Windows IT Pro award-winning courseware LabSim is helping a British IT training specialist do big things in Europe and beyond.

The LabSim range of certification courses are developed by U.S. firm TestOut Corporation and won Windows IT Pro's Training Certification gold award in 2009. TestOut has been offering teaching packages for MCSE qualification since 1998 and also provides courses for CompTIA and Cisco certification. London-based GTS Learning is responsible for sales outside the U.S. in the form of LabSim.co.uk.

LabSim's creators say that their training courses set themselves apart with high-quality online labs where students work in a simulated environment using virtual hardware, operating systems and networking components. Video instruction is taught by experts with written lessons. Practice exams support a slickly presented experience.

Enthusiastically running through a checklist of features from a dashboard that maps courses to certifications to virtual workbenches and end-of-section quizzes, GTS Learning managing director Robin Adda says: "The thing with TestOut’s LabSim is that it’s everything in one, it’s a whole learning experience." Other e-learning products can be "incredibly dull" he says."Basically, you reading with pictures on a slideshow, more or less, and clicking to advance."

LabSim, on the other hand, he describes as "very engaging" and last year Windows IT Pro's Brian Reinholz wrote: "Newcomers to the field can gain a level of hands-on experience on or off campus unlike ever before, and seasoned professionals have easy access to skills-based online training to earn additional certifications or degrees."

Adda says: "We’ve found that basically it tends to sell itself. Once people have seen it they like it because there’s nothing really quite like it. There are people who do similar components, there are companies that do the video instruction, companies that do the exam preps, but there’s nobody that has it all in one self-contained module."

GTS has been selling the LabSim range since 2005. "We started in the UK and, as we sell learning material to companies around the world, the next port of call was South Africa because we’ve got representation there and that was extremely popular," says Adda. "And from there all over the place. Australia, Canada, Greenland, Pakistan, everywhere, really, and every type of learner from vocational colleges, universities, career changers, individuals working within corporates, individuals trying to better themselves. So it seems to span the entire market of people who are interested in an IT certification."

He cites work with Lenovo across EMEA, a university in South Africa, UK colleges and Australian printers. Plus there are firms using the courses for their technical support and help-desk staff. In the Microsoft world, GTS Learning is seeing growing demand for Windows Server 2008 administrator and enterprise administrator courses and MCIPT certification is very much the order of the day. On-demand versions of the courses will be available soon.

As an IT training veteran, does Adda think that a proliferation of technologies is leading to IT people becoming too siloed in their own specialities?

"I think that so long as vendors are going to continue to promote their products you are always going to have to have specific skills which do appear siloed," he says. "The other thing about certifications is that its about the vendor’s requirements to remain current. If you take an exam and then you don’t do anything more for ten years, the chances are you are going to be stale. And that’s why I think these vendor requirements to remain current in the certification actually make sure that people know about the latest technologies and don’t just say that they are certified to maintain your installation if they haven’t actually been trained on the latest product."