Demystifying Partner Learning Camp & Accredited Professional Exams – State of the Union After 1 Year!

It’s fair to say that the addition of Partner Learning Camp (PLC) and Accredited Professional (AP) Exams has been a great addition to the repertoire of Salesforce’s programs that allow individuals and organisations to skill up on various clouds/ offerings. I have been a huge proponent of PLC & AP from the early days – if you have not read the Part 1 and Part 2 of my ‘Demystifying PLC & AP’ blog posts, please read those to get a better context.

Now that PLC & AP have been around for a while, I felt it will be good to do a State of the Union reflection of the good, the bad and the ugly pieces of this puzzle. And while I continue to support PLC and APs strongly, I will be completely unbiased and fair (as always) in my assessment, so here we go!

The Good!

Content I’ve always said that PLC is a “Goldmine of quality Salesforce content” and I still believe that’s very much true. The best part about PLC is that the content is being produced directly by the Product Managers, Product Owners and teams who’re responsible for the products/ features/ Clouds so the technical depth of the content is amazing.

I do want to call out the B2B & B2C Solution Architect courses on PLC -I completed those long back and those for me, set the benchmark for other courses to follow. Since then, I’ve come across several other courses/ modules which maintain similar gold standard for high quality content. Overall, if I were to give an average rating to the content on PLC, it will be a 9 out of 10 – the only reason, I don’t give it a perfect 10 is because there are some courses/ curriculums which are not up to the mark.

Vouchers – Salesforce has been extremely generous when it comes to giving out vouchers for the AP exams and it has further stepped up those efforts as part of Salesforce Days. As I write this, Salesforce has an active campaign for people to be able to earn a free AP voucher if they complete the corresponding curriculum in PLC. Apart from that, Partner Managers have also been giving out a few to respective partners and there have been a few campaigns on Partner Community giving out vouchers.

So, when it comes to vouchers, I’ll definitely give a 10/10 on that one.

Credly – Earlier this year, Salesforce decided to use Credly for all AP credentials. Credly seems to be a solid platform for issuing credentials and it provides a public portfolio for certifications. The bonus is that a number of other companies use it for issuing credentials – AWS, CertiProf, Nvidia and several more. I love the fact that my public Credly profile shows all these credentials in one place.

I’ve done a number of AP exams since they launched. The overall numbers for APs are fairly impressive for Year 1 – I managed to complete 21 of the available 34 available AP exams and I have a number of others on my too list.

My AP Credentials

Again, a job really well done to pick the right platform – so another 10 out of 10 on that one as well!

And of course, not everything is perfect with PLC and APs. Let’s talk about a few things which need improvement.

What needs to be fixed?

Examity – Since I’ve passed 21 AP exams (and failed around 8 of them), I can certainly say that I’m fairly experienced on the Examity platform. I’m not exaggerating but every time, I registered by paying for an exam for or started my exam – I’ve been forced to cross my fingers and say my prayers. The integration between PLC and Examity is still very wonky – sometimes the payment does not go through, sometimes the exam does not launch and on other occasions, the exam will abruptly end.

That’s not all, the real problem is when you get to Examity support to try and get the issue resolved – it’s a mountain of a task to get them to help resolve your issue. I’ve had so many troubles in the past – they’ve outrightly refused to fix the issue sometimes, in some cases, I’ve been put on holds which are more than 30 mins and several other forgettable experiences. I’ve taken a lot of exams in my career over the last 22 years including platforms such as Webassessor, Pearson Vue, PSI and several others – I’ve said it earlier and I say it again – Examity needs to step up it’s game (and it’s support)

It’s a completely different experience when you register for the exam with a voucher – everything seems to work well in most cases.

Examity

I wish I had a better score for Examity but I would rate it as 6 out of 10.

Trailhead SyncA number of PLC courses have Trailhead modules – which, by the way, is great – you get the best of both worlds. The problem, though is, that the sync between Trailhead and PLC still doesn’t work. As I write this, I have at least 3 courses which I’ve completed including Trailhead modules and rest of the content but those are not marked complete presumably because this sync is not working.

I know the PLC team has tried multiple approaches including a 24-hour sync, an on-demand sync and a few others but this still does not seem to be working and if you are a course taker, it is EXTREMELY FRUSTRATING!

One year is enough to iron out these issues and unfortunately, that has not happened so far. I’ll rate this aspect as another 6 out of 10 as well and I sincerely hope that it’s fixed soon.

And now coming to a few things where the plot seems completely lost. I am usually very patient but this is where things get really bad in terms of a good learner experience.

What’s really needs to be fixed ASAP!

PerformanceI had a headstart on PLC and I did a lot of courses in the early days. Hence, it was natural that I uncovered a number of performance issues which others did not. I have time and again flagged this to the PLC team and I did see some updates every now and then in release notes about it. The problem though is that PLC simply DOES NOT WORK AT SCALE and I will once again (for the umpteenth time) flag it.

This is how the dashboard page loads – usually takes around 25-30 seconds to load.

I have about 161 courses completed and I’m registered for 258 courses so surely, there is some amount of data to load but the current performance level is surely NOT acceptable for any learning management system or any web app for that matter.

The problem is that it gets worse when I try to go to the ‘Browse Catalog’ and I try to register for other courses. It simply DOES NOT LOAD at all – I’ve reached out to the team multiple times and been assured that the platform has been tested for scale – clearly that’s not the case. I had the same issues earlier and I had to get the support to manually un-enroll me from few courses so the page would even load for me! And that’s more of one-time hack, not a proper solution either.

This is the Browse Catalog page – I had to actually stop the video after 1 minute because the page will not load even if I wait for 10 minutes.

So, as things stand, I’m NOT ABLE TO REGISTER for any new courses because the catalog simply does not load for me. This is a big FAIL for me and for anyone who wants to learn on the platform. I’ve flagged this issue several times, raised cases and it’s unfortunate that this stalemate continues.

I wish I had a better score but given that I’m not able to do any new courses, I don’t think I can go any better than 3 out of 10.

Course Completion – I don’t know how the content issues are being fixed by the PLC team but it seems to be impacting completed course numbers. I had completed around 185 courses a few months back, and then the count dropped to 170+ . And when I logged in a few days back, it has dropped to 160 – it takes a lot of effort to do a course and this is extremely disappointing for me.

It ties back to the earlier point that I want to complete courses on PLC so I can get exam vouchers but I’m not able to complete them as the Catalog does not load for me and some of my courses which I completed or was close to completion have their status written off. This is another big red flag for me but I’ll still give it a 4/10.

Support – I know that support is generally a thankless job – you get blasted when things don’t work but rarely get the appreciation when everything works as expected. I’ve always been very thankful to support teams when I’ve received help in a timely manner. The big problem with PLC support is that it’s still VERY SLOW – you still have to wait for days to get your certificates as well as support to respond on cases for marking your courses complete.

Putting things in perspective, AP exams are a massive focus area for all Salesforce Partners in the ongoing Salesforce Days program. Something needs to change, perhaps a dedicated support team for PLC & AP issues or a more real-time option such as Slack, the overall support experience needs to certainly improve though. I’d rate the current support level as 5 out of 10.

Wrapping Up

On the flip side, there are several good improvements in the last year or so which have been made to PLC including

  • Release Notes
  • Support for other languages
  • New Exams being added regularly
  • Localised Exams

I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate the PLC & AP team for completing year 1 with impressive stats.

I can imagine it’s been a lot of work but there’s certainly more to be done to provide a more refined learning and test taking experience. I hope all my feedback is taken in a constructive spirit and I will continue to strongly vouch for PLC & APs in the coming months and years. At the same time, I will continue to provide critical feedback as well to make it a better experience for everyone involved.

Yours Truly!

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