Microsoft Virtual Academy

We live in a world – a small global village – where technology is advancing rapidly, and where information technology (IT) is gaining more and more prominence in everyday life. If you are an IT pro, it is important to be on top of things, and have your finger on the pulse. More than that, it is the aspiration of many professionals to be part of those who create that pulse. New systems, programs, languages, developmental tools, and other related innovations are being engineered, developed, manufactured, and released every day. But, there is nothing new under the sun. After all, these newer technologies are invariably based on older technologies. Thing is, you have to know one in order to invent the other.

Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) is a cloud-based educational platform, which hosts thousands of training courses, in a variety of languages, on a multitude of topics and subjects related to the world of IT. Its goal is to make life easier for developers, IT professionals, data professionals, students, and also educators. MVA is provided by Microsoft Corporation free of charge, and students can choose what to study, when to study it, and how.

A Bit of History

Microsoft Virtual Academy was launched in March 2011, at the Microsoft Management Summit in the U.S. Originally, the website only had entry- and mid-level courses available. Over time, as the community grew, the courses got to be more and more in-depth, and now include advanced- and expert-level courses.

Microsoft Virtual Academy

Microsoft Virtual Academy

There are over 3,510,000 students registered with Microsoft Virtual Academy, and more are joining every day. Anybody who is interested in learning more about the technology that is around, or furthering and growing their career, is eligible to join the MVA. There is no minimal amount of knowledge or technical experience which is required of students. All that is required from a student is to identify as a Microsoft user with a Microsoft account. Once signed in, students can create a profile, enroll is courses, and begin their journey towards a new and improved self.

MVA courses are led by industry experts, and they include polished, user-friendly, well-produced videos, course documents, and Q & A forums. Students can personalize a learning plan, track their progress, earn certificates of completion, and build a name for themselves within the MVA community, and beyond it, using their skills and expertise.

The course pages themselves could stand to be more user-friendly. One thing which is lacking, in my opinion, is more arrangement filters. Overall, however, course pages are accessible and straightforward.

The video interface is crisp and interactive. Courses are available in HD, and students can choose from several different display settings. Closed-captioning is also available, as well as speed settings ranging from ¼ speed to X2 speed. Videos are displayed in a window by default, but there is a full screen option available. Furthermore, the videos can be downloaded in .MP4 format, in a number of different resolutions.

Course Levels

Courses have different levels, and they are made to fit a specific kind of student. They provide an example of the experience level necessary for successful completion of the course, and make plain the target audience of the course.

Beginners and advanced students are all welcome

Beginners and advanced students are all welcome

100: in a word, basic. This level is for those who are changing careers, students, and the like. It is an entry-level course number. Those who complete the courses in this level will be certified Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA).

200: intermediate. This level targets professionals who are at the beginning of their career, and who are looking to advance their skill. This type of course prepares students for the first couple of exams of a Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD) certification.

300: Advanced. These courses are designed and offered to those with over a year’s experience. Developers and professionals may use these courses to prepare for their MCSD or Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification exams.

400: Expert. This level is for developers and IT experts with several years of experience.

Enrolling in a Course

Registered students may choose to enroll in several different courses, of varying subjects and levels, at the same time, providing that the courses are open and available for enrollment. Within the student personal dashboard is all of the necessary information: which learning plan the student is on (if any), what courses are currently in progress, which courses have been completed, what is the student’s ranking in the MVA community (global and regional), and lastly the amount of points which the student has accumulated. Using the dashboard, a student can view the top ranking students in the community, view and edit learning plans, edit courses, redeem vouchers, and edit settings and profile information.

MVA employs a points system, to monitor progress and maintain ranking among the community of MVA students. Each course has a set amount of point, depending on the course’s length and subject-matter. Points are given when a student attends a live event, completes a course, downloads a document, and engages in other MVA activities.

In accordance with the points system, membership level is also subject to the amount of points which a student has earned. Students with 0 to 99 points have a bronze level membership. 100 to 499 points will gain a student a silver memberships. 500 to 2999 points will give the student gold membership, and 3000 points or more will earn the student Platinum membership status. The various student leader lists are updated every business day. These lists include the top students this week, top students this month, top three students (all time, local), top three students (all time, regional).

Regarding privacy and security, students can choose whether to share all or part of their information. On the other hand, a student may choose to keep it all private. In order to be displayed in the various students list, a student must at least share his or her name.

The MVA has a very active community forum, and it is the perfect place to ask for assistance, get advice, report a problem, or help other MVA students. In the community forum, students can follow threads on different subjects – even ones which are not directly related to Microsoft Virtual Academy – and get support on anything from using and working with BizSpark, through Office 365 online training, to becoming a community forum moderator. Students may ask questions, provide answers to others students’ questions, and participate in the numerous ongoing discussions which the forums host.

MVA Course Topics

The course topics in MVA are broken up into four main categories:

Developers Courses

Develop all sorts of useful skills

Develop all sorts of useful skills

IT Professionals

  • Windows 10
  • Virtualization
  • Identity & Access Management
  • Enterprise Security
  • Desktop & Device Management
  • Azure for IT Pros
  • Office 365 for IT Pros
  • DevOps
  • Server Infrastructure

Data Professionals

  • Database Administration
  • Database Development
  • Business Intelligence
  • Advanced Analytics
  • Big Data
  • Azure for Data Pros
  • SharePoint
  • Power Business Intelligence
  • SQL Server


  • Learn to Code
  • Reign in the Cloud
  • Validate Your Skills
  • Educator Resources

Further Info on Courses

Microsoft Virtual Academy does not credit its students with official credentials. However, it can do a great deal to aid students who are preparing to sit for their real-world Microsoft certification examinations. The courses which are offered at MVA, while not being accredited, are taught by Microsoft professionals for Microsoft professionals. IT pros who wish to brush up on their knowledge of Microsoft systems or products, or alternatively learn an entirely new set of skills, can take full advantage of MVA. The courses are taught by Microsoft employees and Microsoft-trained instructors, and are geared towards those who want to be skilled at Microsoft’s products and systems.

Further your learning through social media

Further your learning through social media

The front page of MVA has a list of the most popular courses, as well as a list of upcoming live events. Popular courses include C# Fundamentals for Absolute Beginners, Querying with Transact-SQL, Introduction to ASP.NET MVC, Implementing Entity Framework with MVC, and Networking Fundamentals: Academic Edition.

The MVA also maintains a blog, Born to Learn, which is hosted on the MSLearn platform. In the blog, it posts MVA-related news, information, interviews, MVA website updates, and other things of a bloggy nature.

Courses in the Academy are usually one to three hours long, and are currently offered only via desktop. However, there is a way to keep the connection going even without a desktop computer, such as through Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and YouTube. The coursework is made available through Microsoft Azure, and in order to gain video access, Microsoft Silverlight is required.

The bulk of students in the Academy use the platform to enhance their programming and Microsoft-software skills. Self-assessment modules are present at the end of each course, so student will be able to gauge their progress and advancement. These modules can be taken and re-taken, until the student has passed the necessary exam or quiz.

MVA lets its students search for courses in a search bar. The keywords are used to display courses which match. Alternatively, a student may choose to view all courses, and choose from the thousands of courses which are available. MVA courses can then be broken up and narrowed by topic, product, level, job function, or language. They can also be arranged by relevance or release date. When found within a specific course list, the courses can be arranged by level, A to Z, or by popularity.

New courses are being uploaded every week, and with so much to choose from, every student can find what he or she needs in order to grow their career and push themselves forward. Students also have the option of rating courses they have viewed, so as to let other students know their overall experience and satisfaction with the course in question.

The courses taught at MVA are not merely theoretical. The educational value is important, but real-world experience and practicality is what most employers and managers are looking for. The teams of experts which teach at the Academy present engaging demonstrations, as well as scenarios which students are sure to encounter in the real world. These courses are meant to provide students with the necessary skills and knowledge. Once trained and tested, students can apply these skills immediately. Whether trying to advance at work, or preparing to sit for a Microsoft certification examination, these courses are your best friends and mentors. Taught by Microsoft professionals, for those seeking to become Microsoft professionals. What could be better?

“Never Stop Learning”

From time to time, MVA also hosts challenges for developers and techies. These are meant not only as a fun learning experience, but also as a jumping board for IT professionals. In a recent challenge, titled ‘Know it. Prove it.’, Microsoft invited developers to participate in a Windows 10 and Python challenge. The winner was to receive an all-expenses-paid to Seattle, and a backstage pass to the Microsoft campus. There, the winner will visit one of Microsoft’s data centers, chat with Microsoft’s experts, get a private tour of Microsoft’s Envision Center, and see the backstage of Microsoft Virtual Academy. The next round of challenges is set to begin at February 2016.

The MVA motto is: Great technology never stops evolving. Successful techies never stop learning.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure

This is true on many levels. Those who are curious will always be curious. There is always something which can be further developed, improved-upon, taken to the next level, and perfected. The community at the Academy is supportive and engaging. Helping technology evolve and helping professionals succeed – this is at the heart of the Academy’s interests. In an effort to lend a helping hand to the IT community, Microsoft Press has also released free and paid eBooks, related to the different courses taught at the Academy. The most popular eBooks are on Microsoft System Center, Microsoft Azure, and App Development. Students can also receive significant discounts on other eBooks and printed books, through the Microsoft Press Store. Free eBooks come in PDF, EPUB, and Mobi for Kindle formats.

Those who teach at the Academy are interested – probably more than anything – in their students’ success. The success of Academy students means people are making the most of Microsoft’s various systems and products. And, as stated earlier, mastering current technology paves the way for the engineering and creation of new technology. Each generation is standing on the shoulders of the previous generation. Consequently, every technology is based on its predecessors. There is no limit to what we can do, if only given the right tools. Education has always been the way of the future, and Microsoft is well aware of this. This is why Microsoft has chosen to put that knowledge out there, for free.

Microsoft Virtual Academy is a school. But, then again, it isn’t only a school. It is also a meeting place for some of the world’s top Microsoft experts. It hosts challenges, live events, and a living and breathing community of professionals. Those interested in building their name, their career, and their skills, will do well to join the Academy, and see how Microsoft’s experts can help them reach that next level, whatever it is.

Microsoft got it right. It knows who its audience is. Gamifying the process of learning is something which can dramatically increase participation and motivation. Students come to the Academy to learn, but they also get something more out of it. By using a points-and-rewards system, hosting active user forums, and challenging its users, Microsoft makes sure that students who show up to learn also become part of a larger community.

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