Iíve seen members here ask about the online SANS course experience and I just finished day six of my 414 (CISSP Prep) call at the Cybercon so I thought I would share a few thoughts. This wonít be a review of the class itself because unlike other SANS courses the 414 is designed to help you pass a test rather than teach you a subject. It would be hard for me to speak to how well it prepared me for a test until I take the test. Iím planning on taking the test in late May and I would be more than happy to give my thoughts about the course after that.
Iíve taken several SANS courses in person and a few OnDemand but this was my first time taking a live streaming course. The experience was actually quite a bit closer to an in person event than I thought it would be. The left side of the screen lists your classmates and has a chat window while the right side of shows the PowerPoint slides the same way an instructor would in class. The instructor also has the ability to share other application windows for demonstrations. The software does a great job at dealing with any internet ďhiccupsĒ by seamlessly increasing the speed of the instructorís speaking until youíre caught up. It didnít happen often but when it did I preferred their method to the alternative of missing ten seconds of audio.
What surprised me the most was how intimate the class felt. Before the class I assumed this course would feel similar to an OnDemand course but I was wrong. I actually felt like I had a lot more access to the instructor in this format than I do in a class of 60 other students. It was no big deal to type in a question and have the instructor explain a concept in a different way.
The biggest advantage the online course has over the in person version is obviously cost. Not needing to pay for travel or a hotel can easily save you a thousand dollars or more. Another advantage is that for online courses you get access to the class videos for six months. Thatís a nice luxury to have when youíre studying and working on your index after the class has ended. I was also given access to half a dozen ďbonus talksĒ similar to the night talks at in person SANS conferences.
The biggest downside from a live conference is the networking. Online students have the ability to create small profiles and there is some chatting but it wasnít the same as talking with other students face to face over a break time snack. Every time Iíve gone to a live SANS event Iíve met some amazing people who have helped me improve my skill and I did not feel that online. I imagine that there is a little bit more networking in the vlive versions which are spread out over two months but I could be wrong.
If someone else is paying for everything I would choose a live conference over the online version but if youíre paying or your management is willing to pay for training but not travel than the online versions are a great option and Iíll definitely be doing more of them in the future.
It won't normalize the data for you but there is a Firefox add-on called "scrapbook" that will let you acquire a copy of the webpage and click on the links and save those pages as well. You can set how many levels down you want it to go.
I tested it (with permission) on a friend of mine's Facebook account who has a ton of friends. It took all night to run but I then had a cached local copy of the pages of all of their friends.
I loved the fact that Violent Python was all practical projects. I used one of the chapters as a guideline to make something that I had been needing to make for a few months. One of the best books I've read in a while.
One piece of advice. A few months ago Eric Cole told my class that SANS makes sure that you won't get the same questions on a retake exam so I wouldn't count on getting any boost from having seen some of the questions.
Best case scenario you have the course books and can put together a thorough index. If you don't have the books, I've heard others say "counterhack reloaded" is a good book to read and take in with you. It's older but written by the course author so...
Hopefully the new test will give you two more practice exams? If so take real good notes on test one and adjust your materials accordingly. Do the same for test two and hopefully you'll have your info well organized and searchable by that point.
I haven't taken my GPEN yet so I can't give you test specific advice but good luck!!!