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My Experience With IBM's zXplore Learning Platform



In this blog, I'll share my personal experience with IBM zXplore, a leading platform in mainframe education, highlighting how it has enhanced my understanding of mainframe computing and contributed to my personal professional growth. As a placement student, when I first joined Macro 4 I had no prior experience with or exposure to mainframes. The zXplore platform was what I used to learn about the mainframe.

Why and how did I use zXplore to learn?

I first used zXplore at the start of my placement to learn about mainframe systems and concepts. This knowledge was required as the product I would be working on was Insync, a file and data management product for z/OS. In order to understand the product and be able to work on it, I would need to learn about the mainframe, and how it differs from systems I was previously familiar with. Thankfully, zXplore teaches the most important fundamentals in a very easily understandable way, in multiple exciting ways – such as videos, mini quizzes, and practical exercises, each for which you earn points for completing.

Some of the important topics I learnt through zXplore include: 

  • Basic mainframe system concepts – These included discussions of z/OS system advantages, where and why the mainframe is used, security and privacy, and the various types of tasks the mainframe is designed for.
  • File types – Examples of the different file types used by mainframes, such as VSAM, KSDS, PDS, etc. and their individual use cases.
  • JCL & REXX – Two very important languages for mainframes to work. zXplore taught the basics of how and why these would be used in given scenarios.
  • USS – I was shown how USS can be used to allow for UNIX-like experience while using z/OS.
  • Python on z/OS – A tutorial and explanation of how python can be used on z/OS and interact with z/OS datasets.
  • COBOL – An essential language for the mainframe, zXplore gave explanations and demonstration of why COBOL is so essential, and taught the syntax required to get COBOL code running.
  • IBM Z Assembler – I was given an introduction into Assembler programming. zXplore taught the basics of how to write assembler code, and how it’s compiled and executed.
  • Zowe CLI – A very simple way of interacting with z/OS is a CLI called Zowe, for which zXplore showed me how to use it and taught the importance of programs such as Zowe for the mainframe industry.

What are the practical applications of what zXplore teaches?

From personal experience, I can say with confidence that zXplore was essential for me to be able to do my job. For development on Insync, I needed knowledge on topics which I learnt from zXplore, such as dealing with various file types, understanding of languages such as JCL and COBOL, and how assembler code is used to interact with the mainframe. As the mainframe gets older, young people will be increasingly in demand for mainframe work, and the zXplore platform is the perfect way to teach the most important concepts and fundamentals, and even go deeper in their understanding with more advanced concepts should they wish to. This continued education will be essential for contribution to the mainframe industry, and can open up further opportunities in the future for anyone’s career development.


To conclude, I want to give my overall thoughts on IBM’s zXplore learning platform. I think it’s a really great way for new mainframers to learn concepts and fundamentals quickly, easily, and in a fun way. When someone comes from a background of no mainframe experience, it can initially feel like a steep learning curve, but using zXplore definitely helps make this curve feel much less steep. Overall, I’d recommend zXplore to anyone who wants to learn about mainframes, and I would personally say that IBM has made a fantastic, accessible learning platform, which excels at what it intends to achieve.