Let me explain my - perhaps unusual - situation.
I'm not a pentester nor am I in the IT industry nor have I taken any kind of formal computer-related course. I'm just someone who is interested in security and enjoys learning new things. I have decided that it would be a good investment to pay money to learn in an academic-type of environment which is structured. I don't really care about certification.
I do not consider myself to be a 'natural' (if such a person exists) but rather someone who learns through constant practice. I mention this because I am the type of individual who needs a level of guidance in order to learn. Simply saying "try harder" is not necessarily appropriate for my character.
That said I have taught myself a few things over the years. I know basic Python. I've used a number of common tools (like Reaver, Pyrit, Aircrack suite, BackTrack, Medusa and suchlike - nothing complicated through).
I originally was interested in Penetration Testing with Backtrack (PWB) but soon ruled it out as it does not sound like an introductory course (even through it apparently is). It strikes me that it is for people who have far more advanced skills than I do. Then I looked at the Hacking Dojo. The main issue seems to be that it is a one-man operation which can cause problems if the trainer is unwell or suchlike. Also I am not convinced that I like the idea of stages before you can move upwards.
Therefore I currently have two ideas: eLearnSecurity (Student) (http://www.elearnsecurity.com/course/pe ... g_student/) and The Hacker Academy (http://www.thehackeracademy.com/).
There are positive reviews of eLearn Security (http://www.ethicalhacker.net/content/view/307/24/ and http://www.ethicalhacker.net/component/ ... ic,8818.0/) but these apply to the Pro (rather than Student version). I wonder if anyone has any experience with the Student component? It is $349 for the course.
The Hacker Academy has more debatable reviews but they are over a year old. Also they are not negative just not entirely positive (http://www.ethicalhacker.net/content/view/374/2/ and http://www.ethicalhacker.net/component/ ... /#msg39993). I like the look of the curriculum which appears to cover both basic and more intensive courses. I also like the idea of a monthly $150 fee which gives you access to all modules.
The eLearn videos apparently are longer and more professionally created. As mentioned, I need something that provides a level of clarity. The Hacker Academy review implied that external material provides more information which questions what one is paying for.
I would certainly appreciate any comments about these courses and the differences between them. I'm happy to provide more information if that will help.