Linux Professional Institute and Training Materials

Jon

Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Feb 06, 2010 GMT
Jon maddog Hall

Recently there has been a discussion on the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) mailing list about why LPI does not publish its own training materials to help students prepare for their tests. I started to answer in the mailing list, but instead I decided to answer here.

LPI, of course, is a non-profit organization that creates certification exams for Linux systems administrators. It is distribution neutral, and tries to be comprehensive in its tests.

When we started LPI many years ago, there was a long discussion about whether LPI should create its own training materials.

At that time "Linux" was a fledgling industry, and the number of Linux books, publications and (particularly) training classes were relatively few.

Many certifications at that time (including a "direct competitor" of LPI) offered both certification AND training, with the training being very, very expensive. It gave the impression (correct or not) that the certification existed just to create the demand for their training classes. There was definitely a perception that when class demand dropped, the certification would be changed to drive training revenues back up.

LPI decided to "take the high road", and be *just* certification. This left the training companies to compete with each other, not with LPI, and to make the best training courses possible. We hoped that people could continue to learn from a variety of sources, whether it was lecture-lab, books, CD-ROMs, Internet forums, or just "the school of hard knocks".

Personally I also believed (and still do) that since LPI can not possibly test every aspect of the systems administrator's job (nor can someone creating a course teach all of that job in a reasonable period of time) that what a systems administrator really has to know is a superset of the LPI exam material and therefore a superset of what would be in any one training guide or course. By having the students seek out the information from various sources, they are instigating and duplicating what any good Sys Admin will be doing for the rest of their lives. They are learning to sift through the vast amounts of "data" out there, and find the information that they need to do the job.

I believe that no book or class of "training material" will prepare you completely for the life and job of a Systems Administrator. You have to DO. You have to type in the commands, have the frustration of not having them work, receive the epiphany of understanding, and after that you will know it forever. I was a Systems Administrator (in a lot of ways I still am). Been there, done that.

The founders of LPI agreed that we should publish the objectives and sample questions to allow the prospective test taker treat that as a guide, and to allow them to see the areas that LPI (and the systems administrators that contributed objectives and questions to the tests) thought were important. Likewise any training company (or even an individual) could independently develop good training materials for LPI's exams. This would foster competition and openness, two of the hallmarks of Free Software.

Since that time there have been many books, CD-ROMS and classes produced around LPIC exams. Many people have successfully studied the objectives and sample exams on the LPI site using these training materials and passed.

I think LPI picked the right philosophy, and while there should always be a review of the listed objectives and test questions to make sure that those still give a cohesive and comprehensive mapping of the tests, I would still reject the idea of LPI creating its own "study guides".

Carpe Diem

Comments

  • A (very late) reply...

    Hi MD,
    sorry for being sooooo late on answering, but only today I've looked again to this post and found your answer. Here are some other thoughts of mine:

    > But what is the goal of the certification?

    I think that the certification's goal is to prove yourself first and then your customers that you are able to do Linux stuff in a professional way. The more

    > That is your choice. Others have chosen differently and are certified.

    Of course, freedom is freedom. But the ones certified at level 2 or 3 how many exams had to do before get certified?

    > If it does, it is probably in the hands of one of the commercial companies that has spent money on
    > developing it. It does take a reasonable amount of time and effort to create good training materials. On the
    > other hand there is a huge amount of material available for free to people who are willing to "dig".

    I never talked of free documentation. I was talking about documentation made and sold by LPI.

    > No. Learning is learning. Certification is certification. The objectives of certification can be used as a guide
    > to learning, but the two are different things.

    Of course they are, but are also strictly correlated.

    > In my article I pointed out how you could learn by using the objectives as a guide. Look at the objectives,
    > find the materials and learn them.

    The objectives can say all or nothing. Full-covering an argument (without a specific focus on important part of it) is an expansive and dispersive process, in most cases also useless. For example, take postfix: one thing is understanding how to put a message marked as spam in a spam folder and another one is understand how the queue mechanism works. What is the most important thing to know? I think the second one (which at the end includes the first), but how much documentation you can find concerning the second thing instead of the first? It's a one to ten ratio. So a user will probably look at the first argument. But what kind of questions will be asked on the exams concerning Postfix? Who knows...

    >I know that the LPI certification is cheaper than the others, but at the moment it has no costs to the >foundation. At all.

    [...]
    > LPI makes a very small amount of money on each test.

    That's the point. Sometimes it seems that there is no interest on changing this situation.

    > If they are expending little money at the moment, it is typically due to trying to build up a "war chest" to
    > finance another round of test creation.

    Nothing to say about it.

    > Because there already exist these learning plans in the community. Here is a database of "Linux training
    > companies" worldwide, most of whom develop LPI compatible training courses:
    > http://lintraining.com/module/database/
    > There is a dearth of LPIC - 2 books, materials and training courses. From my experience that is because
    > of a lack of demand, which is typically caused by people being able to look at the objectives and learning
    > the material on their own.

    I was specifically talking about level 2 and 3 exams.

    > If you feel that these materials should be available, then why not create them? Use the opportunity to
    > learn the material, arrange it in a form that is "training", and either donate them to the community, sell
    > them or both? You could also enlist other people from the community to help you.

    I'm the creator of the Italian Linux portal http://www.miamammausalinux.org on which we document case histories, success stories and real life projects for free. Our battle-cry is "Nothing is impossible to understand, if you explain it well", so, in a way, i'm already doing what you suggests.
    My opinions about LPI were just a way to understand why I can't find an LPI 2 Certification book...

    Thanks for your thoughts, hope we can continue this discussion.
  • You are welcome to disagree

    RaSca,

    >- limiting certification diffusion.

    But what is the goal of the certification?

    >I'm LPI 1 certificated but I will go on with other levels only when there will be a specific and official >training material.

    That is your choice. Others have chosen differently and are certified.

    >It must exists.

    If it does, it is probably in the hands of one of the commercial companies that has spent money on developing it. It does take a reasonable amount of time and effort to create good training materials. On the other hand there is a huge amount of material available for free to people who are willing to "dig".

    >It has no sense saying that one must prepare himself by doing things, certificate yourself is a process >also for learning new things in the right way and prove it by giving an exam.

    No. Learning is learning. Certification is certification. The objectives of certification can be used as a guide to learning, but the two are different things.

    In my article I pointed out how you could learn by using the objectives as a guide. Look at the objectives, find the materials and learn them.

    >I know that the LPI certification is cheaper than the others, but at the moment it has no costs to the >foundation. At all.

    That is not true. The foundation has costs in marketing, in maintaining and redevelopment of the test questions, even in the simple thing of making up the certificates, getting them out to the people who have passed and keeping records. They leverage these costs as much as possible, but they also try to keep the test costs down so that people can afford them. Most of the money that are paid for the tests are paid to companies that actually deliver the tests electronically. LPI makes a very small amount of money on each test.

    If they are expending little money at the moment, it is typically due to trying to build up a "war chest" to finance another round of test creation.

    >Why not investing those money fore creating a correct learning plan with a correct documentation?

    Because there already exist these learning plans in the community. Here is a database of "Linux training companies" worldwide, most of whom develop LPI compatible training courses:

    http://lintraining.com/module/database/

    There is a dearth of LPIC - 2 books, materials and training courses. From my experience that is because of a lack of demand, which is typically caused by people being able to look at the objectives and learning the material on their own.

    If you feel that these materials should be available, then why not create them? Use the opportunity to learn the material, arrange it in a form that is "training", and either donate them to the community, sell them or both? You could also enlist other people from the community to help you.

    md
  • Not agreeing

    I do not agree with this point of view. I know that LPI's competitors have their business based on the training and NOT specifically to the exams, but not releasing any documentation concerning the exams (except the exam's objectives) is limiting certification diffusion.
    I'm LPI 1 certificated but I will go on with other levels only when there will be a specific and official training material. It must exists. It has no sense saying that one must prepare himself by doing things, certificate yourself is a process also for learning new things in the right way and prove it by giving an exam.
    I know that the LPI certification is cheaper than the others, but at the moment it has no costs to the foundation. At all. Why not investing those money fore creating a correct learning plan with a correct documentation?
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