If you’ve ever worked for a larger company you’ll know how important training, CPD and certification can be. In the IT industry this can be even more so and in the last few years several online training systems have popped up – perhaps most notably Lynda.com and ITPro.Tv. They’re both pitched at those who want to get into the Industry or those wanting to work their way up or get certifications but if you go a little higher up the training difficulty ladder you come to Pluralsight.
Log in and start looking at the individual course names and types and it’s pretty obvious what they do. The courses are broken down into Software Development, IT Ops, Creative, Business, Data Professional, architecture, Manufacturing and Design. The courses are classified between Beginner, Intermediate and advanced and run anywhere from half an hour to multiple dozens of hours long. Each course provides video content, a transcript, exercise files (if relevant), a feedback and comments form that the course author can respond to specific questions on, quizzes to test your knowledge and related courses to take afterwards.
When I first logged in I was rather overwhelmed by the choice – I knew I wanted to build on my Adobe Creative Cloud and particularly Photoshop skills and a bit of browsing found appropriate courses. Pluralsight gets its courses from numerous independent producers but checks the quality and style to make sure they fit in with both quality and feel. Most of them are screen captures with an audio over track but some are at least partially to the camera.
Retailer: Pluralsight +:
Price: ± Standard $300 (£225 ) per year or $29 (£21 ) a month for the Standard package.
Paid extras: Plus Subscriptions are available for $49 (£36 ) a month that also include exercise files, course learning checks, and completion certificates. Mentors to help you with individual problems are available at $1 a minute with the first five minutes being free each time and your subscription including a $30 starter credit.
Pluralsight is a Utah based company founded in 2004 as a classroom training company that involved sending an instructor to a business or training event. They realised online training at scale was the future and in 2007 decided to concentrate in online training. It’s grown rapidly and is up to 600 author trainers with 4000 course and 750,000 subscribers.
The site has a generally dark theme with white and light grey text on a black and dark brown background and uses orange as an indicator on graphics. The iOS and Android apps follow similar stylistic conventions with some slight changes to reflect their platform.
The site is broken down in to five separate sections. Browsing – which is exactly what you’d expect. Paths that takes numerous courses often from the same trainer and stitches them together to make a more cohesive whole often taking you from a very basic understanding of a topic to a far more in depth one. Mentors which let you talk to an expert on the topic you’re studying one to one. Playlists which let you queue up numerous courses yourself and bookmarks that lets you remember individual courses.
Once you start a course the window breaks down to three sections – the main window what shows the video, controls along the bottom and chapters on the right-hand side. As well as mouse control there are keyboard shortcuts to control playback and there are options for playing up to double speed and close captioning. The site remembers where you are in a course and individual video and syncs between devices – although I found it took quite a while to transfer from the web access to the Android client.
- Target audience: IT professionals wanting to build their knowledge or certify in a particular area.
The Pluralsight membership doesn’t appear at first look to be a cheaper option and many casual users will find it outside of their price bracket. It does compare very favourably to taking classes and other online learning options and is considerably more interactive than books. If you are only after a single thing it is expensive but if you’re looking to get a longer subscription and you actively make its use part of your daily routine it becomes far more viable. Many courses do need your full attention and access to a computer but I found good success in downloading several to my phone and watching them at the gym.
Pluralsight offers a free trial which is worth taking up if you’re unsure about it – and if you need to learn or brush up one specific thing might offer enough time. They also have several free courses aimed at parents trying to teach their children which cover subjects like Scratch and basic HTML.
Individual courses will require different systems and setups to follow along. For example the Photoshop course I followed required Photoshop and the Ethical Hacker Path I dabbled with needed a separate machine running Windows Server to get the best out of it.
There is also a certain level of expertise required for every course. Pluralsight gives you an idea of what this is in the course description but I found the easiest solution was to try the first few minutes of the course to see if it was pitched at my level.
Pluralsight offer a very niche training system which the vast majority of people won’t find accessible or appropriate but if you’re in the IT industry and are seriously looking to improve your skills it’s a good option. Like many online courses, this is a case where you can get as much out of it as you put in. Pluralsight offers a great training resource that IT professionals and skilled amateurs will find invaluable and I’ve gotten a lot out of it. I’m not sure if I can personally justify the cost – or more significantly the time but it’s a great product. Highly recommended.
The review is based on a three-month trial of Pluralsight kindly provided by Microsoft. Read more about Ergohacks’ eco and access icons used in reviews. This article was first published on 28th August 2016.