March 13, 2003

SmartCertify now offering new Linux Professional Institute courseware

- by Tina Gasperson -
SmartCertify, a very aggressive online marketer of its tech training and testing services, is now offering Linux Professional Institute (LPI) certification courseware. How do we know? We got a spam - uh, we mean, a monthly newsletter! That's the thing about having really smart preschoolers. Every time we get up to check the roast, they're right there in our recently vacated computer chair, signing us up for more email lists.SmartCertify is a distance-learning outfit that offers a wide range of certifications and courses in IT. Every couple of weeks they send us announcements and newsletters, mostly about Microsoft certifications, which we cheerfully delete. In fact, we've never heard a word about any Linux courses or certifications from them. Until this week. This week, the latest spam - uh, we mean legitimately signed-up-for newsletter - was headlined with the news: SmartCertify is now offering a new LPI course.

This has got to be good news for LPI and Linux certification in general, considering how pervasive SmartCertify's advertising on the Internet really is. It will really get the word out about the value of Linux certification.

SmartCertify: A victim of Internet slagging?

Or maybe not, since it appears that quite a few people are upset with SmartCertify's alleged tactics. Old newsgroup postings reflect a number of complaints about the quality of their courses, as well as old sister company SmartForce, and also about the bulldoggedness of their sales force. There are even a couple of old, alleged Better Business Bureau reports floating around that give SmartCertify a bad rating. The BBB in Clearwater, Florida, where SmartCertify is based, says the current report for the company is being updated and is not available.

Laura Hudson, a spokesperson for SmartCertify, says that the number of complaints about her company represents a very small percentage of their actual customer base. "We ship out an average of 300 packages a week. That's over 100,000 customers we deal with every single year."

She says that the people who are complaining are simply those who fall outside of the terms of their warranty and guarantee terms, which state that in order to receive a refund, customers must fax proof of two corresponding test failures within 90 days. Customers must agree to these terms before they look at the courseware. She says the vast majority of the complaints are not legitimate.

Additionally, says Hudson, all sales calls are monitored and recorded to ensure that potential customers are not promised anything the company can't deliver.

Hudson also denies that the company sends unsolicited email. "Anyone that receives any information from our site has requested it in some way. We don't contact anyone with any information unless they ask for it." She says that customers who request to be taken off their email and telephone call lists are promptly removed.

"I don't think a Google search is the correct way to get valid information," says Hudson. She recommends that people interested in certification from SmartCertify check the testimonials on the website for more accurate information.

Now, Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Report

In addition to the LPI training, SmartCertify offers CompTIA Linux + courseware, added in February of '03. It has discontinued courseware for the Red Hat Certified Engineer certification, because the RHCE was less popular than the other Linux certifications, according to Hudson.

Evan Leibovitch, president of the board of directors at LPI, says the entrance of LPI courseware at SmartCertify is due to the efforts of Stacy Gildenston, LPI's brand new Director of Business Development. "One of her roles [is] improving relations between LPI and the training/publishing community." Gildenston was formerly with the System Administrators Guild (SAGE), an organization created to advance the status of computer system administration as a profession.

SAGE and LPI were, and continue to be, in talks about a possible partnership. Ultimately, it may result in free SAGE membership for anyone receiving an LPI certification. Leibovitch says the partnership idea is still "very much in the works."

"Some elements of this partnership and the decisions being made about it, happen rather
slowly," says Leibovitch. "There is progress in this direction, and Sage and LPI are still
committed to working together." Barring that, it looks like LPI has benefited with the addition of Gildenston to its staff. "She is spending pretty well all her time at LPI now."

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