Image of Jeremy L. Gaddis, CCNA, CCNP (and Cortney, in case you were wondering)

CCNA Exploration

by Jeremy L. Gaddis

CCNA Exploration is one of five courses currently offered as part of Cisco Network Academy. The other curriculum relevant to our interests is CCNA Discovery, but my opinion is that Exploration is a better curriculum.

Course Delivery

Both CCNA Discovery and CCNA Exploration courses are intended for a classroom environment that is built upon both face-to-face instruction and independent study. The face-to-face portion encourages learning centered around the students while the independent study portion tests the students’ understanding of the material by completing interactive labs and exercises.


Both courses teach the same skills but, because they are designed for different types of learners, they differ in how the information is presented. CCNA Exploration is designed for students who (can) understand basic concepts such as binary math and algorithms and — later — advanced concepts such as the Spanning Tree Protocol algorithm and Shortest Path First.

Ideal students will have already developed problem-solving and “logical thinking” skills. For this reason, this class often appeals to students in the STEM fields. CCNA Exploration is designed to be taught in post-secondary educational institutions, although it may be suitable for some high school programs assuming the students have the required knowledge and skills.

Learning Styles

While the CCNA Discovery curriculum intends to offer an “engaging learning experience”, CCNA Exploration aims towards a more complete learning experience that is heavily theoretical. The language and terms used are also more advanced and there is no “dumbing down” of the protocols and standards. Interactive labs (using Packet Tracer) and exercises are numerous through the courses, helping to continually solidify the students’ learning.

CCNA Exploration goes into much greater depth in the content, ultimately leading to a better understanding of the theory for these students who are more analytical and possess advanced problem-solving and troubleshooting skills.


The single most important goal of the CCNA Exploration courses is to provide the student with the knowledge and skills needed to pass the CCNA exam and become Cisco certified. Along the way, it is necessary for students to develop a complete understanding of the algorithms, protocols, and standards used in the computer networking industry.

Structure of CCNA Exploration

Like CCNA Discovery, the CCNA Exploration curriculum is broken up into four courses:

  • Network Fundamentals
  • Routing Protocols and Concepts
  • LAN Switching and Wireless
  • Accessing the WAN

Unlike the four courses in CCNA Discovery, these courses are not necessarily always delivered in this order. The only requirement is that the Network Fundamentals course be delivered first. The rest of the curriculum may be presented in an alternate order or even simultaneously, although in practice the above order is usually followed.

CCNA Exploration Course Outlines

To give you a better understanding of what material is covered and in what order, I’ve written up the course outlines from the CCNA Exploration course books. These have now been moved to their own pages to enhance readability:

My Thoughts

If you’ve ever read any of the articles on my blog, Evil Routers, you likely already know that I believe in jumping straight into the theory and using “hands on” work to show “how it works”. Because of that, I strongly believe that any student who is interested in working towards CCNA certification through Network Academy should choose the CCNA Exploration course.

Many of the students who begin Network Academy already have basic computer skills and knowledge and, often, at least a minimal understanding of computer networking. This is the case more and more as students often have high-speed broadband network connections and perhaps even small home networks that they have already experimented with.

If you’re interested in pursuing Cisco certification, you simply can’t go wrong by enrolling in Network Academy.