Recently I wrote a review of the Windows 8 for Dummies online course, which I liked a lot. That’s not the only Windows 8 course available from the For Dummies crew, which is good news for people who don’t want to learn through online videos alone. This week I took a look at Windows 8 for Dummies eLearning Kit, which contains a book, a CD, and, as a special bonus, six months free access to the Windows 8 for Dummies online e-learning course (which is not the same as the one I recently reviewed). I was interested to see how this course’s approach differed from the previous wholly online course (besides the fact that one comes with a book and one doesn’t). Here’s what I found.
The book: In living color
The first thing you’ll notice is that this is one of the new For Dummies books, printed on heavier paper and in full color. As I have noted in previous reviews of For Dummies books, with Windows 8’s interface, having a full-color book is a real plus.
The course is designed for newcomers to Windows 8, but the author does assume that the reader isn’t at the "that thing on your desk is called a mouse" beginner level and does have some basic computer knowledge. You do not have to have a computer running Windows 8 to use either the book or the CD, but with Windows 8 in front of you to practice with, the lessons may make more sense. Each chapter begins with a list of interesting questions to draw the reader in, with the page numbers where the answers can be found. The author put some thought into these questions; they’re not just run of the mill "How do I" queries.
There are boxes labeled Lingo scattered through the pages that explain Windows 8 terms that may be unfamiliar, and each chapter ends with a section called Know This Tech Talk that serves as a glossary for all the terms found in the chapter. I think the glossary will be especially useful for beginners, since everything is explained in easy to understand language. The lessons themselves are not particularly long, and each is loaded with illustrations for every new concept. I think this would be especially appealing to beginners as well.
The lessons are arranged in a fairly logical order (much like the structure of other Windows 8 books I’ve read lately) and progress from "getting started" through the concept of applications (as distinct from apps), then how to customize the interface and manage files and folders. The next steps are Internet Explorer 10, networking, and managing user accounts and settings. I’d put the networking chapter ahead of the one on Internet Explorer, because if your network’s not working properly, no amount of clicking on that little blue E is going to get you anywhere.
The book concludes logically with an exploration of security and troubleshooting, but the final chapter is about apps, which I thought should come after the Internet Explorer chapter because I think that the Microsoft Store will have a lot of appeal and people will want to explore the free apps at the very least. Why leave this tempting target to the very end? The Table of Contents in the book also serves as a listing of the lessons on the CD and online.
The CD: They talk, you watch
To start the course on CD, just slip it into your optical drive and choose to run shellexe.exe when the Autoplay window appears.
You’ll be asked if you want to sign into the online course or use the CD.
When you choose the CD, the introduction appears. If you’ve already gone through some of the lessons, you’ll be asked if you want to take up where you left off. This is a very useful feature.
The CD is supposed to contain a set of interactive lessons, which led me to believe that every segment of every lesson was interactive, which isn’t quite the case. Some parts of the lessons are interactive (you can try things for yourself to see how they work). This worked very well. If you just want to see how it’s done, you can choose to run the whole demo without clicking or tapping on anything yourself. I hasten to add that I am not criticizing the course because I misunderstood what was in it. :)
The lessons are bright, appealing, and easy to understand. Each segment is reasonably short and moves right along. You navigate from one short section to the next by clicking on the arrows at the bottom of the page.
As I mentioned, the structure of the CD course is exactly the same as is found in the book and takes you through everything step by step in the same way. It appears that the CD is narrated by the author. The CD is said to be a 4-hour training course, but I didn’t measure the time it took to go through it. I’ll take their word for it. :)
Online: Same material
If you go to For Dummies eLearning Center you’ll find a list of eLearning courses on the left side of your screen. Choose the Windows 8 course, and you’ll see that they have a free trial version so you can check it out before you decide to sign up. While I think this is admirable, the fact that you have to provide personal information before you can take a look of it is definitely not. Of course, you do have the access code that comes with the book, which gives you the 6-month online course for free and gives you the URL to go directly to it, bypassing the main screen. (Be sure not to lose the small slip of paper that contains your special code. I paper clipped it to the book cover.) If you’re not already registered with the site, you’ll need to do that, which also requires personal information. In that context, it makes sense because you’re signing up for the course. I do not think that a person checking out a free trial should have to provide any personal information to do so. One advantage to signing up for the online course is that you can then work on the lessons from anywhere, without having to carry the book or the CD around with you. You can’t keep track of your progress in both areas at the same time, but this isn’t really a shortcoming. The online course contains a bonus lesson on Windows Media Player that most people will find worth the time to go through.
Conclusions: Short and sweet
Windows 8 for Dummies eLearning Kit should satisfy just about everyone who’s new to Windows 8 and wants to thoroughly understand the basics. All three approaches to the course are attractive and informative and it’s clear the author and the For Dummies editorial staff have really worked to put everything together. The interactive practice is very useful and should explain how each concept works to just about anyone’s satisfaction.
The threefold approach to learning Windows 8 is excellent and should satisfy just about anyone’s learning style. Whether you choose the well-written, brightly illustrated book, the CD, or the online course, you’ll get a thorough education in the basics of Windows 8 and should be able to approach your own Windows 8 computer with confidence in a very short time.