How to Get Hands-on Experience on AWS, Azure, and GCP: Lab Challenges

Meaningful cloud skills require more than book knowledge. Hands-on experience is required to translate knowledge into real-world results. We see this time and time again in studies about how kids and adults best learn — doing the actual learning task is key. Hands-on Labs and Lab Challenges give you quick and easy access to real cloud deployments so you can get practical experience right away.

Screenshot of a selection of Cloud Academy labs

What are Hands-on Labs?

Hands-on Labs are actual cloud environments that enable you to learn by doing across Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and other technologies in real-time. With no additional costs, accounts, or cloud resources to deploy, Hands-on Labs are the perfect way to learn cloud computing, risk-free. Carrying the hands-on analogy to a cringe-worthy level, you can get your hands dirty without really getting them dirty.

How do Hands-on Labs work?

It’s easy. You just…

  • Choose a lab
  • Click a button to start the lab
  • Get credentials given to you for your cloud environment
  • Click a link, log in, and go!

Want to see some real labs in action? Do you have three minutes?

Check out these two Lab Snippets, which quickly walk you through some labs:

What are Lab Challenges?

Lab Challenges are Hands-on Labs with the gloves off. You jump into an auto-provisioned cloud environment and are given a goal to accomplish within a certain time. No instructions, no hints. It’s just like problem-solving in a working environment where your first reaction might be, “What the heck is going on, and how do I fix it??

It will be normal to feel overwhelmed and that is the point. When you are forced to figure things out on your own, you’ll do a better job of retaining information. This will help you when you need to apply your knowledge on the job, but also in certification exams.

Now, we don’t leave you completely stranded as you attempt to complete a Lab Challenge. At any time, you can check the status of your work by running checks that inspect the state of your Lab environment.

What’s a specific Lab Challenge example?

You can check out the AWS Developer Tools Challenge. You’ll jump into an environment where you find an error in your Data Pipeline, and it’s your job to figure out what the problem is and fix it — within 90 minutes.

Cloud Academy's Dev Tools Lab Challenge example error

This Lab Challenge simulates a real-world environment where CI/CD practices have already been implemented for an application by a group. You’ll have to perform actions that closely align with tasks that might be expected as a DevOps engineer in a real-world setting.

As we mentioned, the problem-solving you’ll have to do will include finding and fixing a bug in production as well as making several updates to the CI/CD stack within AWS. Don’t worry, we do help you and won’t leave you high and dry.

Here’s an example of the checks you’ll be able to make as you progress through the lab. After all, in a real-world situation, you’ll still be able to get some guidance, even if your manager or colleague is running around putting out fires.

Examples of checks as part of Lab Challenges

What if the challenges are too hard?

If you feel you need more practice before taking the actual challenge, we recommend that you take the guided version or browse our Training Library for related material.

Benefits of learning in labs

Hands-on learning has a ton of benefits. Let’s lay them out:

Contain the blast radius

When you work within a sandboxed environment you can make changes and make big mistakes that won’t affect your production environment. You can focus on learning and nothing else. Normally, a production environment doesn’t provide these types of guardrails.

Access live training environments

You might be in a simulation of your production environment, but make no mistake, you’ll be in a real cloud training environment that’s deployed just for you.

Guided instruction

Labs provide you step-by-step guidance so you can practice your skills over and over again. Plus, you can try and make some of your own changes as well.

Verified learning

As part of a larger training plan, labs help to attest that you and your team members understand how to execute on practical cloud functions.

Mimic your tech stack

Custom Hands-on Labs allow you to deliver training experiences in environments that mimic the tools and architecture that your teams are actually using. Content Engine makes it simple to clone an existing Hands-on Lab, select a base environment, and modify steps.

So there you go. Jumping into the deep end is the best way to really learn how to swim in the choppy waters of the tech landscape. Hands-on Labs and Lab Challenges provide you with the training and right amount of scaffolding to help you reach your learning goals.

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