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By Mark Emery

Seemingly overnight, COVID-19 came along and turned the world upside down.

To minimize its deadly impact, sports leagues shut down play, businesses closed their doors, and staying at home became the norm. Food delivery is now an essential service. Haircuts? Those will have to wait as we continue trying to stop the spread.

On top of the health impact of the pandemic, the economic impact continues to devastate. LeaderQuest has been extremely fortunate amid this overwhelming turmoil — we weren’t forced to stop what we do, we’ve just had to change the way we do it.

For a leader in IT and cyber security training, that meant shifting our in-person, hands-on education to the online format we’ve been perfecting since 2012. We might claim that “tech savvy” is our middle name, but in 2020 we’ve had to prove it.

So, what has that process looked like? Rather than describe it ourselves, we asked a handful of students what their experiences with our online IT training have been like. Scroll down for the good, the bad, and the ugly — and yes, there is a little ugly.

‘A Ray of Light at the End of the Tunnel’

online IT certificationsAriel Krug is a military vet who moved to Colorado Springs right as COVID-19 became a national crisis. She’d been applying to jobs with no luck when she discovered LeaderQuest and the opportunity to have her IT training fully funded through the VET TEC program.

“With all the business closures and then the stay-at-home order, finding a job became impossible, and my family was put into a very desperate situation. LeaderQuest became a ray of light at the end of the tunnel as it allowed us to get income we desperately needed for bills and food, due to my veteran status and utilizing veteran education benefits. [It] will also help with job placement in a job market that is currently booming. I have an interview this week, in fact, for a technical job I would never have been able to apply for and maybe get, without the help of LeaderQuest.”

Ariel is working toward her ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications, and she’s had no problem so far with doing this online.

“LeaderQuest has a very good online platform and has a very good support team, so there have been no issues. … I feel like the material is challenging, as I am very new to the IT field, but I have everything I need to study and succeed and feel as though I will definitely be able to pass my certifications.”

A big reason for her confidence has been her stellar experience with LeaderQuest’s instructors.

“All the instructors I have had so far are prior or current military [service members], so their adaptability is well above average and their teaching styles have been amazing. There has been a ton of support from the instructors as well as from LeaderQuest, and my experience so far has been very nice. … I would definitely recommend this company to other veterans to use to learn and grow in the IT field.”

‘The Instructors Outdid Themselves’

online IT training studentA former U.S. history teacher in Richmond, Va. Quentin Parham graduated from LeaderQuest’s Computer User Support Specialist program in May. Here’s what he had to say about taking our IT professional training courses online.

“The online experience due to COVID was quite different and there were some growing pains early on, but it ended up being a good experience. I myself have never been a fan of online learning because that does not suit my learning style, but given the situation in the world, I was forced to adapt and adjust to it. Having eight hours of lecture with some activities mixed in was difficult, especially when you are at home and distractions are everywhere. In being forced to take virtual classes though and completing them, my outlook on them has changed somewhat, even though in-person learning is my preferred method.”

Growing pains aside, Quentin had glowing things to say about his instructors, Rich Petti and Greg Gardner.

“[They] outdid themselves. Given a situation where they were building the plane and flying it at the same time, they both were exceptional. Both instructors found ways to make the experience enjoyable, as well as facilitate a virtual classroom that had the camaraderie of a real-life classroom. They were thorough and professional as well, and answered any questions provided to them in a quick and timely manner. They were also exceptional at providing online resources, not just through the LeaderQuest Portal but also videos from YouTube and other internet sources that would aid in explaining confusing ideas and concepts. They were both also readily available both during class and after class time.”

Asked for downsides to LeaderQuest’s IT education online, Quentin noted several challenges of learning remotely, being physically apart from instructors and classmates.

“One drawback for me is the lack of interaction with peers, and group work. We would be put in ‘breakout rooms’ to do some of the work, but it is not the same as sharing a physical space with peers and interacting with them face to face. Other drawbacks were connectivity issues experienced by both the instructor and students.”

‘I Feel Very Lucky to Be Able to Attend’

it education onlineAfter spending 24 years in the U.S. Air Force, Doug Sensenbrenner had been searching for a project management job when he noticed all the IT positions available. He chose LeaderQuest Denver for his IT professional training courses because he plans to relocate to the Mile High City from his current home in Hawaii.

Here’s what Doug had to say about experience with LeaderQuest’s IT education online with the Computer User Support Specialist program, which he’s participating in part-time over 10 weeks.

“Training online with LeaderQuest is all I know since I began my program after COVID started. Regarding my completed course (ITIL), I don’t see a need for that to be held in-person. The delivery of it was phenomenal (course resources and instruction). Despite the unfortunate circumstance of COVID, I feel very lucky to be able to attend LeaderQuest Denver.”

Doug, whose training is funded through VET TEC, says he’s been able to learn everything he’s needed to so far and that his instructors have been “superb.”

“I haven’t noticed any [drawbacks] yet. I have always been a fan of online learning. I’d imagine some may say some portions of this program are better to be attended in-person, but I haven’t realized that yet.”

A big part of the reason Doug chose LeaderQuest Denver is our Career Services team and all the professional connections they have in the business community.

“I could have chosen many other IT schools approved by the VA for VET TEC, but I chose LeaderQuest Denver strategically … By working with them, I can take advantage of their contacts with local companies in Denver for employment when I’m ready.”

‘More Convenient and Adaptable to a Working Life’

it professional training coursesJosh Botz has completed the Computer User Support Specialist, Information Security Analyst, and Network Administrator programs with LeaderQuest. Having tried both in-person and virtual learning, he definitely prefers the former.

“The campus shifted to remote learning the week after my on-campus programs ended. I did take a Certified Cisco Network Associate (CCNA) course online during that time and it was a bit challenging not having the in-person connection with the instructor or other students. During my on-campus courses, I was able to network with the instructors and my classmates much more intentionally and some great relationships developed as a result of that.”

Josh acknowledged this as a handicap of online learning that possibly can’t be fully remediated, but reiterated the point.

“The learning was adequate, although the in-person interaction does help with deeper learning. I learned what I needed to from the online courses and they were certainly more convenient and adaptable to a working life, but my preference is in-person learning for the additional opportunity to ask questions and network.”

The same goes for exam prep, which Josh likes to do in groups, sharing study habits and tips in an informal, in-person setting.

“I think that other students should be aware that it will take some extra motivation and work to study for exams when taking classes remotely.”

Despite these challenges, Josh appears satisfied overall with LeaderQuest, so much so that he “fully intends on enrolling in additional programs in the future.”

Learn More for Yourself

If you’re interested in getting into IT but put your training on hold due to COVID, we hope these stories will make you reconsider. The jobs are out there, and if you have the time and resources, there’s no better time than now to get the training and certifications you need for later.

Our Computer User Support Specialist program, mentioned repeatedly above, is our most popular offering. Whether taken full-time during the day over five weeks or part-time at night over 10 weeks, this introductory set of courses equips future IT all-stars with everything they need to break into the industry — including the knowledge to pass the all-important ITIL, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+, and CompTIA Security+ certifications.

Just as LeaderQuest’s instructor-mentors help students pass their exams, our Career Services extraordinaires help certified students get jobs. As Doug alluded to, their community connections are extensive. In addition to being able to put in a good word with employers, they assist with students’ resumes, cover letters, interviews, and so much more.

Of course, our staff can do a better job explaining our online IT training programs than this lowly blog writer can. Fill out the form below to get the conversation started.