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CCNA 200-301 Deep Dive: Rapid Spanning Tree and EtherChannel

Explore the depths of CCNA topics through lecture and hands-on labs

Wendell Odom

The Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification creates a de facto standard defining the essential knowledge required for anyone working with computer networks. Cisco completely revamped its entire certification program for 2020, with CCNA taking an even more critical role. Cisco places CCNA as the one starting point for all other Cisco certifications. Anyone pursuing a career in networking should be prepared to work with Cisco, and that process begins with CCNA.

This course uses a series of short, targeted lectures followed by lab exercises that you do in class using the (free) Cisco Packet Tracer simulator. New to Cisco? Anyone can do the labs, with one lab exercise version created for those with little background knowledge, and another for those with appropriate prerequisite skills. The flow works through a series of paired lectures and labs and closes with a short topic of advice about how to learn more and complete your exam preparation for this course’s topics.

Spanning Tree Protocol (STP), and its faster/newer cousin Rapid STP (RSTP), control the redundant links in a layer 2 switches LAN. STP/RSTP cause some ports to purposefully not forward frames – and as a result, creating a single working path through the LAN – thereby preventing frames from looping around the LAN indefinitely. This course focuses on RSTP: the concepts, the mechanisms, and to some extent, the configuration. It also explains Layer 2 EtherChannels, which allow multiple links between two switches to be treated line one link by both switch forwarding logic and by STP/RSTP mechanisms. And as always in the CCNA 200-301 Deep Dive series, the course makes extensive use of labs that you will perform using the free Cisco Packet Tracer simulator.

What you'll learn-and how you can apply it

  • Understand why LANs need a mechanism like STP or RSTP
  • Learn the terms and purpose of port roles, which in turn dictate port states, which in turn create one working spanning tree overlaid on the LAN topology
  • Understand how Cisco switches apply STP and RSTP per-VLAN
  • Predict STP/RSTP spanning trees and verify your predictions in lab
  • Configure common STP/RSTP parameters and verify the resulting changes to the spanning tree
  • Understand why STP/RSTP works poorly with multiple parallel links between switches – a fact that begs for the EtherChannel feature
  • Configure and verify Layer 2 EtherChannels on Cisco switches

This training course is for you because...

  • You want to achieve Cisco CCNA certification
  • You want to learn networking basics, specifically STP, RSTP, and EtherChannel, for your job and the future
  • You want to pursue one of the Cisco CCNP certifications, and you need to know CCNA topics as a prerequisite
  • You prefer lab-centric learning


  • An understanding of Ethernet LAN switching and VLANs. You can learn these topics from Chapters 5 through 8 of the CCNA 200-301 Official Cert Guide, Volume 1. Alternately, attend the “CCNA 200-301 Deep Dive: VLANs, Trunking, and LAN Switching” Live course. Both are available at O’Reilly Online Learning.

Additionally, you can learn in this course without the following skills, but coming to course with these skills can increase how much you learn:

Materials, downloads, or Supplemental Content needed in advance:

  • You need to have Packet Tracer Version 7.3 installed on the computer you will use during class. Follow this link for the specifics to find, install, and test your Packet Tracer installation.

Recommended Post-Course Learning:

About your instructor

  • Wendell Odom, CCIE No. 1624, creates many of the best-selling Cisco certification products of their types, particular in the routing and switching space. He has pioneered the authorized Cisco Certification Guide series at Cisco Press and has written every edition of the leading CCENT and CCNA Certification Guides. He has written over 30 editions of networking books, video, and software products, ranging in depth from introductory level to CCIE. Wendell has worked as an instructor, course developer, network engineer, and consultant. Find links to more study tools and resources (including his blogs) at www.certskills.com.


The timeframes are only estimates and may vary according to how the class is progressing

Section 1: Introduction (10 Minutes)

  • CCNA 200-301 Exam Overview and Exam Topics in this Course
  • Verify Packet Tracer Installation
  • Deep Dive Course Series

Section 2: STP and RSTP Concepts (60 Minutes)

  • Purpose and Results of STP/RSTP
  • Exercise: Predicting the Root Switch, Root Ports, and Designated Ports.
  • Lab: Verifying RSTP Status

Section 3: STP/RSTP Convergence and Tuning (95 Minutes)

  • Lab: Predicting Changes in the RSTP Topology
  • Configuring STP/RSTP and Effects on the Topology
  • Lab: Changing the RSTP Topology through Configuration
  • STP and RSTP Compared
  • Break

Section 4: Layer 2 EtherChannel (55 Minutes)

  • EtherChannel Concepts
  • Lab: Configuring Layer 2 EtherChannel
  • EtherChannel Load Balancing

Section 5: Exam Advice and Final QA (15 Minutes)

  • What and Where to Learn More about STP, RSTP, and EtherChannels
  • Exam Advice about Today’s Topics