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Following recent news about an Oracle training provider who allegedly scammed his customers, Oracle training experts had unanimous advice for consumers: Be a smart shopper.

“[Oracle’s] advice would be to be a smart shopper and to ask for confirmation of credentials and/or to begin by reviewing the list of Oracle authorized partners who are indeed so credentialed,” said Beth Broderson, senior director of Oracle Services Marketing, in New York.

Ed Haskins, the training provider in question, admitted to that, over the course of running now-defunct training sites including OraKnowledge, he had sometimes failed to deliver purchased material or to give promised refunds. In addition, he said he sent out spam e-mail that featured a fictional security expert and a stock photo.

Read more about Haskins and his Oracle training ventures.

How do you vet an Oracle training provider? The safest way, of course, is to go directly through the company itself.

However, Oracle won’t disclose customer details, though, such as whether an individual who claims to be certified is indeed certified. Broderson suggests that consumers put the onus of proof on the training provider when it comes to claims of Oracle certification.

Nor does Oracle Corp, of Redwood Shores, Calif., certify trainers, per se, according to Ed Dansker, senior director of alliances for Oracle University, in New York. Rather, those professionals who achieve Oracle certification and who want to teach at Oracle University are vetted both for technical skills and presentation skills before being unleashed into the classroom.

And that’s only following a “fairly rigorous program” that includes attending classes the future instructors will teach, co-teaching classes they’ll be teaching, and ultimately being observed and approved by a senior instructor, Dansker said. A similar procedure transpires for an indirect channel of organizations that teach Oracle skills in conjunction with Oracle.

In other words, when purchasing training from Oracle itself, consumers are safe in assuming they won’t get a raw deal.

Unfortunately, for many DBMs (database managers), that’s not a viable option, considering steep training costs. Costs per day for Oracle instructor-led training are about $500. Oracle-provided training for Oracle9i, for example, totals about $12,000.

That’s an unlikely expenditure for an individual who’s been laid off or whose employer won’t open its pocket that widely, said Steve Bobrowski, the founder of 4SKWare Technologies Inc., which runs the online Oracle training company DBDomain.

Bobrowski said he had tracked Haskins’ training ventures for years, after declining to sell Haskins training material for rebranding. According to Bobrowski, Haskins wanted a laughably low price for the content—$3 per CD-ROM, instead of the $500 Bobrowski was then charging.

Customers who shell out a few thousand dollars for CD-ROM training materials and then get ripped off may not seem to constitute an earth-shattering story in the technology industry at large, but it’s an extremely large story to the individual who’s struggling to advance his or her career, Bobrowski said. “To the individual who scraped money together to buy training and move their career ahead, it’s an incredibly big story,” he said.

Next Page: Scams Cast Doubt on Legitimate Educational Alternatives

There is a wide range of Oracle training—training that ranges from “Oracle for Dummies” books sold in corner bookstores to non-Oracle University instructor-led classes that can cost about half that of Oracle University classes. Many, if not most, of these non-Oracle University choices are completely reputable, according to Cushing Anderson, an analyst with IDC, in Framingham, Mass.

But the activities of one such as Haskins throws such legitimate, moderately-priced training venues into disrepute, Bobrowski said. “He has essentially tarnished small, independent training providers who are trying to be out there and provide alternatives for something they otherwise couldn’t obtain,” he said. “That’s a huge disservice to us.”

According to a Channel Insider story Linux certifications can also pay off for IT professionals .

In one case, DBDomain was contacted by an individual who had been burned by OraKnowledge. The individual asked that DBDomain provide references as well as assurances that the outfit knew what they were doing and had quality material.

DBDomain was happy to provide all that, Bobrowski said, since the company’s “not going anywhere.”

“We’re happy to stand by our product and do right by our customers,” Bobrowski said. “But there are obviously others out there who aren’t going to do that.”

Haskins himself would likely agree with that assessment, having told that he shed the OraKnowledge branding and set up a fictional security expert named Robert Allen because his own name became too much of a negative burden.

Whereas the DBDomain customer learned the hard way what questions he or she should have asked before purchasing Oracle training from OraKnowledge, others should learn the questions before losing the money, Bobrowski said.

To that end, DBDomain’s site offers a three-page, downloadable list of 20 questions to ask training vendors. Here is a sampling from that list:

  • Who developed your Oracle training? (Don’t settle for vague statements here, get names.)
  • What are the credentials of that person, or those people? (Ask about technical and teaching credentials; get URL if published on Web.)If courses were developed “with” Oracle Corp., what exactly does that mean? (Did the company get Oracle’s class notes and rewrite them into CD or online training; if so, who exactly rewrote the training notes?)