Microsoft’s dedication to empowering Learning Partners and delivering exceptional training experiences has led to significant transformations in their learning ecosystem. Over the past year, Courseware Marketplace and Skillpipe have undergone notable changes, such as the migration of courseware to Microsoft Learn and the introduction of labs hosted by Authorized Lab Hosters (ALHs). Now, as part of Microsoft’s continued evolution, an announcement has been made regarding Skillpipe and Courseware Marketplace retirement.
So, what exactly is the next step for Learning Partners to continue advancing their MOC training to their learners? In this blog, we will explore the details of the changes that Learning Partners will experience with the Courseware Marketplace retirement. Additionally, we will discuss the new opportunities and resources that await Learning Partners in Microsoft’s reimagined learning ecosystem.
What does the Courseware Marketplace Retirement Entail?
Microsoft has been gradually making changes to the services supported by Courseware Marketplace. This includes transitioning courseware to Microsoft Learn and converting courses to a labs experience hosted by Authorized Lab Hosters (ALHs). As a result, Courseware Marketplace will be retired as part of Microsoft’s ongoing ecosystem evolution.
Starting July 1st, 2023, Courseware Marketplace will cease all sales operations, including certifications, practice assessments, and labs. However, the Courseware Marketplace will remain accessible until December 31, 2023, allowing users to download previously purchased product keys and settle any outstanding invoices.
Microsoft has also decided to move away from the earlier method of utilizing Azure passes to facilitate cloud access for course labs, in order to eliminate any obstacles learners may encounter during activation and support.
How to prepare for Courseware Marketplace retirement as a Learning Partner?
With the announcement of the Courseware Marketplace retirement, Learning Partners are expected to make several adjustments to regain access to the products they had previously acquired through the platform. Access to Microsoft Official Course content will also no longer be available for users on Skillpipe. Here are the steps to guide Learning Partners in acquiring different products after June 30th, 2023:
How to access Certification Vouchers?
Starting from June 1st, 2023, Microsoft has empowered Learning Partners to acquire Microsoft exam vouchers through the Pearson VUE Partner Store. In order to make future purchases, Learning Partners will need to register with Pearson VUE to set up their accounts. It is also important to note that there might be slight variations in pricing, which will be accessible once Learning Partners are logged in to the Pearson VUE Partner Store following the successful validation and completion of their registration.
How to access Labs?
As per the new guidelines, after the retirement of Courseware Marketplace, Learning Partners will be required to purchase instructor-led training (ILT) labs directly from a Microsoft Authorized Lab Hoster (ALH). Prior to June 30, 2023, Learning Partners must establish an agreement and form a partnership with their preferred ALH to ensure access to labs for all their students.
Upon the retirement of Courseware Marketplace, only Authorized Lab Hosters will have the authority to grant learners access to virtual machines, D365, or M365 tenants, as well as provide students with access to pre-instanced Azure environments utilized in Microsoft courses. Training conducted without utilizing officially sourced labs will not be recognized as official and will not be eligible for partner program performance metrics (KPIs).
If any of the courses require an Azure Pass, the ALH will also distribute an Azure Pass directly to the learners. This ensures a consistent training experience for all learners, regardless of their location, and eliminates any previous difficulties faced by learners during training. As of April 1st, 2023, only a few courses still require Azure Pass. These courses are AZ-140, AZ-400, SC-200, SC-300, PL-400, PL-500, and MS-720.
With this new change, Learning Partners now have the opportunity to select and connect with an ALH of their choice after reviewing the list of Authorized Lab Hosters provided by Microsoft. Spektra System’s CloudLabs is one of the trusted ALHs Learning Partners worldwide are partnering with.
Partnering with CloudLabs as an ALH
CloudLabs is a trusted and experienced ALH that offers Learning Partners with lab environments for their official Microsoft training. With CloudLabs, Learning Partners can enjoy a seamless and hassle-free experience, supported by a range of valuable features:
- Fully Managed Labs: Ready-to-use labs hosted in commercial Azure subscriptions, eliminating setup and maintenance overhead.
- High-Quality and Validated Labs: Real-time lab environments that are tested and optimized to ensure seamless training experience for learners.
- On-Demand Labs: Partners can launch hassle-free, tailored on-demand labs within seconds as per their requirements.
- Integrated Scoring and Grading: Instructors can monitor learners’ progress and assess their skills through integrated scoring and grading capabilities.
- No Trial or Student Account Limitations: CloudLabs offers an excellent experience without any trial or student account restrictions, managing all cloud subscriptions.
- Inclusive Cloud Spending: Cloud usage costs are included in the price, eliminating separate billing and unexpected expenses for Learning Partners.
- Direct Azure Pass Voucher Codes: Learning Partners receive voucher codes which can be distributed to learners to procure Azure Pass for necessary courses on the platform.
- 24/7 Support: The CloudLabs support team is available round-the-clock, providing prompt and efficient resolution of queries.
Additionally, CloudLabs is the only platform that supports the ‘lab validation’ feature, which enables both learners and instructors to track lab progress and completion automatically. This feature ensures hands-on skill validation, helping to keep track of learners’ progress, ensure proper lab completion, identify areas of difficulty, and provide guidance accordingly.
Learning Partners can easily collaborate with CloudLabs by purchasing labs directly through the CloudLabs Admin Portal. The process is simple and streamlined, enabling Learning Partners to request labs that align with their specific needs effortlessly. Watch the video below to learn how to purchase labs for MOC training.
Click here to get a complete guide of the labs available on CloudLabs for Learning Partners.
How to access Practice Tests?
With the Courseware Marketplace retirement, the availability of practice tests on the platform has come to an end. However, Microsoft has previously made an announcement regarding the inclusion of practice assessments on Microsoft Learn. These practice assessments provide a basic set of questions that serve as a tool to help individuals gain a foundational understanding and insight into the specific certification exams they are pursuing.
Microsoft has already prepared practice tests for 25 popular Microsoft certification exams. The new tests will be conveniently featured on both the associated exam page and the Practice Assessments page, ensuring learners have easy access to the latest releases. To access the tests, learners can simply sign into their Microsoft Learn profile or create an account before taking a Practice Assessment.
CloudLabs’ Practice Tests
In addition to the free basic practice assessment provided by Microsoft Learn, CloudLabs offers comprehensive practice tests specifically designed to enhance exam readiness for Microsoft certification training. The practice tests provided by CloudLabs simulate exam-like questions of different formats, allowing students to evaluate their exam readiness, identify knowledge gaps, and deepen their understanding of the exam material.
These practice tests are valuable resources that play a crucial role in helping learners ensure they are fully prepared for various Microsoft certification exams. Serving as essential tools, they not only measure progress but also pinpoint areas for improvement, reinforcing the understanding of crucial concepts.
Furthermore, CloudLabs’ practice tests for each Microsoft certification provide the following additional features and benefits:
- 80 carefully designed questions – Each practice test will include 80 carefully selected questions that mirror the format, difficulty level, and structure of the Microsoft certification exam.
- Comprehensive coverage: Each practice test will cover all core concepts of the particular Microsoft Certification exam.
- In-depth explanations and supporting resources: Each question will be accompanied by detailed explanations and references, providing insights into the correct answers.
- Performance tracking and progress assessment: The built-in scoring system will allow users to track progress and evaluate performance, with instant feedback and score breakdowns to identify strengths and weaknesses.
- Enhance confidence and preparedness: By familiarizing themselves with the exam format, practicing with realistic questions, and gaining in-depth knowledge from the detailed explanations, the practice test will enhance confidence and improve the chances of success in the actual certification exam.
The CloudLabs portal allows Learning Partners to directly purchase practice tests for their Microsoft certification training. These practice tests are available for individual purchase, in combination with labs, or as part of certification courses.
While the Skillpipe and Courseware Marketplace retirement may initially seem like a pause or temporary setback to Learning Partners, it is actually an exciting opportunity for them to embark on new training ventures and explore different horizons. Learning Partners now have the chance to forge partnerships with ALHs and unlock new resources and enhanced experiences for their Microsoft certification training.
By joining forces with ALHs, Pearson VUE, and Microsoft Learn, Learning Partners are more empowered than ever to deliver successful training programs to their learners. This new collaboration opens doors to a wider range of learning materials, innovative teaching methodologies, and comprehensive support systems, ensuring a more enriching and effective learning journey for all involved. It is a time of growth and evolution for Learning Partners as they seize these new opportunities and remain committed to delivering exceptional training experiences.
Jithin Varghese, a Product Manager at Spektra Systems, is known to excel in automating Azure resources and migration planning. As a former Cloud Consultant turned Product Manager, he combines design thinking, analytical prowess, and empathy to drive outstanding customer experiences and facilitates collaboration among cross-functional teams.