An Academy of Passionate People

Accessing the right tools – and people – to train someone to be a qualified professional.

INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero

credit-anthony-jamesAnthony James started Linux Academy, one of the world’s foremost online Linux and cloud training platforms and communities, “because I needed a better way of learning the newest technologies,” he says. “Learning doesn’t come easy for me, and I know there are millions of others who require more than just a lecture or book to be qualified to run IT architectures.” The foundation of Linux Academy is built around the belief that “each one of us here at Linux Academy has dedicated our lives to helping change the lives of others through education and training,” Anthony notes. “Fundamentally, at the core of everything we do, the question in our mind is ‘How does it benefit the student?’ I do not believe you can fake sincerity and I do not believe people want to learn from someone who does not truly care if they are successful in their learning.”

In essence, Linux Academy is a training platform dedicated to training all skill levels, from beginners to IT professionals. Anthony’s goal was to take in-person training and merge it with online self-paced training. This required building tools, such as a course scheduler, hands-on environment labs, providing instructor help, downloadable study guides, exercises and more. Their goal was to reduce the barrier of entry and be a one-stop solution for everything one might need to train on cloud technologies.

Make sure they are as passionate about teaching the technology as you are learning the technology.

Their platform provides one access to environments, such as AWS or OpenStack; otherwise, a student without the funds to run on their own would not be able to launch and test or learn hands on. Here, Anthony discusses what such an equity approach means for students, companies, and the so-called ‘skills gap’ in America.

Why is it so important for professionals to be trained on Linux and cloud technology?

Anthony: Companies have quickly realized the value and potential of open source technologies. They’ve also realized the value of low-cost and highly-scalable cloud architectures. In a world of agile and quick development, the ability to quickly spin up and even scale your environment is extremely important. Linux is also known for its stability and software suite powering the majority of the internet.

Are there courses in cloud technology that are more popular than others? Why?

Anthony: AWS is certainly our most popular cloud technology section with Azure a very close second. The reason for this is the availability of resources with reduced capital. AWS and Microsoft have effectively created the opportunity for anybody around the world to have access to large-scale environments with little to no up-front capital expenditures. Amazon and Microsoft have also done a great job of marketing the value of the cloud and have created a sense of urgency around being cloud certified.

There’s a lot of talk of the skills gap in this country – could you define skills gap and discuss the issue, and how your academy addresses this challenge?

Anthony: Yes, there is a skills gap. Think about AWS, Azure and the cloud in general. This technology is taking the industry by storm and the demand for talent is huge. The skills gap occurs when there is a lack of accessible training and even guidance on what you should be training on and learning. Without the ability to quickly and easily access this type of training for new technologies, the threat of the skills gap increasing over the next few years is growing.

Our most common question is, “How can you provide this service at the price you are offering?” Given that traditional services that include fewer features often cost a substantial amount more, we set out with the mission of changing lives. You can’t change lives if you put profits before people, so our focus is offering the service at a price that students can afford but also at a quality that normally costs thousands of dollars more. The second issue, I believe, is creating a community where people can be engaged in the learning environment. Make it easy by developing hands-on labs and reducing the barrier of moving past issues. If you’re stuck, you can ask our full time instructors, or the community, and they’ll be glad to help.

What makes your online training platform unique or different from others?

linux-academy-logoAnthony: We’ve taken the mission of merging in-person training with online self-paced training very seriously. Our platform provides a course scheduler to keep you on track for your studies, six lab servers, AWS, OpenStack, Linux, DevOps and upcoming Azure self-paced labs, study guides, practice exams, a social note card system, and, of course, instructor help. It’s more than just videos. We believe that it takes a learning stack to be successful. That includes a combination of learning styles such as lectures, hands-on, practice, and memorization tools. We pride ourselves on putting students first and providing them with the tools they need to succeed.

How do you recruit Linux Academy trainers?

Anthony: We’ve created a culture that people truly want to work at and be a part of. It’s amazing the number of people who want to be part of something that improves the lives of thousands. We reach out to the best engineers and bring them into an environment where their expertise is taught to tens of thousands of students and professionals.

How important is the community aspect of Linux Academy? Why?

Anthony: A community is extremely important, which is why we have a community that encourages student interaction and we’ve also recently launched a study groups feature. Study groups allow for private or public groups that anyone can join. We believe in collaboration. By providing a way for people to work together, we’ve noticed that they think about issues differently, and they know that someone else is going through the same thing as them. This encourages them and it helps them move past roadblocks they would otherwise have. Using social note cards, a student can fork another student or instructor deck. This is powerful because one person might have thought about a concept differently and made it available to other students! All of this provides a collaborative learning environment!

Not only do we have thousands of highly qualified engineers from companies like Rackspace in our community, our instructors also participate in the community every single day.

What are your thoughts on the state of education these days?

Anthony: Everyone learns differently and of course there is more to education than learning a skill set. Time management, leadership, and collaboration are all things that need to be encouraged in any learning environment. More often than not they are forgotten about by most e-learning companies. What’s important is that you learn how to be qualified and not just to pass an exam.

What is technology’s role in education?

Anthony: Technology is huge, no matter what you’re learning. Whether you are learning math, coding or any other subject, it doesn’t matter. Technology brings people together and gives them access to resources they would otherwise not have without being in a physical location – thus giving millions of people around the world better access to education. If we can increase the availability of education, standards will be increased. Rather than focusing on how to just get basic education around the world, once it’s available, we can solve larger problems.

What are a few key edtech trends to watch in the coming year or two?

Anthony: Micro certifications and hands-on training are two that stand out. It’s where our focus is and it’s an important one, because it again encourages real learning.

What else do you have to say to people passionate about education technology?

Anthony: Come work for us, we are hiring! Keep your passion. The Linux Academy is made up of only highly passionate people about our mission.

Anything else you care to add or emphasize concerning ed, tech, microskills, the skills gap, or anything else for that matter?

Anthony: I think that there are real issues when it comes to accessing tools to help train someone to be a qualified professional and even continued education for professionals. I also believe that when you’re shopping for that education, no matter where you get it, ensure that you are learning from people who care about your success more than they care about profits. Make sure they are as passionate about teaching the technology as you are learning the technology.

Victor Rivero is the Editor-in-Chief of EdTech Digest. Write to: victor@edtechdigest.com

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