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About 2 years ago we released our first eLearning class. This was a self-paced and online class which has since been updated to keep up with Alfresco's new product releases. We’ve found that this approach works well for our introductory topics, because it gives our students the option to learn at their own pace and in their own time, with a tried and trusted formula.  But, given the demands of some of our more advanced courses an instructor becomes essential. This is where the instructor led training (ILT for short) steps in. In a classroom environment with a trainer you can ask questions, for example how you might implement features in your own business case.



However ILT classes have some drawbacks. Since they are scheduled at a particular location, at a particular time, if this date and time does not match your availability you will have to wait until the next class, which may be weeks later. When you register for a class it is possible the class may be cancelled because of insufficient numbers. Somehow we need to address these drawbacks.

Project Espresso?



Our project, code named Espresso, will deliver a brand new and revolutionary way of taking training from Alfresco, that will address these issues and provide additional benefits to participants.



We pay close attention to industry trends and to our customers and both have caused us to re-think the challenge of delivering affordable, effective training.  This is why we’ve come up with a new way to deliver training to delegates. The changes happening in the way people learn, and are trained, are both profound and permanent. For the very first time, learners have the ability to take control of their own learning experience. This is being driven for the most part by the advent of new technologies, social platforms, search engines and near ubiquitous instant communications.



That’s why we’re embracing this new era of Personal Learning. Tertiary educators are adopting these changes quickly and even schools are getting in on the act through the flipped-classroom model.  This trend to Personal Learning is becoming widespread throughout the education field and is being led by two organizations in the United States edX and Coursera. They have invested many millions in spearheading this approach and are reporting impressive early success.

The future of training



In future we are looking for a different type of training delivery channel which more closely matches the Personal Learning approach and which will deliver benefits to Alfresco as well as our students. We’re stuck for a name at the moment, but this new approach will:



  • be intensive self-paced, but flexible;


  • have electronic content delivery;


  • be group based;


  • supported by an instructor;


  • have a support forum per class;


  • have no minimum delegate requirement (i.e. guaranteed to run);


  • have a virtual machine environment provisioned.



If you would like to see a demo of our vision about how this would work? You can watch it now, but please bear in mind that this video demonstration is a future concept! We are working hard to bring this new way of training to you, and it’s not too late to let us know what you think by completing our survey, it will take 5 minutes of your time and as a thank you, we will enter you into our prize draw on 25 February, when one lucky respondent will win an Amazon Kindle Fire.
The Alfresco Certification program has been running since October 2011, and in that time more than 400 of you have become Alfresco Certified professionals. Congratulations, and if you’re one of a small number of people who have yet to receive your certificate and badge, these will be on their way to you in early 2013.



On 30th November we updated the certification exams with changes to both the syllabus and content:



  • All items have been updated for Alfresco version 4, and new ones introduced to cover new functionality in version 4 such as Solr indexing and Activiti Workflow.





  • The number of questions in each exam has been reduced from 80 to 60, reflecting feedback from non-native English speakers who requested extra time to understand what each question was asking. Reducing the number of questions should also allow for additional review time at the end of the paper. This change will not compromise the exams’ integrity, since a 70% pass mark is still required, and the level of questions will remain the same.





  • All items have been cross referenced with the documentation available at docs.alfresco.com and/or the training curriculum on the University site, to ensure they are covered. (There will still, however, be a small number (no more than 20%) of questions related to knowledge gained in the field.)


  • The new exams come with new blueprints which you can download from our certification page.


  • To improve the revision experience we’ve created online sample papers for both exams, and you can try the sample ACA and ACE papers now to test your readiness for the exams. These have 30 questions each (representing 50% of the exam), and provide a much better experience than the previous sample tests.



If you’re already certified, please rest assured that your certification is still valid, and will be until the next iteration of the exams, which will be issued after the next major release of Alfresco (version 5). We’ll notify you in plenty of time to encourage you to upgrade your certification prior to this release.



As certification gains more and more traction in the marketplace, you will see more positions advertised requiring Alfresco certified professionals. There has never been a better time to prepare for your Alfresco certification - make it your new year's resolution.
In my last blog, Getting to Grips with Alfresco Certification, I reviewed the background to our certification program and the learning resources available to you. In this post, I'm going to take a look at some real questions from the certification exams to give you an idea of the range of questions which face you.



I have chosen questions which demonstrate this range and rather than simply giving you the question and answers I’ve also delved a little bit more behind each question, to explain the correct answers and the distractors, or incorrect answers.



In order to set the pass marks we have used a modified Angoff method which uses subject matter experts to determine the difficulty of each question.  It defines the cutoff score as the lowest score a minimally competent candidate (MCC) is likely to achieve.



Essentially, it works this way:





  1. A panel of experts independently rate the difficulty of each question. This rating is based on what percentage of MCCs they estimate will answer correctly.


  2. As an example, a question that is rated as 60% means that the panel believes that only 60% of the MCCs would answer correctly.  This would be a much harder question, than one that is rated as 80%.


  3. The panel then reviews each test question as a group and comes to a consensus for the rating of each question.


  4. The final pass mark is determined as the average of the ratings for each question in that exam.  By way of an example: an exam that consists of 50 questions with average ratings of 65%, would require at least a score of 65% to be passed.  An easier exam, with a rating of 80% (say), would require a score of at least 80%.




I have described this process because I also want to give you an idea of how these ratings work so that you can gauge how difficult our subject matter experts have determined it to be.



Let's jump right in. Our first question relates to Share and is from the ACE exam.

In order to configure Alfresco Share, best practice dictates that you edit which file?





  1. share-config.xml


  2. share-config-custom.xml.sample


  3. share-config-custom.xml


  4. web-client-config-custom.xml


The correct answer is 3. This is a relatively easy question and shows that there are some knowledge based questions which require you to memorize file names, locations or other items. These are used only in situations where the piece of information is so key that we would expect a competent Alfresco developer to know this without looking it up. Configuring Alfresco Share is covered on the Share Configuration course. Let’s walk through each of the answers in turn...



  1. share-config.xml: This is the systems configuration file for Share, you can edit this and make configuration changes in this file and the changes will work. However if you perform an upgrade at a later stage your changes will be over-written, so best practice dictates that you should not modify this file. Hence this answer is wrong.


  2. share-config-custom.xml.sample: This is the sample file that is supplied with Alfresco and which you would copy to share-config-custom.xml before making your changes. Simply editing this file will have no effect because the system will ignore files with the extension .sample.


  3. share-config-custom.xml: The correct answer! Your changes should be made in this file which can be created by copying the share-config-custom.xml.sample provided.


  4. web-client-config-custom.xml: This file is the file that you should use to make configuration changes to the Alfresco Explorer client, not to Share.


You can see from the answer choices that some options are distractors (or wrong answers), in many cases making them look viable in other circumstances, so it pays to read the questions carefully. This question has a rating of 90%, and so means that we would expect 90% of MCCs to get the answer correct.



Let’s look at another question - again from the ACE exam.

Fill in the blank on the architecture picture.







  1. alf_data


  2. content services


  3. database


  4. file system


  5. repository


  6. Solr


This is a simple question relating to the architecture and is covered in the introductory classes. The right answer of course is #3 – database. Let’s look at the distractors in more detail:



  1. alf_data: This is typically the location where Alfresco will store the content files on the file system.


  2. content services: this is the range of services provided by the server for managing content for instance versioning.


  3. database: the correct answer, Alfresco stores metadata in a relational database.


  4. file system: Alfresco store the metadata in the database (some is also stored in the full-text index, but that is already shown in the diagram)


  5. repository: this is the name given to the collection of database, file system and indexes as a complete and consistent unit.


  6. Solr: This is a simple distractor. Solr is an enterprise indexing server which Alfresco introduces with 4.0.


Now we look at a question from the ACE exam which requires you to have an understanding of Alfresco development best practices. This subject is covered in all the training courses which deal with development. This question has a rating of 88%, hence it is considered slightly more difficult than the first question.

A repository web script is defined in the directory

<TOMCAT_HOME>/webapps/alfresco/WEB-INF/alfresco/templates/webscripts/org/alfresco/test

inside the Alfresco installation. Which of the following procedures should you use to change the default output template, while adhering to best practice?





  1. Copy the output template file into <TOMCAT_HOME>/webapps/alfresco/WEB-INF/alfresco/extension/templates/webscripts/org/alfresco/test, make your changes there, then update the web script descriptor to reference the new file.


  2. Copy the output template file into <TOMCAT_HOME>/shared/classes/alfresco/extension/templates/webscripts/org/alfresco/test and make your changes there.


  3. Copy the output template file into <TOMCAT_HOME>/webapps/alfresco/WEB-INF/alfresco/extension/templates/webscripts/org/alfresco/test and make your changes there.


  4. Create a copy of the output template file in the same directory, then update the web script descriptor to reference the new file.


In this case, #2 is the correct answer. This question is rated at 75% and so is more difficult than the preceding two examples. Let's review the answer choices:







  1. This copies the file to a different directory but it is still in the Alfresco webapp, which is not best practice.


  2. This is the correct answer! The file should be copied to this directory, often referred to as {extensionRoot}, and edited there to ensure that upgrades do not over-write your changes. In fact, this is the only one of these answers which copies the file outside of the webapp and so is the only answer which is correct according to best practices.


  3. This options behaves in the same way as #1 and is also incorrect.


  4. This also keeps the file in the webapp and is therefore incorrect.


This is our final sample question from the ACE exam, and demonstrates the application of knowledge gained through development or by researching the subject.





A RESTful API is called via a POST request to the URL /example/mycontent/item1, relative to the RESTful API base URL. Based on your knowledge of Alfresco's RESTful API and the REST architecture, what will be the logical result of this?





  1. A new resource 'item1' is added.


  2. The content of the resource 'item1' is returned to the user.


  3. The existing resource 'item1' is deleted.


  4. The existing resource 'item1' is updated.


The correct answer is #1. Resource representations have been modeled on Atom & Atom Publishing Protocol. Resources support methods with the primary ones being GET, PUT, POST & DELETE. You will have realised through development and use of technologies such as web scripts, that Alfresco uses GET for information retrieval from the repository, PUT for updates, POST for adding or creating new items and DELETE to destroy or remove items. Therefore in this case using a POST, the correct answer is that item1 will be added. This is the most difficult question we have looked at and is rated at 65%.



I hope that this blog has given you some idea of the types of questions you will face in the Alfresco certification exams and has given you confidence to undertake the tests for yourself.



Good luck and hope to see you in class.



Carlos Miguens

Global Training Director
When you come to Alfresco for the first time you quickly realize that the Alfresco product suite is sophisticated and powerful. Implementing projects with Alfresco, whether document management, web content management or records management is a job for professionals. In the early days, every new person coming to Alfresco was an innovator and expert, helping the product grow and establishing a reputation both for themselves and the product.



Over the years at Alfresco training, we have taught over 2,500 people, yet more people have trained themselves by reading the documentation, using the product and exploring the vast amount of material available in books, blogs and wikis.



As the pool of Alfresco expertise grows, it becomes more difficult for the experts to differentiate their competency from those developers and administrators, who may have a good industry track record but who are new to the Alfresco platform. Because of this, in 2010 we began looking at developing an accreditation program that would allow individuals to prove their competency on the Alfresco platform through a series of tests. Our objective was clear, we wanted to allow bona fide experts in Alfresco to showcase their competency to their peers and their employers, whilst paving the way for a professional accreditation in the product.



These objectives meant that we did not simply want to create a certification exam that would merely test how well someone listened in a training class. We wanted the tests to be more wide-ranging and really gauge comprehension, application and competency. We started out with a self-test which we called the Alfresco Recognized Developer exam, to trial various scenarios, gather data about profiles and scoring, and gain feedback. In October 2011, in conjunction with our partner PearsonVue, we launched our certification program, with two exams: the Alfresco Certified Engineer and the Alfresco Certified Administrator.



Since launching the exams, a number of questions about the tests have repeatedly come up and so I wanted to take the opportunity in my blog to answer these questions and explain a little bit more about the exams.

Certification and training






Certification and training are linked, but distinct, in that there is no requirement to complete any formal training, and training is not a pre-requisite to taking an exam. However, you should ensure that your knowledge corresponds to what you would learn if you attended formal training. Having said that, there is no direct one-to-one correlation between training and certification. A common question we hear is “do you have a course I can take which will allow me to pass certification straight away?” The simple answer is no, because we are testing competency, we are looking for people to have mastered the product over time, gaining practical knowledge along the way.



You will also find that the scope of certification is both broader and deeper than the training we offer for exactly the same reasons.



A learning program



Another common question is 'what revision should I do before I attempt certification?' Everyone is different and the learning path that you embark on will depend on your background, job role, time and goals. One thing you can be sure of is that to pass the exams you will need to use Alfresco and develop the hands-on, real-world skills which will be required on an Alfresco project.



Given that there might be different approaches, one potential training pathway to passing the ACE certification might be the following:



Complete some basic training, I've suggested some courses and provided links to the course descriptions so you can see which topics are covered:


For partners we provide a fast track for the majority of these through our Partner Technical Bootcamp program.



In addition to these you will also want to make sure that you have the background knowledge required to understand and use Alfresco technology, for example developing applications in Java plus a working knowledge of XML and Spring. There are a myriad of courses you can take in these subjects to bring your experience level up and you should consider these before taking Alfresco training if you feel that you are not fully conversant in these topics. If you simply want to review, revise and refresh then there are online tutorials in Java, Spring and indeed XML.



You will also want to ensure that you read-around the more advanced areas. Looking at the ACE blueprint you should explore the more advanced topics like Share Customization and Repository Customization. For these you will want to actually complete a development project. Download the SDK and FDK to explore the examples provided, then make sure that you have looked at the Alfresco Add-Ons and Share Extras site and developed your own dashlet.



More Resources



Alfresco documentation is useful, up-to-date and extensive and you can find it at docs.alfresco.com. At docs.alfresco.com it is easy to download printer friendly PDFs which you can then read on your iPad or Kindle. If you find the documentation too formal and would prefer complete real-world examples, you may want to invest in some of the great books which have been written about Alfresco, or have a read of the blogs and wikis on our Community site, which show practical examples of implementing Alfresco. A good place to start is Jeff Pott’s blog. Jeff is our Chief Community Officer and has been using Alfresco for many years.



In my next blog I'll share a longer list of resources and take a look at some sample questions.



Hope to see you in class.



Carlos Miguens

Global Training Director



We have just launched our first eLearning course, it feels like it has been a mammoth exercise, where the small team that we have has been dragged through fire and brimstone.



Our goals were extensive and we have produced some visually stunning material which explains complex Alfresco concepts in an easy to understand way.



We created this first course based on feedback from our user base and previous trainees, by having introductory courses online and self-paced people can take training from their office or home, at their own pace and in their own time. They don’t have to travel and the other costs normally associated with training when away from the office are eliminated.



Furthermore for our partners there is less opportunity cost, as eLearning can be taken at a time convenient to them rather than at a time designated by us or our training partners.



Creating this course started earlier this year, it is important for such eLearning courses that the content is correct, all examples work and mistakes in the text and narration are minimal. This is an expensive process. Even so because there is no instructor required for delivery we can make the price more appealing to a wider audience.



I’m hoping that this plays well for our ever growing community who have in the past found the cost of instructor-led training difficult to justify. Alfresco is a brilliant and sophisticated ECM system, but be complex to setup and administer.  We hope that training can make the Alfresco experience smoother for all.



I’ve told you what we have been doing now I have some questions for you? What do you think of online eLearning, have you participated in this type of training previously? How does it compare with instructor-led training?



See you in class soon.

Carlos

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