CWNA Certification Course

By Joseph Moran

August 21, 2003

If you're someone looking to obtain, strengthen or simply codify WLAN technical knowledge -- perhaps in hopes of getting certified as a WLAN network administrator -- this set of materials is worth your attention.

If you're someone looking to obtain, strengthen or simply codify WLAN technical knowledge, then the $999.95 CWNA Certification Course from Wireless-Nets, Inc. is worth your attention.

Whereas the Wireless LAN Concepts course I looked at earlier focuses largely on high-level conceptual information, the CWNA (short for Certified Wireless Network Administrator) course delves into much more technical detail and hands-on topics that are appropriate to WLAN implementers as well as planners or purchasers. For all intents and purposes, the $999 CWNA Certification Course provides a superset of the material found in the WLAN Concepts course, so it precludes the need to have both. In fact, both courses provide a similar collection of articles that were published here on Wi-Fi Planet in a former life.

Unique to the CWNA course however is a companion book-- the Certified Wireless Network Administrator Official Study Guide from McGraw Hill-- written by the course developers at Planet 3 Wireless. The book's eleven chapters closely correspond to the sections boundaries in the computer-based part of the course.

Not incidentally (or surprisingly), a stated goal of the CWNA course is to prepare one to take and pass the CWNA examination (PW0-100) offered by Planet3. The cost of the exam is $175 and it's administered at Prometric Centers nationwide. The CWNA Certification Course material is vendor-neutral, making it applicable to a wide variety of products and technologies.

The course contents are laid out in a logical order, beginning with rudimentary information like the RF mathematics involved in how to determine a device's power output by factoring in an antenna's gain or loss. It also includes a fairly detailed treatment of antennae and related RF accessories like amplifiers, attenuators, and cables, and then moves on to a comprehensive discussion of wireless network troubleshooting, WLAN Security, and how to prepare for and conduct a site survey.

Interspersed among the more technical sections are more basic fare like the various applications of a WLAN, categories of WLAN devices, and the differences between various WLAN standards.

Most of the 150 some-odd slides include a video lecture by Jim Geier (who is the proprietor of Wireless-Nets, a frequent contributor to this site, and on the strategic advisory board at Planet3), elaborating on the material presented. There were a handful of slides, however, where video accompaniment wasn't included even though I think it would have been helpful.

Like the concepts course, the graphic elements used for the CWNA course slides are crude but effective for the most part. In many cases, the graphics were the same as those included in the accompanying book. The last segment of the computer-based material includes a variety of videos that illustrate some hands-on activities like measuring the effects of RF interference.

The recommended procedure for going through the course is to do the computer-based portion of each section first, followed by the book chapter. I must admit that I found it better to do the opposite for many of the chapters, particularly the most technical areas such as dealing with RF mathematics or the WLAN Physical and MAC layers.

Each section of the CWNA Certification Course concludes with a multiple-choice quiz--something that was missing from the Concepts course. Unfortunately, the quizzes are extremely short, limited to only four questions per quiz. Also, making an answer selection will confirm or deny its accuracy, but no immediate explanation is offered for wrong answers; it's up to you to go back to the chapter and look it up.

After going through the CWNA course in depth, I can say that it will prove useful for those looking to augment their WLAN technical knowledge, irrespective of whether or not they plan to pursue the CWNA certification.

It would be preferable if the course would take greater advantage of the computer-based medium, providing longer and more detailed end-of-chapter exams, animations to better illustrate certain concepts (like the characteristics of RF propagation) and generally more truly interactive elements.

Nevertheless, the course provides a great deal of valuable and practical WLAN information and it does so for an investment in time and money likely to be much less than demanded by a traditional classroom-based course.



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