The Cisco Networking Academy is a course intended for teaching the basics of inter-computer networking that are required to receive your CCNA, at which point the bearer is deemed a Cisco Certified Networking Administrator (or Associate).

The CCNA is good for two purposes-

  1. To get a job actively setting up and administrating the connection and networking of tasks between multiple computers,
    or
  2. To get a job as a salesman or business consultant in the computer industry. All Cisco-certified computer retailers must have a CCNA/CCNP/CCIE registered employee on site.

The Networking Academy, found at http://student.netacad.net*, is a complete, four semester course that was designed for a student with general knowledge of computer construction, keyboarding, and internet theory. It is written at about a eleventh grade reading level, according the Flesch-Kincaid evaluation; however that does not account for the multitude of high-level concepts that are introduced at a rapid rate throughout the course. There are people who take it as early as freshman year of high school, but earlier than that is not recommended by Cisco. All of the materials required for reading, online lab work, hands on (printed out) lab work, assessments, and gradebooks are kept online in each student's personal account. Administrators and class instructors have access to students' files, and can alter them if needed. The course is set up to be taught by a teacher in front of a class, and then the students should read the coresponding chapter in the online textbook that night. Where available, e-Labs are provided to help students understand how hardware used by the professionals would react to certain commands/events without the need of the actual item to connect to. The course materials (textbook, labs, review quizzes, etc.) are all organized online into four major semesters:

  1. Networking Basics- The theory behind how networking works, and how computers and the hardware that connects them is set up (except the router).
  2. Routers and Routing Basics- How the router works, and how it can be programmed. This semester also introduces protocols for networking, such as TCP/IP.
  3. Switching Basics and Intermediate Routing- More in-depth look at LANs (local area networks) and networking management.
  4. WAN Technologies- More in-depth look at WAN's (Wide Area Networks), and networking management. Also, this semester covers PPP (point-to-point-protocol) and ISDN (integrated service digital network)

Each semester is broken up into between 8 and 24 chapters. The chapters are supposed to be sequential, but often reference future material. Each chapter has pages to read, as well as Flash Media** to help teach the subject in a more animated or graphic manner. (The Flash files become invaluable when they talk about networking topography) In addition to the reading, there is a review section, a static quiz (the questions are always the same), and a glossary for important terms. Though they are not actually part of each chapter, labs and e-labs are introduced and linked to in most. Hands-on labs are also made to be self contained, and are a vital tool to understanding how to set up networks by hand (as well as many other areas of study). At the end of each chapter a test is given from Cisco's servers made up of 19~30 multiple choice questions. Unlike the quizzes, the tests change each time they are administered. The quiz that is provided inside the chapter is mainly intended as a tool to see if you are prepared to take the test, and so the grade is not recorded, and there is no limit on how many times you can take it (though the questions never change).The questions are chosen from a bank of hundreds for each chapter, so there is a small chance that there might be a repeat question on 2 tests. Tests are graded automatically by the server and a score out of 100 is returned to you instantly and added to your personal gradebook on the site. The gradebook is accessible by teacher and student alike, and records all grades from the current semester.

The course leads up to and prepares the student to take the CCNA exam. The exam can be taken by anyone, and does not require the survival of the Networking Academy. The Academy is purely an organized way to learn the material. (comparable to the SAT's- the Academy is like an SAT prep course, but 4 years long)

To quote the Academy website on the final CCNA exam:

"Prices may vary by exam, but most exams are $125 to $250 US dollars or equivalent worldwide. Foundations exams are $250-$300 US dollars or equivalent. CCIE exams are $300 US dollars or equivalent. Payment is made directly to the authorized Cisco testing delivery partner."
(Note- this is correct for the 2003 testing year, but may change in the future)
As a side note: The CCIE (Cisco Certified Internet Engineer, the highest rank of IT professional) costs a lot more because it requires a hands on test of the student's skills in a laboratory setting.
The CCNA is just 100 multiple choice questions, which is then graded out of 100 points to determine your score. For more on the CCNA exam, please visit:          http://www.cisco.com/en/US/learning/le3/le11/learning_about_certifcation_exams.html
for the official and up to date exam details.

*Note that you cannot access any course materials or lessons other than certain demos provided by Cisco on the website without an account.
** "Flash" and "Flash Media" are registered trademarks of Macromedia, Inc.

Ok. I took a CNA program in High School.

It lasted through my last four semesters there (two years), the first three as just one more course among four. In the final semester, it was a co-op program, meaning we spent all day, every day, in the same room with the same people and the same petty, incompetent noodlehead teacher. Anyway, we finished the curriculum several months before the end, even after taking two months off for work placements. Anyway, what about the materials themselves?

When we started, it was with the curriculum version 1.0, which was absolutely horrible. The text was utterly opaque, and it was
very common for the pictures and flash to be transposed, incorrect, misleading or any combination thereof. Still, as that was only the first semester, we were able to make do with the knowledge of our teacher to clarify things.

Version 1.1 was similar, but had some of the worst parts fixed. There was still an entire chapter on wiring codes and how to build a wiring closet that wasn't on the test.

Version 2.0 and on was more like a real learning resource, rather than a dumbed down, half assed technical manual. Still, it did suffer from the same problems as earlier versions, just to a significantly lesser degree.

The post-chapter quizzes (6 to 12 questions or something like that, IIRC) were of limited use - basically if you got more than one (or two on the long ones) wrong after your first reading of the chapter, you probably weren't paying attention. They weren't very hard.

Most of the labs were primarily ensuring you could, in fact read, type, and follow simple instructions. Seriously.

   Type "config t" to enter router configuration mode. What prompt do you see?
   ___________________________________

This wouldn't be so bad if it only happened on, say, the first few labs. Unfortunately, it happened on most of them.


QuietLight informs me that the newest version of the curriculum (3.0) is much better. This pleases me greatly.

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