options available and the new prices Microsoft will offer starting       October 1, 2014. Until then!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to  Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!

Excel 2013 Standalone Version and the Power Map Dilemma

‘Technical Tidbits’ is a new addition to this blog comprised of mini-blogs on different technical topics. Not all of these topics will be on the introduction level; in fact, most will deal with new things I’m learning as I continue on my own technical journey. These little blogs will expose you to advanced topics and current technical news. You will want to read them and tuck them away for later review.  Think of ‘Technical Tidbits’ as little markers down the road; they’re showing you what lies ahead.

Power Map

For those of you who have the standalone version of Excel 2013 (or Office 2013 Professional Plus), you had the option to download and add in the Power Map Preview for Excel 2013.  But after May 30, 2014, you might have noticed that your Power Map plug-in no longer functioned; because the preview period expired.  But don’t worry as there is a way to get it up and running again, for free!

A Little Background

In February, 2014 with the advent of Office Service Pack 1 for Office 2013 (and Sharepoint 2013), Microsoft announced that Power Map would no longer be a preview add-in.  Now Power Map would be native to Excel; but only for Office 365 Pro Plus customers. Well that’s great news but it’s not helping my Excel 2013 standalone!

Quick Solution

Here’s what you do; uninstall Power Map Preview from your computer’s ‘Programs and Features’ on the Control Panel.  Then click this link to download and install the Preview again from Microsoft.  Voila!  You are back in business with Power Map.

To read more information about Power Map expiration click here.  To watch a tutorial on Power Map, click here.  Regarding Office 364 and its price changes coming in October, 2104; we’ll talk more about that later.  For right now, this fix should get you back in the game with Power Map.  Until next time!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!

Free and Low Cost Computer Training Options: Part 1

You might not want to spend a lot of money on technical training right now; but there will come a time when you need to invest some money, like  a course with Pragmatic Works.  But for right now, you are in the exploration stage of your technical journey; so you need some free but good training. This post will give you an overview of three free sites and one low cost, but well worth the money, site. In subsequent posts, I will ‘deep dive’ into each of these sites; and I will highlight courses I have taken, point out insights/pros/cons of each site, and show you courses you might want to take next. So join me for this two part blog as we look at Pragmatic Works’ Training on the T’s, Microsoft Virtual Academy, SQL Server Central Stairway Series, and Lynda.com.

Pragmatic Works

I can never say enough good things about Pragmatic Works; the company and the people are fabulous. Pragmatic Works is a local consulting and training company that started small and now has served over 7,500 national and international clients. Regardless of their phenomenal growth, this group of guys and gals are always humble and fun to be around. When you check out their website, take time to view their ‘Company Culture’.  Their five company business tenets are Be Humble, Deliver Wow, Achieve Mastery, Value Community and Mentorship, Every Second Counts, and Be Fun, Creative, and a Little Weird. Hey, that’s what we want to be! Click here to read the full statement.

This blog is not meant to be a love fest about Pragmatic Works, but my technical journey was due in great part to their purposed effort to give back to the community and to mentor new folks in the tech field, with things like JSSUG and SQL Saturdays. Pragmatic Works started the Jacksonville SQL Server Users Group (JSSUG) many years ago and continues to be instrumental and participatory in both JSSUG and the SQL Saturdays each year. Without Pragmatic Works’ involvement in the community, I probably would not have begun my technical journey or this blog; but enough about that, let’s look at their weekly live, free webinars called Training on the T’s.

Every Tuesday and Thursday  at 11:00 AM, Pragmatic Works provides a live webinar on different technical and professional topics.  View all their training options here.  Under the ‘free’ training tab, you will see  topic areas like  SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), SharePoint, Business Intelligence, Big Data, DAX, Azure; the list goes on.  Every webinar is presented by experts in their field; many of them being Microsoft’s Most Valued Professional (MVP).

Click on the link for the Training Center; from here you’ll see a tab for ‘Future Webinars’ and ‘Past Webinars’. The ‘Future’ tab shows a list of upcoming training for the next few month, but pay attention as sometimes they have a week’s worth of daily webinars on a specific subject; more about that in future blogs.

On the ‘Past Webinar’ tab you are able to view previously recorded training sessions. Sometimes your schedule doesn’t allow you time to view a webinar live, but you have access to all the past webinars 24/7. Clicking on the past webinars, you will see the most recently recorded topics, or you can do a search for a specific topic area. There are currently 418 entries in the ‘Past Webinar’ section; that’s 418 HOURS of excellent, free training on a broad range of technical topics. We’ll spend much more time in an upcoming blog about specific webinars (and topic areas) worth watching on the site. But don’t wait until then, check out the upcoming webinars now. All you need to do is complete an online registration to register for future  webinars or click to watch previously recorded ones.

Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA)

Microsoft provides free online IT training courses broken down by either topic or products, as shown by the screen shot.

Microsoft Virtual Academy

In addition to previously recorded trainings on the site, MVA has upcoming trainings you can view ‘live’; and they are free as well. To get started with MVA, you need to sign up for a free account. You can create your own ‘My Learning Plan’, and I recommend you do this.  The Learning Plan will put all your courses in one place, making them easy to locate and view .  Also, when you complete a MVA course, you earn ‘learning points’. You don’t win any prizes, but it shows a potential boss that you’re serious about training and staying on the cutting edge of technology. We’ll go into more detail about MVA in a later blog, but for now, I’d like you to check out the link to an article written by Michael Otey of Windows IT Pro. At this link, Michael answers the top ten questions about MVA.

I decided to break this blog post into two parts because I want you to 1)  have time to explore these two sites at your leisure and to 2) not overwhelm you with too much new information.  Also, by the time we dive deeper into each of these sites, you will have had ample time to become familiar with their training topics and formats.  Lastly, by giving you more time to explore these new sites, you will get more out of the upcoming ‘deep dive’ training posts on Pragmatic Works and MVA.  See you next time for Part 2 of ‘Free Training Sites’.  Until then!

Susan Schneider lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her wonderful husband Steve. She enjoys sailing and is a ‘wanna be fisherman’, and loves all things BI.  See more information under the ‘About Me’ section.  Remember to sign up for new blog notifications:  Go to  Subscribe2 on the sidebar and sign up!