At the Ignite conference in 2018, Microsoft announced a number of changes to the Microsoft 365 and Azure curriculums. This included not only new courses and exams, but the introduction of new learning paths aligned to job roles. These learning paths have been mapped using Microsoft's new "Job Task Analysis", ensuring the new courses and exams will be much closer aligned with one another.
The new Azure changes are now live and the M365 changes are in progress.
What are the changes to the Microsoft 365 curriculum?
Microsoft announced the retirement of parts of the existing Office 365 curriculum and their associated certifications, namely the M20347 course and the associated 70-346 & 70-347 exams, both of which are retiring 30th June 2019. The Microsoft M10997 - Office 365 Administration and Troubleshooting course will continue to be available.
Microsoft are also changing the learning focus from Office 365 to Microsoft 365.
Microsoft 365 is a subscription 'bundle' that extends Office 365 with Windows 10 Pro and Enterprise Mobility+Security.
More information can be found here.
What does the future look like?
The traditional approach of Microsoft, when building their training and certification tracks, was to have a block of ILT (Instructor Lead Training) days covering vast ranges of common services and features in that technology area. These types of courses are a mix of instructor-led presentations, demonstrations and step by step practical work. As the training landscape has evolved to embrace new modalities, the appetite for this more traditional approach to skills transfer has changed. Today we see that Microsoft has embraced a different model of delivery focusing on specific aspects of a given job role.
Each new learning path is made up of one- or two-day modular courses that focus on a specific aspect of the Microsoft Office 365 technology suite. After completing each of the courses in a path the learner should (with hands-on practice) then be ready to sit the related exam if they wish.
The old Office 365 certifications included exams which would test a learner on the broad variety of cloud technologies covered in the original courses. Now, the new exams have a much narrower focus which should make them easier to prepare for and ultimately result in a more role-specific qualification. As for the model of the learning, Microsoft's idea is that each instructor-led course can be taken individually - although QA will initially be combing the related modules into 4- or 5-day blocks of learning which map to the corresponding exams. This mirrors QA's approach to the new Microsoft Azure courses (read more here).
Note: As with previous Microsoft exams, the new exams are taken independently by the delegate and are not part of the course. There is no requirement for a delegate to complete the exam.
Microsoft also complement the new classroom curriculum with a choice of completely self-paced learning to allow the learners to have more control of their Microsoft 365 learning journey. This new content is known as MOOC or "Microsoft Online Official Curriculum" and is available via implementations of the Open Edx platform. What all this means is that moving forward, each new certification and learning track that Microsoft introduces will be informed by detailed "Job Task Analysis" (the JTA), aligned to actual career paths and will include only role relevant technologies.
The new exams announced so far are divided into three areas:
- Microsoft 365 Fundamentals certification
- Microsoft 365 Role-based Associate certification (various)
- Microsoft 365 Role-based Expert certification
Microsoft has introduced the following certifications linked to job roles. There are a number of courses which help to prepare for the exams which are provided below.
- Microsoft 365 Fundamentals
- MS-900 – Microsoft 365 Fundamentals exam
Microsoft Modern Desktop Administrator Associate Certification
Microsoft Messaging Administrator Certification
- MS-200 – Planning and Configuring a Messaging Platform
- MS-201 – Implementing a Hybrid and Secure Messaging Platform
Microsoft Teamwork Administrator Associate Certification
Microsoft Security Administrator Associate Certification
Microsoft 365 Certified Enterprise Administrator Expert Certification
- Related MOC Course – MS-100 Microsoft 365 Identities and Services
- Related MOC Course – MS-101 Microsoft 365 Mobility and Security
Note: Microsoft have indicated that there are more changes to come throughout 2019.
The courses for the Microsoft 365 Certified Enterprise Administrator Expert track are available now from QA. The courses and exams for the Fundamentals and Associate tracks will be released by the end of January 2019.
The traditional approach to proving the validity of a learners' Microsoft qualification has long been either just a link to a digital transcript or even a printed confirmation. To further engage their learning transformation Microsoft have partnered with Pearson Vue's Acclaim platform to award digital badges and certifications as evidence of test takers' achievements. These digital badges allow learners a simple and verifiable way to evidence their qualifications by using uniquely linked images. The Acclaim platform allows for these badges and certificates to be posted on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. For digital CVs there is a data-iframe embed option on each learners Acclaim dashboard, as well as the more traditional unique public URL.
You can learn more about digital badges here.
QA Authored Courses for Deep Dive Microsoft 365 learning
In addition to delivering the courses related to the new Microsoft certifications, QA have a complete Office 365 technical curriculum that can take you far deeper in your knowledge of individual Office 365 products, deployments and best practice with extensive hands on labs not available in the Microsoft courses. In addition, QA have courses on Microsoft 365 areas not covered via the Microsoft curriculum such as PowerApps and Office 365 Modern Development.
These courses can be taken either independently of the above Microsoft Official Curriculum (MOC) courses or as a next step for a specific Microsoft 365 product as part of your learning journey.
QA Microsoft 365 Technical Curriculum includes:
What about my current Windows 10/Office 365 qualifications?
With the announcement of the new catalogue of exams and learning paths and the retirement of the old guard of courses and exams there is the obvious question of "what about my existing qualifications?". Here, Microsoft has still placed an emphasis on the need to recertify to stay current with your qualifications, but they have made some changes to their approach.
Firstly, they have changed the message from "upgrade" to "transition". Using this as their chosen message changes the perception of what the new qualifications are going to mean. Historically when Microsoft insisted that learners "upgraded" their qualifications it gave the impression that Microsoft was voiding all regard for the relevance of the previously obtained qualifications. By allowing learners to "transition" their qualifications, Microsoft is saying that your prior efforts and rewards have given you a platform to move forward with and you can do so by passing a single transition exam.
If you already hold either of the below certifications then you will be eligible to take a transition exam and migrate your certifications over to the new paths.
Note: The "Transition" exams are being offered for a limited period of time only and are flagged as retiring 31 July 2019.
Phil Crayford is the subject matter expert (SME) for Microsoft Productivity, including Microsoft 365, and he offers training delivery and mentoring for QA trainers and customers. Phil is the author of the QA Microsoft mastering technical series of courses, including Sharepoint Online, Exchange Online, Microsoft 365 Security, Compliance and Governance, and Microsoft 365 Adoption and Governance. Phil maintains a high level of real-world architecture, deployment and administration experience with customers, drawing from many years of consultancy and training experience.
Phil has over 20 years' international experience in the industry helping UK and global clients with designing and deploying technical solutions and developing and delivering training and mentoring to provide ongoing support. Phil has been working with Microsoft technologies since 1996, including server operating systems, Exchange and Sharepoint, focusing on Microsoft 365 technologies for the last 6 years. He has developed and delivered numerous bespoke technology and training solutions for UK and international organisations, large and small.