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8 Free Online Networking Classes

  • Without a doubt, the networking industry is undergoing tremendous change -- the biggest change it's seen in years. Trends such as software-defined networking (SDN) and cloud computing, for example, are influencing how networks are architected, managed and maintained.  More than ever, it's important that networking pros update their skills to keep up with the changing environment.

    But how does a busy professional keep up? Training can require time away from work and home, and come with a hefty price tag. Fortunately, today’s networking pros have another, more viable, option: free online courses.

    Free online courses on a range of networking topics, including SDN concepts and cloud networking, are available from a variety of reputable organizations. For example, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology tries to make all of its course content available for free via OpenCourseWare (OCW). Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) provides free courses on Microsoft technologies taught by industry experts.

    Other courses are offered by experienced professionals through third-party organizations, such as Coursera and Education Portal. With so many options, there’s no excuse to put off training and not boost your skill set for the future. In networking these days, you can't just rest on your Cisco certification, so take advantage of what's available to broaden your knowledge base.

    Proof of completion and credits vary widely amongst these and other training organizations, so be sure to read the fine print if that is important to you. 

    (Image: Professor Fred)

  • Software-Defined Networking

    Georgia Techs free software-defined networking (SDN) course introduces students to SDN and how it changes the way networks are managed, maintained and secured. The 8-week course requires about 7 to 10 hours of work per week. Students watch a series of video lectures, which run about 10 minutes in length, and complete lab-based programming assignments. Students should be proficient with basic networking concepts and configuring networking in Linux environments. Students earn a digital certificate upon completion of the course.
    Image: Brooke Novak

  • Cloud Networking

    This free networking course from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign examines the challenges of building network infrastructure to support the clouds key capabilities such as the ability to share infrastructure, the ability to move and scale applications across servers, massive parallelism and virtualization. Topics covered include physical data center network topology and fault tolerance, network virtualization, software-defined networking, congestion control and traffic engineering, and inter-data center networks. Its recommended that students have undergraduate-level networking knowledge.
    Image: Damien Pollett

  • Data Communication Networks

    Data Communication Networks is a graduate-level course made available to the public via MITs OpenCourseWare project. Students learn the fundamentals of data communication networks, including their architecture, principles of operations and performance analyses. The topics covered include layered network architecture, Link Layer protocols, high-speed packet switching, LAN and WAN issues. Students should have a strong background in mathematics and an understanding of probability theory.

  • Network Optimization

    This graduate-level course in the theory and practice of network flows and its extensions is offered via MITs OpenCourseWare project. Course content covers applications of network flows and focuses on key network flow problems, including the shortest path problem, the maximum flow problem, the minimum cost flow problem and the multi-commodity flow problem. Introduction to Mathematical Programming or a course on data structures is recommended as a pre-requisite to this course. The diagram above, by Professor James Orlin, illustrates a problem that can be addressed using a minimum cost flow algorithm, which is covered in the course: Given demand, production capabilities, and costs of shipment, what is the minimum cost method for satisfying demand?

  • Virtual Networking for Cloud Computing

    This three-hour course, taught by networking guru and top Interop speaker Ivan Pepelnjak, introduces students to networking technologies that are used to build Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and virtual network solutions. Students learn about IaaS networking scalability and how to select the most appropriate architecture for an IaaS environment based on the number of physical servers and tenants in the environment. Students should be familiar with the basics of Layer-2 switching, VLANs, IPv4, IP routing and Internet-related protocols. An understanding of virtual networking concepts and VMware-related challenges are also recommended. Note that this class isn't free -- it requires a minimal fee -- but students receive a certificate of completion.

  • Network Systems Technology

    For those breaking into networking, Network Systems Technology is a chapter within the larger Information Systems and Computer Applications course offered by Education Portal. This chapter consists of 10 videos that serve as an introductory course to various network technologies, including the components of a telecommunications system, telecommunications hardware (routers, modems, switches, etc.), network operating systems, network topology and wireless devices. A transcript is available for each video, as well as a quiz. An exam tests the students knowledge of content covered in all 10 videos. When studied as part of the Business 104: Information Systems and Computer Applications course, students can earn college credit (fee required).

  • SDN with Windows Server and System Center

    This free 45-minute video from Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) explains how to get started with software-defined networking in data centers running Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2. The instructor, Network Computing contributor Symon Perriman, presents both best practices and under-the-hood technical guidance based on similar implementations in some of the largest data centers in the world. The video is worth 45 MVA points, which can be earned to achieve various membership levels in MVA.

  • Cloud Network Automation: DDI/IPAM

    This 15-minute video from Microsoft Virtual Academy introduces students to how IP Address Management (IPAM) in Windows Server 2012 R2 fits into the current data center scenario. Students learn why IPAM solutions are needed and how WS-IPAM meets the needs of the system administrator. The video also walks through the generic workflows involved in using WS-IPAM. The video is worth 40 MVA points, which can be earned to achieve various membership levels in MVA.
    Image: Jacob Gube