I’ve been involved with producing technical training events for almost 20 years, whether through PASS or Tech Outbound. Lower corporate training budgets have been the trend for going on 10 years now, and it seems that the trend has been accelerating for the past couple years. Companies continue to shift toward placing the responsibility on training to Individual contributors (or the companies where they’ve been previously employed). As a result, there has been a marked rise in offerings attempting to fill the gaps through cheaper, recorded sessions available online; free (or cheap) local events such as user groups, meetups or SQLSaturdays; or a reliance on blogs created by technical evangelists and Microsoft MVPs.
Some technical companies are rising to the occasion, as well. Microsoft understands that product adoption is far easier to achieve if a potential client base is exposed to the key technologies being offered. It makes sense, then, that there would be as many free offerings as possible to facilitate this strategy, and we as technologists should benefit in the process.
Microsoft offers Microsoft Learn, a free, online repository of Learning Paths that allow you to learn for free and hands-on. While I was not surprised at the offerings, what did catch me off guard was how the new strategy of open source and breaking down barriers to product adoption has taken hold in Microsoft's training platforms, as well.
The Learning Path I tested, Work with NoSQL data in Azure Cosmos DB, is structured around four modules:
- Create an Azure Cosmos DB database built to scale.
- Insert and query data in your Azure Cosmos DB database.
- Build a .NET Core app for Azure Cosmos DB in Visual Studio Code.
- Distribute your data globally with Azure Cosmos DB.
I fired up a sandbox in Microsoft Azure and was able to create my first Cosmos DB database in less than 30 minutes. The Microsoft Learn Learning Paths consist of easily digestible modules that are in turn broken into smaller units that are a combination of reading and comprehension of theory, along with hands-on technical training. Completion of units, modules and Learning Paths is rewarded with points, as well as the underlying knowledge that you’re gaining as both a measure of performance and a facilitator for gamification of the learning process. Azure-based concepts occur inside temporary sandboxes that allow you to try Azure for free. Cleanup is automatic, as each sandbox has a set life/expiration time.
This Learning Path is designed to be completed in two hours, and, in my experience, that timeframe was spot-on. The overall learning experience was enjoyable. The instructions were easy to follow, the technology was solid, and the concepts were explained with a measure of brevity and at a complexity level that anyone with basic understandings of how databases work could understand.
I was pleasantly surprised with the technology, to be honest. After all, creating a Cosmos DB database on your iPad doesn’t sound achievable. I kept waiting to hit a wall or to find out iOS couldn’t handle what was required. However, the only impediment was the switching back and forth between Safari tabs. With all that said, while one can go through this training on a mobile device, I’m likely going to do so on the multiple-monitor configuration I have in my home office so I can read and get hands on with far less context switching.
Cosmos DB is the tip of the iceberg in terms of training options. The full suite of Azure offerings is represented, as are Windows, Business Apps such as Power BI and Flow, and everything else Microsoft offers from .Net and Visual Studio to Dynamics 365. There are currently almost 300 modules to choose from.
Interested in (literally) learning more? Visit Microsoft Learn and get started on enhancing or broadening your technical skills today.