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Umbraco Courses: 6 Things to Know About the Changes

03 April 2016
Filed under: umbraco, training - by Douglas Robar

Umbraco Fundamentals course in action

TL;DR
(to paraphrase Captain Marko Ramius in that great film, Hunt for Red October)

Once more, we gather to talk about CMS craftsmanship. For a decade you and your peers before you have built websites for clients large and small. But today the game is different. We who are trained have the advantage. It reminds me of the heady days of Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin when the world trembled at the idea of a great open source CMS on the Windows platform. Well, they will tremble again — at the quality of our craft. The order is: get and remain trained up.

1. Make it great!

Have you ever inherited an Umbraco project from someone who didn't attend the courses? Was it a complete train wreck of an implementation? Were there poor choices about everything from the content editor user experience (document types and property data types, naming, lack of descriptions, etc), to separation of concerns, integrating external data that was not at all performant, ignorance of which APIs and techniques to use in various situations to name but a few calamities that have made too many Umbraco projects slow and painful to develop and maintain, and for content editors to use.

The more we see of how sites are built one thing is abundantly clear... you can spot an implementation done by trained and certified developers a mile away. And you can spot a poorly implemented site even more quickly. It doesn't help the reputation of Umbraco or any of us who build Umbraco sites for a living to have so many bad examples. And often, the larger the site or brand, the more of a disaster the implementation.

Knowing how to make the best use of Umbraco's ease, quickness and simplicity is good for everyone. That's what official Umbraco Certification courses are all about.

2. Level 1 renamed

For years, the Level 1 and Level 2 courses have served students well, though the naming was never particularly helpful for understanding what the courses were actually about. It was time to finally come up with more useful names. The Level 1 is now called Fundamentals but apart from the name change the content and goals of the course remain the same.

The only real change is that attending the Fundamentals course (or an earlier Level 1 or even a recent Level 2 course) is now required before you take the topical one-day bootcamp courses.

EDIT: This requirement has been relaxed. The Fundamentals course is not a pre-requisite for the other courses. Read more on the Umbraco blog.

In the past, many people would take the Level 1 course before the Level 2 anyway, but quite a few didn't and that, too, is evident in some implementations. We feel everyone should have a solid foundation upon which to expand their skills as needed, especially partners.

3. Level 2 becomes focused one-day bootcamps

The old Level 2 course was a bit like going to a buffet and tasting a little bit of everything. Very filling but the wide variety and the (sometimes) small portion size didn’t always satisfy. Sometimes you want to have a lot of just a few dishes and ignore the foods you don't care for. That's the goal for converting the two-day Level 2 course into a selection of focused, task- and technology-oriented, one-day courses. Learn all you need to know and only what you need to know.

4. Count the days (or points) to become a partner

Becoming an Umbraco Partner used to require four certifications. Now you'll need eight certified training days (and obviously pass the certification exam associated with each course as well). No real change there except to move from counting courses to counting training days to handle the new one-day courses.

EDIT: Each day of training counts as 50 certification points. When your organization reaches 400 points you qualify as a partner. It's the same as counting days but you might find counting points easier. The Fundamentals course is 100 points because it is a two-day course and the one-day courses are 50 points each.

EDIT: As a point of clarification, partner organizations must hold at least two Fundamentals certifications amongst their in-house mix of certifications, though any individual developer can have any combination of Fundamentals and one-day course certifications. Read more on the Umbraco blog.

5. Transparency and differentiation for the win

Since there is more variation in the menu of courses offered it would be helpful if prospective clients had more visibility into the areas an Umbraco Partner specializes. If you need a lot of backend integration with an existing application or ERP or CRM system you might not wish to select a partner who only has Fundamentals certifications, no matter how many of them they might have.

In the not-too-distant future, certified developers and partners profiles will display which certifications they hold, using which version of Umbraco, and how many they have. That's good for clients and it's good for developers too, enabling us to demonstrate our areas of competence and differentiate ourselves from others.

6. What about my existing certifications?

I think that covers everything about what happens going forward. But what about those of us who've attended certification courses already? It used to be that after passing a certification course you were certified. And once certified, you were always certified.

In some ways that makes complete sense; the concepts of document types, templates, and display logic haven't changed since Umbraco's inception. That's why those of use who've passed the Level 1 course are still certified, though it'll be renamed to be a Fundamentals certification, showing which version of Umbraco you were certified with.

In other ways it makes no sense at all. The APIs, services, techniques and technology have all moved on significantly. So, for Level 2 certifications, if you were trained on Umbraco 6 with MVC then your Level 2 certification will be renamed to the new Umbraco, MVC and Visual Studio certification, showing which version of Umbraco you were trained with. If your Level 2 were before version 6 with MVC your Level 2 certification will remain a Level 2 and show the version you were trained on. You're still certified but it isn't the same certification as you'd get today.

6.5 What if my certification was a loooong time ago?

If you've been using Umbraco for some time you'll understand that there have been some legendary Umbraco versions. Like a truly fine wine, a vintage release of exceptional noteworthiness. There was, for instance, version 4.7.2. It was a glorious and stable release! Old timers speak of it in hushed tones with a wistful gleam in their eye. It was that good!

It was the summer of 2012, a scant four years ago. Yet back then Internet Explorer had more market share than Firefox and Chrome combined. The iPhone 4 was the greatest offering Apple had. Windows 7 and Visual Studio 2010 were the standard bearers. Umbraco was based on WebForms and User Controls. A rough-n-ready (but not very standard nor MVC) Razor was available in place of the trusty XSLT used until then. Version 5 had been killed and the community was reenergized. Ahhh, those were the days!

If you took the Level 1 course around that time you saw the old UI with blue section icons in the lower-left corner. If you attended the Level 2 you learned about the many rather inconsistent APIs, Event Handlers, User Controls, Web Forms, etc. Your ancient Level 2 certification is still valid but it isn't particularly applicable to the technologies and techniques you should be using with Umbraco today.

EDIT: Certifications prior to v6 will become obsolete in 2017. To keep your certified developer status you can attend an online bridging course in Q1 2017 (for Level 1), attend the Fundamentals course (for Level 1), or attend the Umbraco, ASP.NET MVC and Visual Studio course (for Level 2 developers). Read more on the Umbraco blog.

Staying current with up-to-date with the Fundamentals and one-day bootcamp courses is an investment in your craft; your standing in the ever-expanding Umbraco marketplace; and your projects’ success, implementation ease and speed.

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