The only constant in the information technology field is that it is always changing. Professionals in the field must continually learn how to use new features, languages, hardware capabilities and more in order to provide value to their employers. High quality training at a compelling price is something I always keep an eye out for. So when Oracle Learning Streams was announced in June of 2014, it immediately caught my attention.
Over the years I have taken a significant number of courses from Oracle University and always found them to be valuable. Unfortunately, Oracle’s training is some of the most expensive available and the cost has generally been prohibitive unless my employer was footing the bill. The Learning Streams model allows unlimited access to a pool of videos for a straight $1,000 annually.
Since a one-week course from Oracle University in the U.S. costs upwards of $3,000, this seemed promising. I resolved to check it out when I had time ... and then promptly put that task at the back of my “to do” list.
In October, it jumped back into my crosshairs. The Oracle Certification Program announced that candidates who earned certifications at the Professional, Expert, Master or Specialist levels would receive 90 days of free access to Oracle Learning Streams. Unfortunately, my most recent certification was prior to their cut-off date for free access. I took some time to scan the offerings anyway, since I seldom go more than six months without earning at least one new credential.
The Learning Streams content is separated into several broad categories, each of which requires its own subscription. At this time, there are six streams in the following areas:
- Database — 408 videos
- Middleware — 380 videos
- E-Business Suite — 320 videos
- Human Capital Management Cloud — 281 videos
- PeopleSoft — 156 videos
- Systems — 303 videos
My area of expertise is in the database arena, so this is the only stream that I have investigated to any degree. The videos in it are further divided into multiple sub-categories, including Application Development, Backup and Recovery, Database Management, New Features, and many others. Four hundred-plus videos is a fairly impressive number — especially as the program has been in existence for only about eight months.
The video lengths vary considerably. After scanning through several dozen, the shortest I saw was less than three minutes long and the longest ran a hair over an hour. The most common length falls between 20 and 30 minutes. I would put a ballpark estimate of the total material in the Database stream to be around 150 hours.
At the time I investigated, the Database Management subsection contained 96 videos, making it the largest sub-category in the Database stream. Looking through the offerings there, I encountered one fairly annoying quirk. Of the first 32 videos in the list — only four were in English. That ratio was not typical — overall there were 63 videos in English (about 65 percent).
There is no mechanism, however, that I could locate to filter the videos by language. To me this is a serious oversight — especially for a company that specializes in data storage and retrieval. The lack of a language filter is merely annoying now, but will become an ever-increasing problem as the amount of content grows.
I am never going to watch a video that is not in English. If the ratio in the Database Management subsection is typical, then about two-thirds of the videos will be in English. A language filter that eliminated the one-third in other languages would make it much easier to locate the videos I might want to watch.
After I finished my brief survey of the content, it dropped off my radar again until a few weeks ago. Oracle sent an email that offered a free preview of Learning Streams — specifically of a small subset of the available videos. I checked out a few to get a better feel for the content. One that I watched all the way through was Oracle SQL Developer for the DBA.
I use SQL Developer a good bit at work and I am always interested in new capabilities. The video was of a lecture given at a conference — probably Oracle OpenWorld. The lecturer was demoing an alpha version of SQL Developer that was not yet available to the public. Unfortunately, this meant that he hit a couple of bugs (whoops), and also that the most interesting features were not publicly available.
Overall, the video was not about teaching the audience how to use SQL Developer but rather demonstrating the existence of some lesser-known and upcoming features. After finishing that video, I scanned through a few others and found that to be a common theme in the Learning Streams content. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The Oracle specialist certifications also tend to be heavy on testing what features exist and what they do rather than how to use them.
I have not watched all (or even a significant fraction) of the videos available. A number have titles that strongly indicate they are about performing technical tasks (for example: Troubleshooting and Diagnosing ORA-4031 Errors).
That said, the Oracle Learning Streams content is an eclectic mix of topics rather than an organized course of study. Most of the videos were not developed specifically for Learning Streams. They are lectures and webinars from other events that were recorded. This service is a vehicle for Oracle to gather these videos into a single location and generate revenue from them.
Regardless of origin, the content on Oracle Learning Streams provides access to a great deal of useful information. Anyone who earns a qualifying Oracle certification and does not make use of the corresponding 90-day free access is doing themselves a disservice. Before paying for the annual subscription, however, Oracle professionals should take time to research the content and determine how much is truly relevant to them.
As mentioned earlier, candidates preparing for an OPN specialist certification may well find Oracle Learning Streams to be an ideal resource. Oracle professionals who are in need of detailed information about specific topics, however, or who are looking for a comprehensive learning path will probably need to look elsewhere.