Project Q&A - What's the difference between certification prep courses & practical courses?
Great question! In fact, I get this one quite a lot and, realistically, there can be enormous differences in the deliverables for both course types. So, here's a stab at an answer:
A course that prepares you to become certified will usually focus almost exclusively on "teaching the book." That book may be the Project Management Institute's (PMI.org ) Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) or any of several equivalent references around the globe.
A key element of these courses is to learn very specific knowledge as comprehensively as possible so that attendees may either qualify to take a test or qualify for a given number of "formal training" hours. (See the requirements for your chosen credential.)
(There is another option out there called a Test Prep course. These sessions focus exclusively on providing strategies and tactics necessary to take [and, preferably] pass a given test.)
A practical course in project management will (possibly) use the same standards text but will be more closely focused on how it's actually applied to the real world. Taking this course, or this series, is not necessarily going to provide you with those highly detailed credential testing scenarios.
I use the PMI PMBOK as the absolute backbone for the course. In five days, we step through its entirety, reviewing the foundation, process groups, knowledge areas, and processes as detailed in the guide. We cover these in as much depth as time and the attendees can withstand but we ensure that all specific knowledge is covered across the course life cycle.
Next, intermingled within the PMBOK-specific content, I add real world case studies and examples - at whatever level of experience or size/type enterprise needed by the individual attendees. This is tough to deliver because my sessions tend to include both experienced project managers and individuals who have no experience and/or no background education in the field. However, my core deliverable for the course is to put people on the street who not only understand WHAT needs to be done (and in what order) but also WHY it should be done. Next I'm concerned with ensuring that they are as confident as possible in executing procedures across the entire project environment - up to and including providing a range of templates they can use from day one.
Just to keep my life challenging, there are also frequently a few students in each group who are expecting to prep themselves for certification. For them, I have to blend the general focus into very highly targeted materials. These folks require an entirely different approach to content delivery than other attendees.
Realistically, I can't possibly customize the course to every single attendee issue but I can get pretty close. Does this help? If not, let me know & I'll re-phrase.