Stimulating Simulations

In my March 16 column, I asked for your input about Windows 2000 simulation software. Several dozen of you responded, and almost unanimously, you think that simulation software could be a good thing. Several of you reiterated your dissatisfaction with Microsoft's retirement of the Windows NT 4.0 exams and implied that although simulation software is a good idea, you would really rather have the time to learn Win2K on a real system. But because your company doesn't plan to upgrade immediately and you can't afford your own complete home network, the simulation software is the best you can hope for. Good for it, and I wish you luck! Feel free to return to the Reader Comments page and let us know whether the simulation software worked for you.

A couple of readers posted opposing opinions, but I would have been suspicious of no dissenting votes anyway. One reader remarked that the simulation software could lead to a whole new variety of MCSE; whereas we now have the "paper" MCSE, we could soon have the "simulated" MCSE in our midst. Shades of the Body Snatchers! How will we tell who's real and who's simulated?

Low Cost = Low Quality?
Last week, I also received interesting input from one reader about my comment in the March 2 Training & Certification UPDATE about the quality of practice exam questions. In my column, I explained that it takes time and effort to develop good questions and that you need to closely evaluate anybody who sells practice exams for cut-rate prices. The reader who contacted me reported that he made available on his Web site every day free exam questions—that he painstakingly created. He didn't think my comments about low cost implying low quality were valid in his case. I agree; I think his is an entirely different situation. My comments concerned for-profit ventures that write and sell practice questions. This reader isn't trying to make a living writing and selling exam-preparation questions; he volunteers some each day to develop a question. I volunteer about an hour each day that I'm not teaching answering questions on the public SQL Server help forums. I hope the readers there don't assume that because I don't charge for my help, my advice is meaningless.

Value of a College Education
Moving on to a different topic, I've been thinking a lot recently about a discussion that came up in the trainers' forum that Microsoft hosts. A question arose about the value of a traditional college education (Bachelors or Masters degree) is for those who are just interested in getting a job in the technology industry. Most people who dismissed a college degree's value seemed either to not have one or to feel that the specific facts they learned in school were out of date and didn't cover the latest technologies. The thought that occurred to me as I read the input was that a university is not a trade school, and people who expect to learn specific job skills at a university are going to be disappointed.

So what is a college education for? Admittedly, I'm biased because I have a Masters degree in Computer Science. I would like to hear what you think, and in my next column, I'll discuss the reasons for and against pursuing college- or university-based technology degrees. Thanks in advance for your input! Post your feedback as a Reader Comment.

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