Monday, November 20, 2017

Passed C459 / GVC1 Probabilities and Statistics 80/123

Man it's been a long time since I've posted here. I was in the 30s when I last posted. I am actually switching majors at the end of this term from Bachelor of Science, IT - Security Emphasis to Bachelor of Science, Cybersecurity and Information Assurance. This switch is actually going to set me back some credits (so if you see me go from 80 down to 50 or 60 in later posts, that is why), because some of the classes aren't directly transferable to the new major. I'm making the switch because I do better and work faster on classes where I have experience in them, so I'm hedging my bets that because it has less non-security classes that I will finish them faster. I'm my own marker so we'll see how that goes.

On to the topic of the post though. I just passed my Probabilities and Statistics class!! It's the first class that I've ever scored in the "not passing" range when taking the pre-assessment. Some people like to use pre-assessments to find out where they are before looking into the course and that's totally fine and those who study that way probably have lots of pre-assessments in the "not passing"


long story short, I passed, it was probably the hardest test I've take so far, but it's done, over and yes it's transferable :)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Second Semester Recap (2/7 completed)

This semester was strange: I passed two classes right away, relocated to Singapore for 3 months and passed one course while I was gone and spent a lot of time not finishing my fourth. I returned back to the US, finally passed that fourth class, then in the last month of my semester, finished another two classes. If I had to make a guess, I'd say I only spent 4 of the 6 months actually active/studying.

Network and Security - Foundations – C172
I took the pre-assessment for this course and scored 15% higher than the cut score, so I scheduled the exam the following day and passed the exam with a score 1% higher than my pre-assessment. 10 years of information security and 20+ years of being a full-blown computer nerd helped with the knowledge required here.

Operating Systems I – C697
I started studying for this course before my semester even started, as I wanted to pass it quickly. However, this class was much, much more difficult than I expected it would be. The OS I and II courses are designed to have you pass the CompTia Linux+ certification exams (there are two), and assumed that having casually used linux for the last 10ish years would have given me a significant advantage here (mostly personal server stuff, nothing professionally). I was wrong.

First, there's a lot of Fedora-based questions, which I had to learn entirely as I've generally experimented with Debian-derived linux flavors. Second, the study/testing third-party materials provided by default from WGU was through uCertify -- which was 100% reading, flashcards, and quizzes. This isn't itself a problem (though I did have some issues, explained below), but after I felt extremely confident with the material through uCertify, having completed all the coursework, I wrote the exam at a local testing center... and failed. Barely, but still failed.

I felt like there was a LOT on the exam that wasn't covered by uCertify at all. Because they don't let you take failed exam questions home (standard practice for most certification exams, so you cannot build a key of questions/answers), I can't verify this completely. This was an especially problematic failure for me, as I was going out of the country for three months a week later. I received an email from one of the course mentors with a link to the LabSim material for the Linux+ exam -- this was the same content engine used for the A+ certification. Not only did LabSim provide audio/video material, it also covered topics that seemed missing from the uCertify material.

Not wanting to figure out the logistics involved with trying to take this exam out of country (if it was even possible), I spent the next week cramming the LabSim material when I should have been doing pre-three-month-trip things. Thankfully, my partner (who was coming with me) was able to achieve a lot of these tasks, so I'm super thankful she was willing to help. My second attempt was eight days later, which I passed, and flew to Singapore the following day.

Scripting and Programming - Foundations – C173
I was conflicted with this class: part of me wanted to develop my Python skills beyond what I've already got, but part of me wanted to finish the course as soon as possible to move on. Even with a fairly low cut score, I was able to score 18% higher on the pre-assessment. I spent maybe three hours on course material before I said "screw it," and schedule the exam. Passed with a score 1% lower than what I scored on the pre-assessment. While my knowledge of python syntax comes and goes, the fundamentals of programming are still embedded within, I suppose.

Critical Thinking and Logic – C168
I passed the pre-assessment on this course with the minimum score required to take the exam (that is, 10% above the cut score), but I chose to take the course instead of immediately scheduling the exam. This was due to a combination of desire to learn more within this course, and not feeling terribly confident while taking the pre-assessment.

Unfortunately, I hit a barrier in this class in that the content of the chapters of the reading didn't manage to hook me at all. I ended up reading through part of the section through Systematic Problem solving, where various personal and work trips put a squeeze on the amount of time I had to study. Factor in my apathy for the course, and I ended up essentially with no progress on this course through the entire month of May.

After returning to the states, I read through the section on Assumptions, Biases, and Fallacies and couldn't really force myself to continue past that, so I went ahead and took a second pre-assessment: 7% higher than my previous score, which was good enough for me! I wrote the exam and ended up with a score 11% higher than my first pre-assessment score (and 21% higher than the cut score), so I was happy with that.

Organizational Behavior and Leadership – C484 & Principles of Management – C483
Having been employed at a large corporation for the last 10 years, I scored sufficiently high enough on the pre-assessments to take and pass both exams. While I did well in C483, I was just able to squeak by in C484 with its very low cut score. This is good, because I feel if I had to study this particular class, I'd end up falling into the same "demotivational" spiral as I had with C168.

Up for next semester: OS II (to actually acquire the Linux+ cert), Networks (for the Network+ cert), and Integrated Natural Science. I was told by my student mentor that the former is easier than the OS I course, and the latter isn't terribly complicated and I believe mentioned it was almost like a high-school level understanding of natural sciences. I really hope this is true, because if I'm able to complete an additional seven credits at this point, I can bump my graduation up a whole semester (assuming the minimum 12-14 credits per term), ending two years from the end of this month. Hooray!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A+, Network+, Security+

29/124 CU's

So, I guess I have been falling behind with my blog posts. Instead of making a separate post for all 4 classes, I am going to roll them all into this one.

Since the A+ certification can be split into 2 tests, the classes are split into 2 different classes, IT Foundations and IT Applications. When you pass the first part of the A+ you submit your scores to WGU and then you start working on the second part. The coursework at WGU for the A+ was fine, however I found that watching and understanding the Professor Messer A+ series of videos was more than sufficient for passing the A+ exam. I was planning on using both the WGU material and the Professor Messer videos, but I ended up just using the videos at I took the first part of the A+ test and passed with a pretty decent score.

Then it was time to move on to IT Applications, I stuck with the videos as my primary study method, however WGU has practice simulations that proved to be very helpful with the exam. I took the final part of the A+ test after about three weeks of study and again, passed without issue.

The Network+ certification is the goal of the Networks class. Professor Messer again proved to be an invaluable resource for the material, I also used Google to learn all the definitions that I was supposed to know for the test. The Network+ test only uses acronyms, so learning what they all mean is very important in understanding what they are asking you. I studied for three to four weeks and went and took the Network+ exam, and passed, though my scores were not as high as I would have liked them to be. But hey, a pass is a pass right?

Network and Security Applications was my next class up. The Security+ certification is the goal for this class. Since I am a Security Engineer for my day job, I didn't really feel the need to study for this one and the test proved to be a breeze. If you are not already doing security for a job, I would recommend Professor Messer again as a great source of information for this test. I was only a few questions away from getting a perfect score for the Security+ exam.

I think I am going to knock out a few non certification classes before going for more certs. Part of the reason for this is that I am starting a new job and I want to settle into that to regiment before worrying about more certification tests. Another part of the reason is because there seem to be quite a few classes that I should be able to knock out without much issue. The Python and the Java classes shouldn't take too long to take care of, as well as some "gimme" classes, such as the Intro to Management class. To be honest, most of the classes, including the ones that come with certs seem like they will be fairly easy for me due to the experience that I already have with the topics. The only ones that I am anticipating to be tough is the CCNA classes and the CCNA Security class. Hopefully I remember to update the blog posts more frequently in the future.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Semester One: Complete

One semester down, 6 (or less) to go!

Introduction to IT - C182

The first class I took and "tested out of." Many schools will do a series of entry tests that allow you to place into higher levels of classes, but WGU doesn't. Fear not, WGU's system is a little different, you enroll in a class and take the pre-assessment. If you score high enough, the instructor will approve you to go ahead and take the exam. If you pass, you're done with the class. Credit earned. It's a pretty sweet setup, because this applies to nearly every class at WGU.

That said, this is what happened for C182 for me: I scored an 83% on the pre-assessment (enough to schedule the exam), used the pre-assessment coaching report to quickly brush up on areas that I was weak (n-tier architectures, different styles of software development, etc), and passed the exam.

Education Without Boundaries Orientation - ORA1

What I assume to be a standard orientation class, with a focus on preparing the student for doing distance learning. Sample exercises included writing down a weekly schedule to include a certain number of hours worth of classwork, to ensure students are prepared for the amount of classwor that's actually involved. My very first semester out of High School many years ago, I took something like 18 credits worth of classes and was immediately overwhelmed, so my assumption is this is to try and help students avoid a pitfall that's easy to make when there's no set classroom schedule.

IT Foundations - C393 + IT Applications - C394

I lumped these together because they're both essentially prep classes for the A+ exam. Yeah, I laughed too, thinking "I've been using computers, in a very technical way, for over 20 years now, this should be a breeze!"

It was not. Thankfully, I still had a strong grasp on a lot of what was covered, but there were plenty of things that, thanks to computers and BIOSs being the extremely simple plug'n'play things they've been for the past decade have eroded a lot of the knowledge I had about things like IDE master/slave configurations, SCSI terminations, etc. Thankfully for me, the exams were a bit behind the technology curve, so there wasn't anything beyond Windows 7 on the exam, as I still haven't touched 8/8.1 or 10.

As this is a "cert" class (versus just a WGU core class), the pre-assessment/exam setup is a little different. Instead of using the WGU pre-assessment or learning materials, you use a third-party certification education company for all but the exam, which of course is delivered by the certification body and examination performed within a testing center.

For these two classes, TestOut/LabSim is the vendor used for the education portion of this class. The way I approached the classes was to take the end-of-section quiz, and if I scored at least an 85-90%, I'd consider that I've already got a decent enough grasp on the literature and moved onto the next section. The bar for requesting a certification voucher is higher with classes that result in a certification, so there was a minimum amount of coursework that needed to be completed with a sufficient score before the voucher was granted (in this case, the 4 "domain exams" and post-assessment exam for each course).

The one thing I can say about these two classes is that you should definitely take them back-to-back, as the material from C393 compliments that from C394, and vice versa.

Additional notes:

While I managed to finish these four classes with plenty of time still left in the semester (which are 6 months long), previous work and personal travel obligations rendered me unable to take additional courses. I did, however, start studying the material for C697 - Operating Systems I, which I passed within the first week of starting my second semster, and have completed another two courses within the first three weeks of my second semester.. but that's for another post!

Update 27-Jun-16: added class #'s as tags to make finding notes about specific classes easier for readers of the blog.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My Background and Starting With WGU Experience

I've been working on my associates degree for a little more than a decade now. I graduated High School in 2000, immediately starting Community College with no direction, little discipline, and too much ambition. Unfortunately, the whole "you don't *have* to go to class" combined with far too many credits lead to a poor few first semesters, and eventually I stopped taking classes. In 2008, I restarted at the same college, taking their online classes 6-7 credits at a time, which worked very well, but slowly.

It was by chance that I saw a tweet from mubix about his first semester at WGU that lead me into looking into WGU. I discovered a few people I knew were also starting (and a coworker who was finishing his masters), so I decided to go ahead and sign up. I partially want a degree just to tick that box (and to encourage higher education in children/young adults in my family), but also because at this point it will open "management" doors, for the future. I figure at some point I'm not going to be able to keep my tech razor sharp and up to date forever (we're not all DaKahuna), so I'm not hurting myself by finally finishing my degree.

The two main selling points for WGU were competency-based vs time-.based learning, and the generous credit transfer system that let me utilize both certs I've recently acquired and old community college credits (for classes that I didn't particularly want to repeat -- I'm looking at you, Database Fundamentals). The latter allowed me to transfer 33 credits (26% of the way to graduation already!), and the former will allow me to speed through the tech and security classes.

The enrollment procedure was quick and painless, thanks to my Enrollment Counselor, John C. I was then handed off to my mentor, Oraib Z, who has been super helpful. Initially, I thought the weekly schedule call with her was going to be unnecessary, but I find even the "nothing to report" calls helpful, primarily because it allows me to ask the little questions where I would normally not want to bother someone about.

My only complaints thus far have been technology related, and very minor:

  • The VoIP system the staff uses, presumably to mask their home numbers, tends to have enough latency to make conversation difficult.
  • The logon seems to be unusually slow, as the site itself seems plenty fast after authentication.
  • On day I was to have my first scheduled at-home exam, their system was having issues and I had to reschedule the next day (and it worked without issue).

Finally, one of the larger concerns I have was discovered while traveling internationally. One of the courses used a third-party provider (TestOut LabSim for C393 and C394), which provided video-only based learning materials and didn't seem to have any non-US content delivery in place. Despite having amazing local internet speeds, the video content would take a minute to buffer to play 3 seconds of video. I realize this is a U.S. school, but as a 100% online school geared to working professionals, not including those who may road warrior outside of the US is a little disappointing.

I'll get to my "semester review" post once my first semester is completed next month. So far, so good!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

End of Term 2 - 33/122

So, this is the end of my second term with WGU and I have missed out on completing a class. English Comp 1. Unless I can finish all 4 tasks before tomorrow night it will show up as Failed on my term list.

The other classes in this term were Intro to IT, which was a relatively easy, College Mathematics and Elements of Effective Communication.


College Mathematics: I had to buy a new calculator, one without the "solve()" function. I bought the TI-83 and it should serve me well in my other math classes. But you can pass this class with a very basic calculator, it's all about remembering the formulas.

Elements of Effective Communication: The test is pretty straight forward, make sure you watch the videos so that you can get the vocabulary right but a lot of the test is commonsense. The presentation portion is actually pretty cool how they do it, you write up a short paper about your presentation first. It is something I will probably be doing for all of my presentations going forward. Just remember to cite your sources, and for the presentation put your full sources in text to go along with your video and you should be good to go.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Humanities, Literature and Arts 80/137

Hey all!

This class is one of the ones I have dreaded. The general education requirements for any degree. I don't like them at all. That being said it took me 6 weeks to do work that if I had actually sat down and just done it would have taken about two weeks.

For this class I had to write an essay and do a PowerPoint. For this essay, I had to analyze two pieces of art work and explain how the time period they were from influenced the later time period. This took about 1 week to look up information and write the paper. Although I say a week it was sporadically. Who wants to do home work on a Saturday when you can go to the beach! I submitted the paper and had it sent back needed revisions to meet the requirements. Once they were made the essay was accepted and I moved on to the PowePoint.

The PowerPoint is not like a standard presentation. The way they want it done is like writing an essay but putting the information on the slides. You have to choose three works, one literary and two non literary and relate them to your profession and/or degree. I choose Invictus but William Henry as my literary work, the movie BlackHat as my first non literary and The Grid - Crystal Method Remix as my third work. Once you have your works they want you to analyze them and explain the elements that are used in each of the works. After your inital review they want you to explain how this relates to your job and field of study. I did so and submited and again had a few changes that needed to be made.

The good thing about the way these are graded is that once you submit if there are changes they tell you exactly what you need to do, then resubmit and be done.

This was not a fun class for me at all. I prefer the technical classes that I can use for my job. That being said on to Scripting and Programming Foundations! Ill let you all know when I finish!

Thanks for Reading!