Hi everyone. Starting in calendar year 2012, we'll be expanding the delivery methods for the SharePoint Microsoft Certified Master’s program to include a "hybrid" delivery model that includes both onsite and remote training. We posted high-level information about the hybrid delivery model to our registration site a few weeks ago - this post provides significantly more detail about this new offering. 

This new delivery model will adhere to the same high standards of instructor quality, content quality, applicant quality, training depth, and certification rigor as the current version of the program. It will also offer reduced required time onsite in Redmond (1 week), a more moderate pace for the training, and massively expanded lab server access. We hope this will allow for better coverage, a larger pool of qualified applicants, and more MCMs that can come through the program to eventually support strategic SharePoint deployments.

Below is a comparison of the two delivery models we're offering this fiscal year, and a list of FAQs about the hybrid delivery model.

Comparison

Model

Current

Hybrid

Onsite Duration

3 weeks onsite in Redmond

1 week onsite in Redmond

Onsite Lecture

13.5 days onsite lecture

5 days onsite lecture

Virtual delivery duration

None

10 weeks of twice weekly, half-day remote (i.e. LiveMeeting/Lync - platform TBD) sessions - 10 days of content in total

Onsite training attendance

Required

Required

Virtual training attendance

N/A

Required

Primary Course Content

Approximately 2000 slides of course material

Approximately 20 hands-on labs

Approximately 5 team exercises

Identical content

Supplemental Training Content

Some recorded modules

Identical content

Onsite Social Events

3 events

1 event

Instructor Team

10-12 member instructor team

Identical instructor team

Knowledge Exam

1 4-hour knowledge exam

Identical knowledge exam

 

Qualification Lab Exam

1 8-hour Qualification lab exam

Identical qualification lab exam

Screening process

Prerequisite exams, document submission and review, screening interview, screening interview debrief

Identical screening process

Retake policy

Standard MCM retake policy – maximum 3 attempts, delays between retakes

Identical retake policy

Infrastructure

1 physical lab server per candidate, accessible over the internet

Identical infrastructure and resource allocation

Maximum capacity

25 candidates per rotation (based on infrastructure and current lab design)

Identical capacity bottleneck

Knowledge Exam delivery

Delivered onsite on next-to-last day of rotation; retakes proctored remotely by MCM team

Proctored remotely by MCM team during week following end of virtual sessions; retakes proctored remotely by MCM team 

Same model applies to both the initial attempt and retakes

Qualification Lab Exam delivery

Delivered onsite on last day of rotation; retakes proctored remotely by MCM team

Proctored remotely by MCM team on a regular schedule for candidates who have passed the knowledge exam; retakes proctored remotely by MCM team 

Same model applies to both the initial attempt and retakes

Lab server access

18 days

11 weeks

Price

Current pricing as specified on MCM public site - includes training, rotation lab access, first attempt at knowledge exam, first attempt at qual lab exam

Identical pricing

 Please keep in mind that the details listed above are draft specifications, so things may change.

FAQs:

 

 Why is this new delivery model being adopted?

We want to reach more candidates while staying focused on direct training delivered by our world-class instructor team, and never compromising on program quality - ideally increasing it. Based on lots of feedback from candidates, instructors, and potential candidates on the current rotation format, this combined delivery format strikes at a number of concerns we hear about again and again.

What's changing in terms of the certification process?

Nothing. It's the same set of requirements - complete the prerequisites, go through the screening process, attend the training, pass the knowledge exam, and pass the qualification lab exam.

What's changing in terms of program content?

We'll make some structural and sequencing changes to the content and apply some additional operational due diligence to the course, which is required for successful remote delivery. Otherwise, the course content remains the same.

What's changing in terms of the SharePoint MCM community?

The only changes we hope to achieve on the community front are an increase in members and the addition of members we're previously been unable to reach.

How does the hybrid delivery model compare to the current delivery model?

A side-by-side comparison of the two delivery models appears in the preceding section. Please keep in mind that the details listed above are draft specifications, so things may change. We have a lot of work to do over the next 5 months to nail down all the details, but the list above should give you a pretty good idea of what we’re driving towards at the present time.

How will you be able to maintain or increase program quality in this new delivery model?

First, our entire delivery team and our sponsors are adamant about ensuring that we maintain consistency and quality by continuing to use our single instructor team. The same team that delivers the current MCM rotations will continue to do so. Also, as mentioned above, the certification and content components of the course remain the same.

Second, while the current "immersion training" model is effective in increasing candidate technical depth and breadth, it also hits a point of diminishing returns for many who attend due to the length and intensity of the schedule. Based on significant candidate and instructor team feedback, a more moderate delivery pace offers clear benefits in the quality of the learning experience for many candidates.

Is this an easier version of SharePoint MCM?.

No. We’re reducing the barriers to attend and consume the training, but the same high standards apply. It's the same content and delivery team, and exam difficulty remains unchanged. Even though it will be distributed over a longer period of time, a similar level of effort will be required to achieve the certification.

What’s the expected time commitment for the virtual portion of the training?

Successful candidates in the current “immersion training” version of the program typically spend 4-8 additional hours of time engaged in hands-on labs and self-guided study for every day of classroom training. During the virtual portion of the training, candidates for hybrid rotations should plan to spend a similar amount of time (4-8 hours per week) on hands-on labs and self-guided study as in the fully on-site version of the training in addition to the 8 hours of lecture per week

Candidates may also choose to invest more time in lab work and study due to the longer overall length of the training program.

Is the current 3-week delivery model going away?

This has yet to be determined. Based on consistently stellar customer satisfaction ratings, there are many things that are great about the current delivery format. It’s also very clear based on feedback from potential customers that the current delivery format is often an obstacle to participating in the program.

Over the next twelve months, candidates have a choice between the formats. There will be two deliveries of the standard format in the second half of calendar year 2011. We will do at least two deliveries using the new model in the first half of calendar year 2012 so that we can learn from the initial experience and optimize its effectiveness. Overall participation in the program and candidate feedback on the delivery models will guide our decisions
on the best way forward in late 2012, which could include a single format, both formats, or something else entirely.

What will the timeline of a hybrid training delivery look like?

The exact structure is still in the design stages, but it would be something like: 

  • Week -2: Registration Deadline
  • Week 1: Onsite Rotation
    • Monday-Friday:
      • Lecture 0800-1800
      • Labs open for 24x7 access starting on Monday
    • Saturday:
      • Assessment
      • Closing event
  • Weeks 2-11:
    • Two half-day lectures per week (schedule TBD)
    • Labs 24x7 – access ends a few days after the final lecture
  • Week 12:
    • Knowledge exam is proctored remotely for many candidates at once. Two sessions are held to accommodate multiple timezones.
  • Week 12 + X:
    • Qualification lab attempts (first attempts and retakes) are proctored multiple times monthly on timezone-friendly schedules. Candidates can only take the qualification lab after passing the knowledge exam. 

How will the virtual delivery portion of the training be made accessible to candidates in globally distributed timezones?

The virtual training will be delivered in four-hour segments, two unique segments of content per week.

This content length enables the training to span the waking hours of two of the three major longitudinal regions (NA/LATAM, EMEA, APAC) with each given session. For example, training delivered from 0800-1200 US Pacific Time would occur within normal waking hours for most NA/LATAM and EMEA
candidates, but not for most APAC candidates. Similarly, training delivered from 0700-1100 GMT would occur within normal waking hours for most EMEA and APAC candidates, but not for most NA/LATAM candidates.

The precise start times for each session and the timeline for launching multiple deliveries of virtual sessions (i.e. repeating a session for a different set of timezones) are currently under review.

Why is the pricing the same for both delivery models?

While the hybrid model will result in some reduction in instructor travel costs, the flexibility of the new model will incur additional administration, equipment, and instructor labor costs to ensure the same level of instruction quality. The most notable new offerings in the hybrid model will be the 8 additional weeks of lab server time and support from the instructor team (11 weeks vs. 3 weeks in the standard model) provided to each candidate. Another very significant offering that is under review is repeated delivery of virtual sessions to provide greater schedule flexibility for candidates in multiple timezones.

When is the first delivery using the new model?

The first hybrid rotation delivery will be January 9-March 23. The onsite portion in Redmond will be from January 9-14.

Where can I learn more?

We will be posting additional FAQs to this blog and our public web site (http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/master.aspx) as details become available. Check there for updates or contact our registration team directly at mcmprog@microsoft.com .