Xamarin University: worth it?

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I’ve been using Xamarin University since april this year. My primary goal was to use it for certification purposes. The certification process requires you to follow several live classes where instructors go through the material using GoToMeeting. You can skip some of the required classes by taking an assessment exam.

Assessment exam

When you have some experience with Xamarin, you can consider skipping some 100-level classes by taking an assessment exam. I went through all the required video’s for the assessment at a playback speed of 2x to glance through the material quickly. This gave me a solid idea about what level of knowledge would be required to pass the assessment exam.

I managed to score a whopping 88% at the Xamarin University Assessment exam without too much effort. After the assessment I felt that one of the questions was just wrong. So I decided to email Xamarin University about it. Within no time they acknowledged the fact and corrected the question. It was an “all of the above” question, where you could check all answers as well, so that was a bit confusing.

So in fact my final score should have been 90%, but it doesn’t really matter. The minimum requirement was 80% over 50 questions.

The classes

I needed to finish all of the required classes before I could take the final exam. Xamarin requires you to live attend most of the classes. If you attend all these classes, you get a link to take the exam.

At first I was a bit gutted by the fact that you had to attend live. I was so accustomed to learning on-demand with services like Pluralsight for example, that I was unsure of the added value of live classes. But after my first few classes, I was proven wrong. The instructors added a lot of value, especially when you had some questions regarding the class material. The other students’ questions, and sometimes even answers, were very valuable as well.

It took quite some effort to plan and take all the classes though, since the total runtime of all required classes were about 24 hours of live training (after skipping the assessment classes). This is especially hard because not every class is given every day. Sometimes you have to plan a few weeks in advance. I managed to plan a marathon during a week of vacation to get through it without too much hassle.

There are several class tracks, ranging from normal cross platform development to Xamarin Android and Xamarin iOS to Xamarin Forms. Windows Phone development is not required, but maybe this will change in the future since Microsoft is involved with Xamarin nowadays.

Kudos to the instructors (Judy McNeil, Chris van Wyk and Jason DeBoever) that I had during this time. Most of the time they managed to get a good mix between serious learning and some jokes. Jason had the odd habit of trying to check off every continent with attendants to his classes, which was quite amusing at times.

Studying time

Finally I got through every required class and got a link to the final exam, so now the real studying could begin. I didn’t feel like going through every single class video again (there are videos of every class as well for reference), so I downloaded all presentation slides and went through every single one of them. There were about 1350 slides in total, but they contain nearly all information you would need for the exam.

You could choose to do the lab exercises from the classes again, but if you work with Xamarin on a regular basis this shouldn’t be needed. At least, I didn’t do them for my exam.

The final exam

Before taking the exam I looked at the list of required classes once more and noticed that one particular class (XAM-370) disappeared from the list. It got replaced by another class in the time between studying for the exam and taking the exam. During the exam, no questions were asked about this particular class. So be prepared for changing requirements, but you should always be if you’re a developer :-).

The final exam requires you to get a score of 80% or higher with 150 questions. You get about 3 hours to complete it. I managed to complete the exam in about 2 hours and got a score of 92%, which means I got 12 questions out of 150 wrong.

Xamarin University certification result

Taking your time and logical thinking gets you quite far in the exam. If I can give you one tip it would be: if you don’t know the answer to a question, just go with your gut feeling and note the question number somewhere so you can get back to it when you have time left in the end. Not answering is guaranteed to be wrong.

Once you pass the exam you get a certificate and certification badges for use wherever you want. People can look you up as being certified through the Xamarin Developer Certification page. And you also get a Xamarin Certification trophy to show off. I expected it to be plastic, but it turned out to be made of glass. Very nice!

Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer trophy for Tim Klingeleers

Xamarin Certified Mobile Developer trophy

Is Xamarin University worth it?

There is a steep price point of $ 1995 for enrollment in Xamarin University for your first year. It drops to $ 1499 for each subsequent year. However, if you think about the instructors who put a lot of time and effort in this, it isn’t such a high price.

Personally I certainly believe it is worth it, at least for your initial certification process. Although I was using Xamarin for quite some time already I have learned new things in every class I took, even in the 101 classes! So even if you don’t want to get certified, you certainly get a lot of value out of Xamarin University.

You also get Office Hours, which means you get up to 8 sessions of about 30 minutes. With Office Hours you can get answers from instructors about classes, code reviews, architectural guidance or general mobile strategy. I have not yet used this, but it certainly adds value. Plus you get some Xamarin swag during the process.

The future will tell if the recertification process is worth it as well. So until then, I would suggest to join Xamarin University if you haven’t made up your mind yet.

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  • Joilson Cisne

    Thanks for sharing. How long did it take? The whole process.

    • Tim Klingeleers

      Hi Joilson. It took me about two to three months to complete the whole process. But the certification has been changed recently. It’s much more focussed on Xamarin Forms now. The required classes also changed a lot, so the time it took me might not be accurate for the current process.

      But by all means take your time for certification, test what you learned and ask questions during the classes! Good luck if you’re going for it.

  • Mike

    If the UI for both iOS and Android have to be built separately using Xamarin (Xamarin.iOS/Xamarin.Android) what are the benefits to using Xamarin when most of the app is a light-weight UI? All data is coming from a RESTful endpoint and sent directly to the UI components. At this point is it easier to build the app within their native development tools and skip Xamarin!!! The only common code would be the network and RESTful tranformation (from JSON to Object) which is fairly easy to accomplish in both iOs and Android.
    In my opinion the advantage of implement just once, the business logic in a mobile app, do not make to worth the time and effort to use Xamarin. I have been working with Xamarin for around 6 months, and I have been working native for iOS and Android for more than 7 years, including another cross platforms technologies based on Javascript. My personal opinion and my conclusion it is that Xamarin is just a dream for small companies and startup who may want to have a fast delivery of a product in the market, and say that is “native”. But that technologie it self will only add problemns to their apps and their development teams, spending time solving extra isuees.
    Compannies think in time and money for that reason they dream with Xamarin like an option, developers think on quality, sturdiness and the power of the tools, and unfortunatley Xamarin do not offer nothing like that. Big companies do not have excuse or reason to use Xamarin.
    Xamarin could be an option for new developers who does not know any native techologies like iOS or Android, then may be right expend time with this kind of cross platform tecnologies, but since Xamarin is nothing it self, that developer have to learn soon or later all the target native platforms, since he has to understand how really everything work to be able to do something by he self. But in any case he will have to spent most of the dev time looking for nuget packages, external libraries or plugin or whatever someone else have done to achive he task.
    Finally Xamarin allways will be behind the native techologies because they have to wait for the release of any new feature for then they implement the compatibility.
    In short words, in my opinion Xamarin is not a professional tool for mobile development, you can use Xamarin for some apps with very simple UI, but in long term your team have to go back to native.
    To use Xamarin like an easy options it is like try to compare Movie Makers with Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. It’s true you can edit some videos with Movie Makers like you can create some apps with Xamarin, but although you can make a workaround with Movie Makers to have something with a professional look, Movie Makers it is not a professional tool, and Xamarin neither.
    For all Xamarin supporter: notice that I have been working in complex apps using Xamarin, and the time and the effort really do not worth it. I know and I understand that it is a beautiful dream, I know how cursi and nice could looks like your code, but do not deceive yourselves. Anyone who really has experience as a native developer will also affirm what I say: “without favoritism, it can be compared but it will never be the same”.
    Objective-C it is beautiful, Swift it is beautiful, Java it is beautiful, and the architecture behind those tecnologies to be developing native in iOS or Android it is clean, wonderful, amazing.
    It is a disrespect to compare development in Xamarin with the power and professionalism that Apple offers with its development environments for mobile development (Objective-C, Swift, Xcode and all other tools), or Google with Java, Android Studio and all the tools that it offers for Android, and all the excelent docs with clear samples. Believe me, I have tried to understand why Xamarin. But no reason I have found, any case if time or prototype something it is your goal, then cross platform technologies based in javascript could be (by far) easier, faster and elegant, then with more time you can implement the native solution if you want.
    I may be wrong but Xamarin like Siverlight, WPF may eventually desappear.
    I know and I understand that Xamarin wants to do what Java did in his time, but I don’t think this will happen because Google and Apple have Android and iOS growing very fast.

    • Tim Klingeleers

      Hi Mike, thanks for your opinion on Xamarin vs native development. Although the blogpost you are commenting on does not touch on this topic, I want to take the time to give you my view on things and put some of your arguments in perspective.

      First of all I have to agree that sometimes native iOS or Android implementations will be the best choice. If you have teams available with good knowledge of native iOS and Android development, and no C# knowledge, that is absolutely the way to go.
      But there are cases where Xamarin can be considered as well. For companies, the most interesting thing is that you can reuse the existing language skills of your developers when they already are heavily invested in C#. In that case, you can achieve the same things you could in real native development with Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android as well. You are right that at some point you will have to get to know the API’s of the specific platforms. But in this case you could suffice by having a few team members with native iOS or Android knowledge.

      In the case of apps that mostly show REST-based content, you are correct that it is fairly easy to make an app in iOS and Android. But you have to know both technologies or you would need 2 teams (even if it is 1 person per team) and have to implement the REST clients twice. For those light-weight UI apps, in my opinion, Xamarin Forms is your best choice. It’ll be way faster, and therefore cheaper, to implement than the native alternatives. And while there are only 2 major platforms right now, who knows what the future will bring (I hope the fragmentation will not increase, but I don’t have a crystal ball).

      I’m wondering why you are saying that Xamarin would not be a professional tool for mobile development. Xamarin improved greatly over the years, and Microsoft is now behind the technology. So I expect that a lot of good things for developers are coming. It has become open source recently, and a lot of companies are investing in Xamarin for mobile app development. So I don’t think that we will see Xamarin disappearing soon. I also don’t think you can put Xamarin in the same category as Silverlight, because Silverlight was a Flash alternative which failed, in favour of the HTML5 movement.

      When a new iOS or Android release is announced, you do have to wait a little bit before there are bridges available for Xamarin. But in my view this has never been an issue before. You don’t have the API’s available when the beta is just released, but the Xamarin team starts working on those C# bridges instantly. As far as I can remember I have always been able to play with the API’s in C#, and adjusting my apps accordingly, way before the final release of a new version.

      Xamarin also has Xamarin Forms as an alternative, where code sharing can be improved by also sharing UI code (see my post on the comparison between Xamarin.Forms and Xamarin.iOS/Xamarin.Android: https://tim.klingeleers.be/2016/01/22/xamarin-native-vs-xamarin-forms/).

      Xamarin does have its own shortcomings though. The biggest thing I’m missing personally on Xamarin is that there is no way to easily bridge Swift-based Pods. This is where initiatives like NativeScript (JS-based alternative to Xamarin) do shine.

      In the end, it all depends on the team you have and the investment you are willing to do as a company. For small companies and startups this is especially important. There is no right or wrong, it’s all about choice and getting an edge over your competitors. Also remember that there is a difference between personal opinions, and the choices you would make for a team or company.

      • Funny thing, this exact comment word-for-word (above from “Mike”) was posted to my blog recently.

        • Tim Klingeleers

          Hm, that might be the reason why it didn’t match the topic exactly.

          • Yeah, I read your post (great article by the way) and wandered into the comments. After reading about 3 sentences of that comment I thought, this sounds very familiar. Strange.

  • Bro_bot

    Hi, thanks for sharing. Do you think you’ll go through the process (and stump up the $) to re-certify?

    • Tim Klingeleers

      Yes, that is on my to-do list for this year. Especially since the focus of certification changed a lot since I certified.

  • Mark Erasmus

    For someone getting started with Xamarin, would you recommend Xamarin University or Pluralsight?

    • Tim Klingeleers

      Hi Mark, thanks for reaching out. If you want to get an in depth knowledge of Xamarin, I would suggest Xamarin University.

      Pluralsight does offer Xamarin courses, but it’s quite hard to get a proper learning path from there. And in fact not all Xamarin courses are very recent on Pluralsight (in the last 6 months, there has been 1 new Xamarin related course).

      With Xamarin University, you can start with the 100-level classes and proceed up to the 400-level classes in a gradual way. And they are all kept up-to-date, plus the office hours can be very beneficial! Since a few weeks/months ago, Xamarin University does offer monthly subscriptions, so use that to your advantage.

  • evo_9

    Nice right up, very informative. Do you happen to know how much of the material is offered on Xamarin University that is on Windows Visual Studio versus OSX Visual Studio (2017)?

    It’s damn near impossible to find thorough, detailed tutorials on Mac VS now that Xamarin is supported in Windows (this is very very frustrating and causing me to reconsider using Xamarin entirely).

    Their University is kind of my last attempt at getting rolling on this platform so I’m really wondering if they are also stuck on Windows Only when all I’m trying to do is learn how to develop IOS Apps in Xamarin on Mac with no PC involved (you know, they way it use to be). Thanks!

    • Tim Klingeleers

      On Xamarin University it is up to the instructors to use the environment they prefer. I haven’t used Xamarin University a lot lately, but a few months ago I felt most of the instructors were still using Mac OS during the courses.

      However, there isn’t a lot of difference between Visual Studio for Mac and Visual Studio for Windows in my opinion. I happen to use both during my work. Let me know if you bump into specific issues, I might be able to help you out.

      • evo_9

        Hey thanks for the reply and the offer. Good to know things aren’t too different, going to give the Xamarin University trail a go and see how that is. 30 days, not bad.

      • evo_9

        Hmm… been stuck on a Xamarin setup issue… any ideas?

        “Failed to write iTunes Connect service key. Reason: Could not find a part of the path “/Users/rickg/Library/Xamarin/itc_service_key.txt”.”

        I can open/create/run projects in Xcode without an issue signed into the same apple ID…

  • I am a recent IT college grad and don’t have much industry work experience yet. Xamarin has really intrigued me and it is something that I have been learning on my own over the past month using pluralsight and their guides and documentation. I hope to eventually be able to find a job doing it. Do you think that the Xamarin University certification will noticeably help my chances of getting a job for this stage in my career?

    • Tim Klingeleers

      Great to see you are interested in Xamarin.

      Gaining the knowledge and creating a portfolio is more powerful than the certificate by itself. Whether a certificate will help, depends a lot on the company you are talking to. Some companies require certifications, others don’t care at all.

      So Xamarin University will certainly help you, regardless of the certification process. In any case, the certification can’t harm if you followed the classes and understand how Xamarin works. Good luck!

  • Alex Hernandez

    So basically it is a 1 year contract, but you have to pay per month? I was thinking of taking this course, but I don’t like the idea of auto pay. I like how pluralsight lets you choose pay per month and cancel any time.

    • Tim Klingeleers

      Since this article was published, the subscription model changed quite a lot. You can now purchase a monthly subscription through Azure (about 83.5$/month), which you can cancel at any time. So you are no longer required to make a commitment for a year. See https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/vsts/billing/xamarin-univ for more information.

      I will soon add a note to this article which explains the updated subscription model.

  • Josh Lueck

    Hi Tim did the process take 3 months of time outside of normal working or did your company sponsor it? I have 12 years of .net experience and have done a ton of WPF but I am looking to branch out of it and mobile is of high interest to me. Do you think the certification gives you enough information to go rock an interview and get a job with no professional mobile experience?

    • Tim Klingeleers

      Hi Josh, since some classes are only available a few times per month, it can take quite some time to do all the required ones. When I did my initial studying, all required classes combined were over 24 hours in runtime. So in fact, you can do it as fast or as slow as you like. And yes, my company did sponsor my subscription fee, but I did the training in my own time.

      I certainly think that certification by Xamarin University can give you enough information to build a decent app, and possible get you a job. But an experienced app developer can figure out if you have sufficient experience or not in no time, so be aware of that. Knowing iOS and Android, both functionally and technically, is important as well because they all have their own quirks that you need to be aware of.

      So don’t expect to “rock” an interview based on the certification classes alone. Good luck and welcome to the mobile world!