How the Program Works
The Networking Academy Program offers a comprehensive blended e-learning solution that provides students technology instruction in traditional classroom settings worldwide. High schools, community colleges, and universities serve as academies to the program delivering technical content to its students. A global e-learning infrastructure delivers all the learning components to more than 10,000 academies worldwide. The learning components include web-based content, online assessments, student performance tracking, hands-on-labs, and instructor training and support. The learning tools help prepare students for Cisco and other IT certifications.
To graduate from the program, a students needs to pass the assessments offered during the four-semester program. Pursuing a Cisco or other IT certification is optional, not a mandatory requirement of the program. Initially created to prepare students for the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) degrees, the Academy curriculum has expanded with other IT sponsored courses. Some of the available courses are Fundamentals of Web Design, sponsored by Adobe Systems; IT Essentials: PC Hardware and Software, and IT Essentials: Network Operating Systems, sponsored by Hewlett-Packard; Fundamentals of Voice and Data Cabling, sponsored by Panduit; and Fundamentals of UNIX and Fundamentals of Java, sponsored by Sun Microsystems.
The program relies on a train-the-trainer model that is supported by the e-learning infrastructure. Cisco Systems trains 50 Cisco Academy Training Centers (CATCs) around the world that serve as lead training organizations. The CATCs help train regional instructors on the Networking Academy curriculum delivery and approach. Regional academies assume a leadership role by not only delivering content to their own students, but by also supporting a host of smaller neighboring local academies. The regional academies train the local academy instructors. These local academies offer classes on site to students. Because all the materials are readily available on-line, the train-the-trainer model complements the e-learning infrastructure in ensuring that the instructors are well supported.
Blended Learning with E-Assessment
An important component of the program is creating assessment tasks that are tightly aligned with the curriculum. The program relies on instructors in the field to generate and validate assessment items. Pre-test, practice, and post-test tools are made available to students in the program through the e-learning infrastructure. In addition to formal testing with scoring and grade books, students can also receive feedback on their skill and knowledge acquisition through chapter quizzes embedded in the curriculum as well as hands-on skill-focused exams given by instructors.
Assessment provides students with performance feedback. A personalized feedback report provides a single source of content links that helps the student quickly navigate through the curriculum for test review or further study. Proficiency reports enable students to translate the numeric value of their assessment into some level of proficiency, such as Novice, Partially Proficient, Proficient, or Advanced. Because the reports include direct links to an online version of the curriculum, the e-learning infrastructure automatically determines, and links to, the most efficient source on the network to provide students personalized and relevant material for review. The program uses a database and statistical models to monitor and maintain tests that instructors use in the classroom. Through this effort, the program offers leadership in best practices regarding test design and maintenance to help both students and teachers in the classroom.
Much of the success of the Networking Academy Program has been attributed to its hands-on nature. Developers working on the Cisco Networking Academy Program have integrated simulations into the curriculum that provide students with an exciting, virtual, hands-on experience. Students are required to work through more than 200 labs. Most of these labs include extensive technical configuration. Simulations provide students an opportunity for additional virtual practice to increase the effectiveness of hands-on lab time.
The Cisco Networking Academy Program also works to help population segments that might have been left behind in the digital economy because of a lack of access to technology. The program offers programs in underserved areas to benefit low-income individuals, certain ethnic groups, people in disadvantaged communities, and those with disabilities. Academies located in underserved communities and countries help local people learn the IT skills they need to acquire to sustain technology growth in the region.