Cisco Systems' iPhone application for those studying for Cisco certifications is currently quite basic, but based on the company's record, eWEEK Labs expects M-Learning Viewer to develop into a valuable learning tool over time.
With its M-Learning Viewer, which became available April 6, Cisco
Systems continues to build upon its arsenal of useful applications for the
iPhone, this time adding an authorized source of learning materials designed to
help people study for Cisco certifications. While the viewer application and
available content are currently somewhat bare-bones, the platform could grow
into a useful learning tool over time as the company works on it.
M-Learning consists of freely available viewing applications
and a series of for-pay content modules. Cisco said it does not intend the
M-Learning modules to provide the comprehensive bolus of information needed to
pass a CCENT or CCNA exam, but rather envisions M-Learning as a complement to
its other educational outlets, such as Cisco Press books and Cisco Learning
The new iPhone application is available now for free from
Apple's App Store, and free viewers for Macs and Windows PCs are also
downloadable from Cisco's M-Learning Website.
A similar BlackBerry application is expected to ship sometime in summer 2010.
With the Viewer applications being available for free, users
instead pay for the content modules-each of which is available for $4.99. At
launch, Cisco released 18 modules, with topics ranging from TCP/IP
Architecture (at either the Internet or Transport layer) to various VLAN (virtual
LAN) or WAN configurations to subnetting
how-tos. Users may view the content across any of the supported platforms, with
no expiration on content availability.
Cisco and its partners expect to release more modules down
Modules must be purchased from Cisco's Website; payment is
accepted via credit card, PayPal, wire transfer or purchase order. To view the
content on an iPhone, users must after completing the purchase access their
Order History page from the iPhone browser, then click on the on-screen iPhone
Access icon to begin the download. This opens the M-Learning Viewer, which
begins the download and adds it to the list of available content. Once the
download completes, the user can tap on the item in the Viewer, thereby
decrypting and presenting the module elements included therein.
I bought the "Implementing
and Troubleshooting a WLAN"module and found the subject matter
fairly basic. A 12-minute video outlined the history of 802.11 as well as a few
differences between the different flavors (a, b, g and n), discussed the
differences between ad hoc and infrastructure networking, and talked about the
difference between a BSSID (basic service set identifier) and an ESSID
(extended SSID). It then provided some very basic WLAN troubleshooting tips.
After watching the video, I could reinforce the lesson using
the series of flash cards that came with the module. The flash cards can be
viewed individually or in a series.
If interrupted by a phone call or a notification while
watching the video, the application keeps track of where the track stopped
during the last session. I was also happy to see that after the initial download
the content is available for consumption even when the device lacks Internet
From the Settings dialog, I also found I could control the
maximum amount of storage space the Viewer can consume on the iPhone. The page
enumerates the total amount of space available in system storage and the amount
consumed by the application, with a slider bar to control the local memory
In truth, there's really not a lot to either the Viewer
application or the content repository at this point in time. However, Cisco has
shown a willingness not only to develop compelling mobile applications
(particularly for the iPhone), but to continue to develop and improve them, as
we've seen with the company's SIO To Go application.
And so, I fully expect M-Learning to prove itself a valuable
study tool within the year.
Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for eWEEK.com, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.