If you're looking for a variety of education and training opportunities, consider joining your local Windows NT user group. User groups are a great way to learn about NT and associated hardware and software. Volunteers who work with NT daily usually run the meetings, which provide you with an informal way to meet and swap notes with other NT users in your area. Because users with various levels of experience and knowledge attend, user groups are useful for the novice and expert.
Although these groups don't provide formal education, you can hear from vendors of NT products and services and learn about the latest developments in the growing NT domain. Each group provides a variety of activities to help educate its members. Activities vary depending on the members' needs; check with your local user group for a calendar of events.
User group activities let you learn about new software features and functions and plan for future software and hardware implementation. For example, 22 NT user groups in the US and Canada participated in the NT 4.0 Preview Tour in early 1996. Microsoft sent copies of NT Workstation 4.0 beta software to attendees.
Some user groups work with a local Microsoft office, and sales engineers attend meetings to demonstrate products and answer questions. Other vendors come to show prototypes or beta editions of new products, demonstrate new versions of products, and solicit user group members' comments. This interaction benefits both the user group members and the vendors.
A popular segment at many user group meetings is the open question-and-answer time. Members can ask about NT's features or configurations, dates for upcoming software releases, or related applications. In response, you get input from other group members. Questions range from very basic to very technical.
Support for Training
Many user groups also provide members with training. Often, a user group can connect you with other members studying to become Microsoft certified or with local training companies that offer Microsoft certification classes. For example, the Rocky Mountain Windows NT User Group has chapters in Denver and Colorado Springs, Colorado. Meeting topics have included Windows NT Domains, Trusts, and Groups; NTFS File Security; and Windows NT Server Users and Domains. Microsoft is offering incentives for members in the Rocky Mountain region to take and pass the Microsoft certification exams. So some members of these user groups are looking into forming a study group to help prepare for these exams.
Local authorized training companies sometimes host user group meetings at their facilities and provide a sample of what their courses teach. User groups often arrange discounts for their members with these training companies, either on a standing basis or as a one-time offer.
Dr. Roy L. Beasley, vice president for certification for the Advanced Systems User Group (ASUG) in Washington, DC, is working on a cooperative program between ASUG and Howard University. In October 1994, ASUG suggested that the Distance Learning Lab (DLL), a component of Howard University's Continuing Education Program, organize a self-study group for local computer professionals interested in becoming MCSEs. For the next 18 months, the group met for two to three hours a week to study the Microsoft Press NT Workstation and NT Server self-study guides and the Windows NT Resource Kit.
Microsoft recently recognized Howard University's continuing education program as an AATP. Accordingly, the DLL is reorganizing the study group's weekly sessions into official Microsoft courses. Group members who are MCSEs or MCPs will teach these sessions. The user group charges a modest $100 tuition for the next two sessions: NT Workstation and TCP/IP. These courses will meet once each week for 10 weeks.
User groups offer many advantages for very little cost to members. Some groups have low annual dues, and some have none. In either case, user groups are a wonderful training resource. To find a user group near you, check the user groups listing on page 78 or check the Windows NT Magazine Web page at http://www.winntmag.com.
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