Preparing Veterans to Become Linux Heroes at Richland College

By / December 18, 2017 / , / 0 Comments

There’s never been a better time to earn a Linux certification. With Linux as the foundation for so much technology and innovation around the world, demand for certified professionals continues to increase in everything from cloud computing to space stations, and beyond.

According to the 2017 Open Source Jobs Report, 65% of hiring managers are looking for Linux professionals. Studies show that half of all hiring managers look specifically for Linux certifications, and certified employees are rewarded with higher pay increases and bonuses than their non-certified colleagues.[1]

There’s little doubt about the value of Linux training. But it can be challenging for schools and universities to design and deliver effective Linux classes. The problem isn’t the lack of course material—there are plenty of good Linux textbooks. No, it’s the labs.

Very few programs can afford to have a dedicated Linux lab—meaning instructors have to spend valuable time setting up virtual machines before labs, and then reconfiguring them for Windows afterwards. Add this to the time it takes to develop the labs in the first place, and you have a very daunting proposition for time-strapped instructors.

Richland College Pilots New Approach to Linux Training

Get the case study to learn more about Richland’s IT training program.

Richland College recently faced this challenge when it partnered with Amazon to develop a certification program for veterans. A member of the Cisco Networking Academy, Richland has been a leader in IT training in Dallas County, Texas, since the early 1990s. The college offers a broad range of courses to help students obtain the professional certifications and hands-on experience they need to enter the IT workforce.

But Richland College did not have any Linux courses. So when the college recently partnered with Amazon to design a certification program to prepare veterans for apprenticeships at Amazon Web Services, it needed to quickly find a way to take students with zero Linux knowledge and get them ready to pass CompTIA’s Linux+ Powered by LPI certification.

Richland College hired Juli Hart, an experienced IT consultant, to develop and deliver the courses. Hart looked at a variety of books and training options, but struggled to find something that met the program’s needs. “We have a virtual system here that we use for some networking, but it’s difficult to maintain,” explains Hart, “And we can’t have dedicated Linux machines in the classroom, because the classrooms are all multi-use. The students who come in next are going to expect Windows, because that’s how you get to the Internet.”

The college didn’t have the time or budget to develop its own labs and lab environment. So Hart was intrigued when she discovered NDG’s Linux courses in the Cisco Networking Academy. NDG offers three courses—Linux Essentials, Linux I, and Linux II—designed to give learners foundational Linux skills and prepare them for IT careers. After seeing that NDG’s Linux I and Linux II courses were built for the Linux+ certification required by Amazon, Hart went through the courses and the Linux+ exam herself to see if they would be suitable for her learners.

“They really matched what I needed,” says Hart. “It was all online, so I didn’t have to have a dedicated lab for everyone at certain hours of the day. You can run the courses on any laptop with an internet connection. That made it so much easier for me than trying to come up with virtual machines and lesson plans and everything else on the fly.”

NDG’s courses are uniquely equipped with a live Linux virtual machine alongside course materials. This enables learners to immediately begin using the commands they learn as they go through the material. Hart found this to be a big advantage: “If you use the virtual machines as you go through the reading material, you’ll really understand how each of those commands work and gain a lot of experience doing it.”

Virtual Linux Labs Get Students Ready for Real-World Success

Some of the veterans in the certification program had no prior networking experience; others had multiple networking certifications and years of experience. But one thing they all shared in common was their lack of Linux knowledge. Like many people, they thought Linux was difficult and intimidating.

Yet, they also knew that Linux is a critical skill to have in today’s increasingly open-source world. “I can have all the experience and certifications in the world, but not having Linux on my resume put me at the bottom of the pile,” explains Latoya Caldwell, who has multiple networking certifications and a decade of experience as a network administrator in the Army.

With the help of NDG’s Linux courses, Hart’s students were able to quickly overcome their initial apprehension and start building confidence and knowledge. “Learning Linux looked like a scary monster at first,” recalls Charles Johnson. “But NDG’s courses made it easy. I liked having the ability to log into the labs and follow the instructions and get a better understanding of how Linux really works.”

The students enjoyed the unique combination of course content beside a live Linux virtual machine. This enabled them to learn by doing, and gain critical hands-on experience at the same time. “With IT, you need practical experience to succeed,” notes Franklin Pierre. “The way NDG’s courses combine the book environment and virtual learning environment really helped me understand what I read. Whenever I had an issue, I could just go into the console, type it up, and see what was going on. It was actually learning in between the lines that helped the most.”

Thanks to the online accessibility of the courses, the Richland students were able to complete the labs as many times as they needed to, from anywhere they had an internet connection. “If I didn’t understand something during class, I could go back in my off hours and go through it again,” observes Nicole Moss. “Going into the exam, I felt very confident in what I knew because I had the hands-on experience from the labs.”

After completing the 13-week class at Richland College, all fifteen of the program’s participants passed the CompTIA Linux+ Powered by LPI certification exam. They now have the Linux knowledge and hands-on experience they need to take the next step in their careers, and will join Amazon for a year-long apprenticeship program to get on-the-job experience. After that, they will be given the opportunity to interview for a full-time job at Amazon Web Services.

Learn More About NDG’s Linux Courses

Whether you need to teach Linux or learn it, NDG’s Linux courses make it easy with proven content and labs alongside a live Linux virtual machine. Explore the courses

NDG Online is a platform for online learning aimed at developing IT professionals. Offering a live Linux virtual machine alongside course materials, our Linux courses give you the easiest and most effective way to learn essential command line and system administrator skills. Take command of your career and start learning Linux today at

For more than 40 years, Richland College has focused on teaching, learning and community building. Richland helps students build their future through courses that can be applied to the first two years of a baccalaureate degree, as well as one- or two-year certificates in a number of career fields.

Cisco Networking Academy, a Cisco Corporate Social Responsibility program, is an IT skills and career-building program available to learning institutions and individuals worldwide. To learn more about the Cisco Networking Academy, visit

[1] 2017 Open Source Jobs Report, CompTIA HR Perceptions of IT Training and Certification Study.