Post Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:41 pm

My Cybercon Experience

I’ve 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 won’t 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. I’m planning on taking the test in late May and I would be more than happy to give my thoughts about the course after that.

I’ve 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 “hiccups” by seamlessly increasing the speed of the instructor’s speaking until you’re caught up. It didn’t 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. That’s a nice luxury to have when you’re studying and working on your index after the class has ended. I was also given access to half a dozen “bonus talks” 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 wasn’t the same as talking with other students face to face over a break time snack. Every time I’ve gone to a live SANS event I’ve 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 you’re paying or your management is willing to pay for training but not travel than the online versions are a great option and I’ll definitely be doing more of them in the future.
GCFA, GCIH, GCIA, GWAPT, CISSP, CEH, GSEC