Whether you’re just getting started with Asterisk or need help with a specific topic, Digium offers a variety of training options to meet your needs. Our online and instructor-led courses teach you how to install, configure, tune, and maintain a complete Asterisk system. Certifications are also available, allowing you to bring a new skill set to your career or company. I sat down with our Asterisk trainers to get an in-depth look into the Asterisk Advanced and Asterisk Fast Start course outlines, along with goals of the training for each course.
First, let’s meet the Asterisk trainers – Melissa Shepherd and Justin Hester:
Melissa Shepherd is Digium’s Asterisk Training Manager, having joined Digium in 2013 from CSC. She has over 15 years experience crafting and deploying technology solutions and end-user training for government and non-profit organizations. Melissa holds an MLS from the University of Alabama. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, cycling, and coaching girls ages 8-18 in the sport of flat-track roller derby.
Justin Hester is Digium’s Asterisk Technical Trainer. Before joining Digium in 2013, Justin spent seven years performing various roles related to training and technical support in a large corporate contact center environment. Justin holds a BS from University of North Alabama. When he isn’t grepping security logs, Justin is playing vintage video games with his wife and four-year-old son, or practicing his disc golf drive.
What kind of experience does the ideal student need to have in order to be successful in the Asterisk Advanced course?
Justin: Asterisk Advanced is primarily a course for administrators who have worked with Asterisk comfortably in the past, usually anywhere from 3-12 months. I certainly have students who come in and have only had experience with Asterisk for a few months and were very successful. I’ve also had students who have only worked with a GUI for four years and they have some challenges (although we don’t really address GUI work in Asterisk Advanced – we work from the command line). It’s safe to say a strong foundational knowledge of Asterisk is required to be successful in the course.
Describe the content and structure of the Asterisk Advanced training
Justin: At the beginning you have just an Asterisk server that is essentially unconfigured – it’s just sitting there waiting to do something. That is the first lesson. Asterisk is not really a PBX, it’s a toolkit, a framework. You use it to build stuff. You build those things with a pile of text files. Over the course of a week, we touch maybe 20 out of 200 or so text files, just in Asterisk. Linux as an operating system is very much text file driven, when you are talking about the server level. The class alternates between discussion time and lab time, focusing on various topic modules at a time.
Discussion time is mostly theory, although I try to make as much time as possible on the projector with my command line into a spare Asterisk system or a virtual machine, so that I can show class attendees what I’m talking about instead of just pointing to something on the slide. I also work on the white board and try to get them to engage, because it’s a discussion, not a lecture.
So the first half of each module consists of discussion time via Power Point, and the other half is lab time. Every student has their own workstation, which contains an Asterisk server and two phones. The students work through the labs using the theory we just talked about to build something else onto their Asterisk server.
As I’m moving through the theory portion of the content, I’ll take breaks and demo command line examples to show the students what I’m talking about. I also try to relate the content to a project the students are working on in real life. From beginning to end, I’m talking to them about what they want to do with Asterisk when they get home. That way I can try to address things they are more than likely going to run into.
What do you want students to know when they complete the Asterisk Advanced training? What are the main goals of the class?
Melissa: There are learning goals for each module of the training. For example, for SIP we would ask: what is SIP used for? It’s used for connecting end points. What kind of endpoints are common? A phone and a trunk, which is a connection from server to server. What do we want? We want them to be able to configure the channel driver for Asterisk 11 in order to pass calls over it. So learning those are some of the goals for the SIP module.
Really, we want, we welcome, and we expect at least three “comes-the-dawn” moments from every student- and that’s usually what happens.
At the end of the training, we want students to be able to go home and refer to their books if they can’t remember everything they have learned, and be able to find the information they need in order to rebuild and enhance what they built in class. Because Asterisk is a project, not a product. We at Digium teach Asterisk. We teach plain vanilla Asterisk built from source and configured for its original role as a basic communications server because that’s typically the first “product” any user builds from the “project.”
Justin: A lot of the problem with open source software in general is that new users don’t even know what questions to ask. We cover these sorts of topics, and these are all very much telephony-centered facts, such as monitoring for call centers and that sort of thing. Each one of the modules corresponds to a lecture and a lab. You build upon the theory we talked about in the lab on your individual box, and then at the end of the week you know a little bit about all of this. The one huge goal I would say is for the students to know how to go further with Asterisk.
What else would you like potential students to know about the Asterisk Advanced training class?
Justin: We want students to know that once you come out of this training, you aren’t going to be an AGI master, or a conferencing expert. There is no way we can teach you everything there ever was and is to know about conferencing. That rule applies to all of the training modules. It’s safe to say that about 95 percent of Asterisk or telephony people care about the topics we cover. They care about getting their SIP trunk set up, they care about voicemail, and they care about call recording.
What we are doing is providing you with knowledge about a “foot deep” in the greatest hits of Asterisk.
The main benefit of this course is getting a good start with Asterisk and knowing how to ask the right questions in order to go further with it.
How does Asterisk Advanced differ from the Asterisk Fast Start class?
Melissa: Asterisk Fast Start is a three-day, hands-on basic Asterisk course designed to prepare students for an entry-level Asterisk administrator position. Just like in the advanced course, we use a combination of lectures and practical lab exercises. The fast start course familiarizes you with Asterisk and the environment in which it operates, both in terms of operating system and telephony (traditional and IP) connections.
Justin: We cover three main things in Asterisk Fast Start: a foundation in telephony, in Linux, and Asterisk – which is a marriage of the two. The main difference between Asterisk Advanced and Asterisk Fast Start is where you started. If you’ve been just dropped into it, then AFS is the place you want to be. As I mentioned earlier, if you have been working with Asterisk comfortably for about 3-12 months, then you are ready for Asterisk Advanced.
What tools and resources can students access to further their knowledge of Asterisk once they get home from training?
Justin: Accumulation is the most powerful thing when it comes to Asterisk knowledge. Referring to the Asterisk community in general will be of value to them. This includes their Asterisk: The Definitive Guide [book information below], the Asterisk users list, mailing list, and the Asterisk Wiki.
Melissa: Students should also peruse the resources available on the community section of the Asterisk website.
For more information on Asterisk courses and scheduling,
visit Digium’s Training page
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