Microsoft Office 2016’s “Tell Me” Feature

by Jason - Mar 10, 2016


Hello everyone! Office 2016, released last fall, is not a major upgrade over Office 2013, but it does have some nice new features. Over the next few months, this blog space will occasionally introduce a few of those features as we coincide this with our producing an entire suite of Office 2016 courses this summer.

All of our Office 2016 courses will get you ready for both the Microsoft Office Specialist certification for Office 2016 (due out later this year) and, more importantly for many of you, get you job-ready for any position requiring proficiency in Microsoft Office. We will be building courses for Word 2016, Excel 2016, PowerPoint 2016, Outlook 2016, and Access 2016. I am lining up on-camera outfits to color-coordinate with the theme colors of Office as we speak (OK, maybe I’m not but you will have to get the courses to find out).

Anyway, here is a new feature in Office 2016: the “Tell me” feature. This is a big enhancement over the standard help feature as you can click in the “Tell me what you want to do” box. In Excel 2016, it looks just like this:

Tell me what you want to do button

So, you can click in the box and type a phrase for what you want to do. In this example, I typed “add a page break” and look what I got:

Add a page break screenshot

Needless to say, this is a big help in the Help feature (pun intended). Keep checking back for updates on our suite of Office 2016 courses.



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A+ Series Comparison: 800 vs. 900

by Jason - Feb 24, 2016


Hello again, your senior humble instructor, I mean, your humble senior instructor here. With a new A+ series out (and our courses rolling out on this series as I write this), I’ve fielded several questions on the topic of “what is different in the 800 vs. 900 series?” Well, I’m here to help shed some light on that and some other related questions I have been getting lately from students. So, without further ado…

Question #1: What are the major differences between the 800 and 900 series objectives?

Answer: There are three major differences. They are:

  1. Hardware has been de-emphasized. It used to cover 40% of the first exam in the series and now it covers 34% of the first exam. That may not seem like much, but the real de-emphasis comes from CompTIA doing a very good job streamlining hardware topics. No longer do you need to worry about memorizing a type of RAM or CPU that is way out-of-date with current market trends. The same goes for cables, especially when it comes to peripherals.
  2. Mobile devices have far more coverage on both exams than before. In fact, the percentage of questions has doubled on the first exam, from 9% to 18%. In addition, you will want to make sure to practice with mobile devices containing the iOS, Android, and Windows operating systems, paying particular attention to things business people do on these devices, such as configure email and install and uninstall apps.
  3. This is the BIG change: Troubleshooting questions are on BOTH exams now. For years, the majority (if not all of) the troubleshooting questions appeared on the second exam. Now, you can expect about 25-30% of the questions on each exam to cover troubleshooting situations. The 901 exam has hardware and network troubleshooting while the 902 exam has software troubleshooting. And both exams will have questions on troubleshooting mobile devices.

Question #2: Are there simulation questions on the test?

Answer: Indeed there are. The good news is our courses, workbooks, and post-assessment tests will help you get ready to take on those simulation questions. As I always say, practice makes perfect. The more you practice concepts such as determining what computer one needs given a set of requirements, setting up small networks (wired and wireless), working with command prompt commands, and performing Windows installations and repairs, the better-equipped you will be for these exams.

Question #3: If I passed the 801 test, can I take the 902 test and have my A+ certification?

Answer: NO! The 800 series and 900 series are different. To be A+ certified, you either need to pass both the 801 and 802 exams or pass the 901 and 902 exams. Of course, I would recommend the 900 series as the objectives are a far better fit for today’s A+ technician compared to, say, four years ago.

By the way, the 800 series will be retired in June. So if you are halfway there, you have (as of this writing) about four months to finish the 800 series certification. If you have not started, I would go with the 900 series.

Here is my final observation: From having passed both tests recently, I can tell you that troubleshooting as a whole is far more emphasized than in previous series. When you get a troubleshooting question, be the person in the question trying to solve the problem. And then think “what would I do here?” This will make answering those questions more natural than just trying to guess an answer.



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CompTIA 900 Series: At the Doorstep

by Jason - Feb 11, 2016


Hello, everyone! I come to you today with some exciting news. Over the next month, we are going to start rolling out the A+ 900 series of courses (220-901 and 220-902 to be exact). To cover the two exams, we have split the overall course into two series of courses, one for each exam.

My co-worker and Mr. Multitasker himself, Brad Washburn, interviewed me while we were filming this course a while back. Back then, I knew the answers to most, but not all of the course questions. For instance, I was asked how long this series is: Well, I have some numbers for you: The 220-901 course will cover the four domains on the 220-901 exam:

  • Hardware
  • Networking
  • Mobile Devices
  • Troubleshooting Hardware and Networking

This course will include roughly eight hours of instruction, several hundred pre-assessment and post-assessment practice test questions, and a workbook consisting of over 150 pages of practice exercises, all geared toward not only sharpening the job skills typical for an A+ technician, but, more importantly, getting you ready to pass the 220-901 exam.

Soon after we release the 220-901 course, we will start rolling out the 220-902 course. The 220-902 course covers these five domains:

  • Windows Operating Systems
  • Other Operating Systems
  • Security
  • Software Troubleshooting
  • Operational Procedures

This course has much more in the way of hands-on software installation and configuration, so the course contains about 15 hours of video instruction. The course will also contain several hundred pre-assessment and post-assessment practice test questions, and a workbook containing over 200 pages of practice exercises, again with the intent of sharpening your job skills and getting you ready to pass the 220-902 exam.

Speaking of exams, the 900 series of exams was recently released. So, as part of our ensuring that we are covering the material in a manner to best prepare you to become A+ certified, I went and took both exams (it was my second go-around with A+, having obtained my first A+ certification several years ago). The test questions mapped very well to the test objectives, as is the norm with CompTIA exams. There were both multiple choice and simulation questions on the exam. By simulation questions I specifically mean that you are presented with something that needs configuring. Many of our post-assessment practice questions are labs which simulate possible test scenarios.

So with that, I have five big exam tips for you:

  • Go through the objectives for each exam thoroughly. Every exercise in our project workbooks clearly map to one or more test objectives. Know these objectives well.
  • For anything software-related, such as installing operating systems, repairing operating systems, configuring a wireless router through a web interface, or working with the command prompt, get some practice. Having hands-on practice is key to your success on the exam.
  • On the test itself, take the time to thoroughly read the question before choosing an answer. One or two words in a question can totally affect the correct answer for the question. You have slightly over one minute per question. Believe me when I say that is plenty of time per question. So, take your time.
  • Again, on the test itself, when you read a question, put yourself in the situation as if you were the technician trying to solve whatever problem the question is asking. This is especially true for troubleshooting questions, which make up about 30% of each exam.
  • Finally, we present this material in the way in which CompTIA says things should be done. Know those methods for the test. Though we do have a lot of detail in the video portions of the course, take the time to go through the project workbooks as they will have even more details regarding what CompTIA holds as standards and methods for an A+ technician.

With that, I’m going to get back to helping put the finishing touches on these courses. In the meantime watch this space for further updates. Have a nice day!



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LearnKey’s Introduction to Programming Concepts: Computer Programming for Beginners

by Jason - Feb 05, 2016


Hello everyone! Do you believe it’s February already? That just means spring is close and I’m closer to dusting off my golf clubs. But, that’s not why I’m here today. I’m here to tell you a little anecdote: A little over 15 years ago, I wanted to learn programming. So, what did I do? I bought several Introduction to Programming books (yes, real books where you turn pages) and got going on it.

Unfortunately, that plan did not work too well. Many of these books just jumped right into a programming language and code with no introduction to programming concepts. I felt like someone was showing me all of the nuts and bolts for car engine parts without explaining the parts themselves. So, it was quite a struggle.

Eventually, I got the hang of things but then, when presented with the idea of teaching some of these courses, I knew I would need to take a different approach to teaching this world of programming than the approach I took to learn programming.

Which brings me to a course we at LearnKey are excited to present later this spring: an Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming course! Most of our courses are geared toward a specific concept and a specific certification. This course will not be one of them. This course is going to be a short but informative introduction to what you need to know about basic programming concepts before you try to tackle a programming language and all of the code that comes with it. This course will not focus on any language in particular. Rather, we will focus on basic programming concepts, such as objects, classes, and an introduction to code syntax. In other words, we are going to explain the engine and its parts before showing all of the nuts and bolts.

This course will be the first in a new programming series we are debuting this summer. The details of this program for programming (pun intended) will be coming in the next several weeks. But for anyone who wants to learn programming, this will serve as an excellent starting point. And, for those of you looking for a programming-related career, there are always plenty of job postings for people who can program.

So stay tuned, because soon enough spring will be here and soon after that, so will this Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming course!



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MTA Cloud Fundamentals: Coming This Spring

by Jason - Feb 01, 2016


Hello everyone! Here at LearnKey we are making our final push for the A+ 2015 (the 900 series with exams 220-901 and 220-902, for those of you who live and breathe exam numbers) but, hey, everyone needs a break! I’m taking some time to tell you about a course you will see from us this spring: Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) Cloud Fundamentals.

Earlier this month, I mentioned a triple dose of MTA courses we are presenting in 2016: MTA Mobility and Device Fundamentals, which we have released; MTA HTML5 Fundamentals; and this MTA Cloud Fundamentals course.

So what is meant by Cloud Fundamentals? To get a better understanding of this, let’s go back in time, circa the early 2000s, with a network administrator at a business with, let’s just say 100 employees or so. Here is what a typical workload looked like:

  • Install Microsoft Office, using the Office CD, whenever someone needed it (or share the installation somewhere and hoped the semi-slow network behaved during an install).
  • Manage the on-premises Windows servers, Exchange servers for email, and any applications servers, like SQL servers.
  • If someone wanted a new applications server, the administrator may have been able to virtualize it, but often a new server meant an expensive new physical server and the installation and configuration processes (usually late at night) to get the server up and running.
  • Network administrators did not have these things we call mobile devices, such as tablets and smartphones, to manage.

Fast forward the time machine back to today and let’s look at the same-sized business. With cloud computing, how are those administrative tasks done? Let’s take a look:

  • Office needs to be installed? No problem. A user can log into Office 365 and download and install the latest version of Office.
  • Servers? Maybe there are one or two physical ones on-premises, but, Windows servers can be hosted online, in the cloud. Exchange? Set that up as a cloud service and administer it that way.
  • Does someone need a new applications server? No problem. A network administrator can log into Microsoft Azure, provision a new applications server, and have it running in less than an hour.

Oh, and those mobile devices? Well, surely a network administrator wouldn’t just let any device on the network. So a network administrator can use Microsoft Intune, a cloud-based service, to set up policies to manage how mobile devices will connect to and interact with the business network.

So, we can say that on a very high level, cloud fundamentals involves learning how to manage a network that is mostly subscription-based for services rather than having everything on the company premises. With that, there are five main topics on the 98-369 exam:

  • Understanding the cloud
  • Enabling Microsoft cloud services
  • Administering Office 365 and Microsoft Intune
  • Using and configuring Microsoft cloud services
  • Supporting cloud users

In this upcoming Cloud Fundamentals course, we will thoroughly cover all five topics as they relate to the 98-369 exam. We will do this through video-based instruction, pre-assessment and post-assessment tests to sharpen your test-taking skills, and a project workbook which will further enhance your Cloud Fundamentals skill set.

We look forward to bringing you yet another course in the MTA series. Best of luck to all of you in this or whatever certifications and career paths you pursue.



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New Year, New Course | Cisco Network Security Fundamentals (210-260)

by Jason - Jan 25, 2016


Hello, everyone! Being a baseball fan I always look forward to hearing those magic words of “pitchers and catchers report” as spring training starts just about a month from now.

And, with a new year, many companies update their lineup of certifications. Here is one: the Cisco Certified Network Associate Security (CCNA Security) certification has a new exam, Exam 210-260: Implementing Cisco Network Security. So, with that new exam, LearnKey is working on a new course to cover this exam.

This exam covers seven main Cisco network security topics:

  • Security Concepts
  • Secure Access
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
  • Secure Routing and Switching
  • Cisco Firewall Technologies
  • Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS)
  • Content and Endpoint Security

As with many Cisco certifications, this certification has a prerequisite: a valid Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician certification, or a valid CCNA Routing and Switching certification, or any Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) certification.

This upcoming course will include instructor-based video training, exam tips, and plenty of pre-assessment and post-assessment practice test questions to help you obtain your CCNA Security certification.



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A Triple Dose of MTA

by Jason - Jan 08, 2016


Hello everyone, and from my desk at LearnKey to yours, a very Happy New Year! Now, with a new year comes new ideas, new challenges, and here at LearnKey, new courses. One series of courses we are focused on for the early part of 2016 is the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) series of certifications. An MTA certification is a great way to gain an entry-level Microsoft certification and put you ahead of others in this ever-increasing competitive world of IT positions.

To start the year, we have just released the MTA Mobility and Device Fundamentals (Exam 98-368) course. This course covers using Windows on multiple devices with the primary focus being the Surface family of tablets. But, trust me when I say you do not need a Surface tablet to take this course. Any laptop or tablet running Windows 8.1 will do. In addition, you will learn about tools administrators use to host these devices, both corporate and personal, in a corporate environment.

Another MTA course coming early in 2016 is the MTA Cloud Fundamentals (Exam 98-369) course. This course will show you how to enable and manage Microsoft cloud services, administer Office 365, administer Microsoft Intune, and support cloud users.

Both of these courses and certifications represent the growing IT industry concept of people-centric rather than device-centric computing. It was not that long ago that most employees in a corporation had one device, either a desktop or a laptop. And, their data was kept either on that device or on a network server. Fast forward to 2016.

Now, most employees view data on many devices: desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Some of these devices are company-issued, and some are personally owned devices. With that, data needs to be more accessible both from inside and outside a company network. This is where the cloud storage and cloud environment features have come to the forefront of data management. So, having both the Mobility and Device Fundamentals and Cloud Fundamentals certifications will show that you are keeping up with the times.

The third MTA course we will be releasing early in 2016 is the MTA HTML5 Fundamentals (Exam 98-375) course. This course will cover building HTML5-based apps using HTML5, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and JavaScript.

All three of these courses will contain several hours of video-based instruction, a robust workbook full of hands-on exercises, and pre-assessment and post-assessment tests that are geared specifically to ready you for these MTA exams.

So, if you are looking for a first goal of 2016, why not make that goal an MTA certification? Good luck with all you set out to do in 2016.



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Adobe Exam Changes Part 2 – Knowing More Than Just the Program

by Jason - Dec 17, 2015


Hello everyone! Not long ago, I shared with you some changes Adobe is making to their suite of Adobe Certified Associate (ACA) exams.

So, to get a first-hand look at the new exam format, I went and took the Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 exam for Windows. Now, mind you, it’s been :::covering my mouth::: years since I last took an Adobe exam, but I wanted to see what these new “scenarios” on the Adobe exams were all about. Plus, I had seen and heard some chatter from online forums and the like about how vastly different this exam is compared to previous Adobe exams. Given that part of my role as senior instructor here is to make sure we stay on top of exam changes, I took the plunge and took the exam.

And, yes, the exam has changed. But, the changes, in my humble opinion, were not drastic. I say that because though some questions look a little different, and yes, there are scenarios to go through, the core of any certification exam is still present. And that core is: Know the objectives and know ALL of the objectives!

Here is an example: Let’s look at the first domain of the Adobe Photoshop ACA 2015 objectives:

Domain 1.0 Setting Project Requirements
1.1 Identify the purpose, audience, and audience needs for preparing images.
1.2 Demonstrate knowledge of standard copyright rules for images and image use.
1.3 Demonstrate knowledge of project management tasks and responsibilities.
1.4 Communicate with others (such as peers and clients) about design plans.

Now, this is taken straight from the exam objectives as published on Adobe’s website. Someone studying Photoshop might be so focused on Photoshop that this domain just gets glossed over. And then, when a project question comes up on the test, the first thought is “uh-oh” or something worse.

And, with the scenario-based questions becoming a part of the Adobe exams, take a wild guess what types of questions are parts of these scenarios? I’ll give you a hint: Domain one. Besides, in order to be a Photoshop expert, shouldn’t one know what to do with meeting audience needs and know about copyrights and be able to work with others (like clients) on projects?

My point is, just knowing a program forward and backward is not enough to have a valid certification. For Microsoft Project, you need to know how a project manager operates, not just how to read a cost report. For Microsoft Access, you need to know how to structure a database, not just know how to change a field to a long date format. For Windows Server, you need to be able to design a server solution, not just know how to set up DHCP.

And, for the Photoshop ACA certification, you need to know how a Photoshop project is managed start to finish, not just how to change colors on someone’s shirt using a nondestructive method (yes, you need to know that, too).

So, resist the temptation to just ignore or gloss over test objectives that are not directly related to the program you are studying. In doing so, you will have a much better chance of passing an exam and, you will be a start-to-finish expert in the area you are certified in, not just a I-can-do-this-in-the-program person.



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A+ 900 Series and End-of-Year Exam Goals

by Jason - Dec 02, 2015


Hello, it’s me, your humble senior instructor hoping you all had a nice Thanksgiving. I sure did because my football team gave me a nice birthday present with a victory over the weekend!

So, today I want to update you on a couple of items we brought up in previous blogs. First, during the first half of our filming the A+ 900 series, Brad asked me a few questions about the course, which I attempted to answer. Now, we are wrapping up filming on the second half of the A+ course, so I can fill you in on some more details.

First, we are going to be releasing this course in two parts: one for each of the 900 series exams (220-901 and 220-902 for those of you who live by exam numbers). Both will be released early in 2016, about a month apart. We are going to this model of one course for each exam for one reason: to keep your focus on one exam and not worry when studying about which topic is on which test.

Secondly, in addition to the pre-assessment and post-assessment tests, the courses will have several mini-quizzes in the middle. On many occasions, after a unit is complete you will see my smiling face asking a review question. This will give you a chance to pause (or rewind), think of an answer, and then see how you are progressing with the material. I know when I am studying for an exam, I like to have a lot of reinforcement of the material, so we are doing plenty of it in this course.

Thirdly, I do believe you will find some of the segments quite entertaining as well as educational. How can a topic like A+ be entertaining, you wonder? Well, you will just need to find out when the course is released.

That’s my update on A+. Before I go, I want to give you a gentle reminder on a very cool Microsoft promotion. It is called the Second Shot promotion and it is good until January 16. Basically, it means for any Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) exam you take between now and January 16, if you happen to not pass the exam, you get a second chance at it for free! For those of you who tend to put off taking an exam because you are not sure if you know the material well enough, what better way to find out than to basically take a free shot at one? I know I will be taking advantage of this in the next few weeks.

Well, I hear the “let’s go film” call so I will talk to you all later. Be well and take care.



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Adobe Exam Changes – Some Are Here, Some Are On The Way!

by Jason - Nov 25, 2015


Hi everyone and Happy Thanksgiving and safe travels if you are traveling (I am not, thankfully). If you are studying for any Adobe CC 2015 exam, you will want to pull up a chair and read this carefully because the Adobe CC 2015 exams have changed and changed a lot!

When I first took an Adobe exam (Photoshop CS3 and you can figure out how long ago that was if you have an abacus), about half of the questions were multiple choice and the other half were simulations. The simulations were tasks I had to complete, in the program, such as doing a Gaussian Blur or using one of the many tools available in Photoshop to transplant one piece of a picture to another, such as replacing bad grass with healthy grass.

Now, Adobe is rolling out a new exam format. In this exam format, the exams are much more scenario-based, to where instead of having one task to perform in a situation, you have several tasks to perform, all tied to the simulation.

While this makes for a much more realistic knowledge test for the exam (which, having taken a lot of exams in a lot of disciplines, I happen to like), it is a big adjustment, especially for those who have taken a few Adobe exams and/or are studying for an Adobe CC 2015 exam.

We at LearnKey are always trying to stay on top of these changes. One way in which we are going to start doing this (and continue doing for many areas, not just Adobe) is to add practice labs, tailored to the new exam format. We will be adding some Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 practice labs to our website in the coming weeks. And, as other exams are updated, we will add labs for those. This will help bridge the gap between our current courses and a new Adobe series, which we have in our plans for 2016. But we are not going to make you wait for good exam practice material just because a test format changes.

In addition to the labs, we will, as needed, update our current workbooks to match up with any objective changes and test format changes in these new exams.

These tools will give you, the student, the latest and greatest preparatory materials needed to become successful in your certification quest for Adobe or, for that matter, any certification you are pursuing.



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