Fiber U Basic Skillss -  Self-Study

basic fiber optic skills

Lesson Plan: Basic Fiber Optic Skills Lab, Introduction and Overview

Intended For:
  • Those getting started in fiber optics
  • Designers, contractors and installers of fiber optic cable plants
  • Users of fiber optic cable plants and communications systems involved in designing and managing networks
  • Anyone wanting wanting to know more about fiber optic installation practices

  • Novice
  • Technician
  • CFOT (review)

What You Will Learn In This Basic Self-Study Program:

  • What are the skills needed for installing fiber optics?
  • What are the important safety issues and procedures required to work safely
  • How do you place or pull fiber optic cables and prepare them for termination and splicing?
  • How do you splice and terminate cables?
  • How do you test fiber optic components, cable plants and systems?

Reference Materials Available For This Course (see below)
  • FOA Textbooks
  • FOA Online Guide
  • FOA Virtual Hands-On Tutorials
  • FOA YouTube Videos
  • Materials in these lesson plans

Equipment You Will Need For This Program For "Hands-On" Exercises
  • Fiber optic installation tools
  • Fiber optic test equipment
  • Components for exercises (cables, connectors, splices, etc.)
  • Lists will be given in Lesson 2.

Please Note: This is not the usual online course - it is intended to guide you as you learn new skills - the skills needed to install optical fiber cable plants. It involves using tools and components in a realistic manner. Some of the processes here can be hazardous, like working with sharp scraps of optical fiber and chemicals. The first lesson is about safety - we recommend reading it carefully and posting the safety rules for everyone to see. Always wear safety glasses when doing any of these exercises and dispose of all scraps properly.

These guidelines are strictly the opinion of the FOA provided for educational purposes and the reader is expected to use them as a basis for learning. The FOA assumes no liability for the use of any of this material.

The FOA uses KSAs - knowledge, skills and abilities - to set a standard for what a fiber optic worker needs to know and what skills and abilities they must have to work effectively in fiber optics. Knowledge is acquired from classroom instruction or self-study using available reference materials like textbooks, websites, videos, etc. Fiber U offers the Basic Fiber Optics online self-study program to allow self-motivated workers to gain that knowledge. Once you have gained the knowledge you need, how do you gain the skills required? On-the-job-training (OJT) is a common way of learning those skills, as is getting trained in a school with hands-on labs or from manufacturers who tech how their products are to be used.

But can those skills also be developed by an individual practicing on their own? Certainly! Many of us in the business learned that way. Sometimes it is referred to as "learning by experience" or "learning the hard way" because it takes lots of practice and enough knowledge to understand what you do wrong so you can correct your mistakes. But do not underestimate the time needed or the frustration you will encounter. Just like learning a sport or a hobby, you will need to learn what needs to be done, get the right equipment and practice, practice, practice!

Before You Start - Prerequisites And Equipment

This "skills" course assumes you have knowledge of fiber optic termination and splicing. If you are new to fiber optics, you should first complete the "Fiber U Basic Fiber Optics" course before attempting the hands-on exercises here.
In order to follow these exercises, you will need tools, test equipment and various fiber optic components. If you work for a company engaged in fiber optic installation or manufacture, the required parts should be available from your employer. If not, you can purchase them from many vendors recommended in Lesson 3.

The organization of this self-study program is designed to make your learning these skills safely and efficiently. Thus we start with a lesson on safety that is vitally important for your learning experience to be safe and efficient. Please follow this lesson carefully, then get the proper safety equipment and use them all the time.

How This Self-Study Program Works

This Fiber U self-study program will divide the basic skills of fiber optics into topics focused on specific skills- see the links below. Each topic will have a brief introduction to the subject, telling you what you should learn from that lesson, link you to reference materials in several formats:
FOA YouTube Videos,  pages in the FOA Online Reference Guide to Fiber Optics and sometimes a chapter  in the FOA Reference Guide to Fiber Optics printed book for you to study.

When doing each exercise, it helps to watch the videos completely several times - at least once - before you attempt any hands-on exercises. You will probably find it convenient to have them ready to play while you are doing the hands-on exercises or you can use the VHO (Virtual Hands-On) links which may be easier because you do not need to pause a video. The VHO presentations will show you step-by-step how to do the exercises using the processes we have learned from manufacturers and instructors as well as have developed in our own labs.

It is very important to follow the steps in order to properly complete the exercises. It is also important to be consistent - in order to produce consistently good results, you must follow the same process exactly every time. We cannot overemphasize this point!

Work in a space that is open, clean, well-lighted and where you will not be disturbed to avoid distractions. It is important you concentrate on the exercises and follow each step carefully.
Allow plenty of time to complete the exercises without interruption, especially termination. During the termination exercise, for example, you will use adhesives which must be used quickly. If you interrupt the process, it will probably lead to a failure and a waste of time and supplies.

Try To Have A Partner On The Course
We have found that students in classes work better in pairs. Working in pairs allows sharing tools and supplies, plus it allows two students to compare notes and help each other. A partner is especially good when trying to learn a new procedure, as one can be reading or viewing the procedure prompting the other who follows the procedure and does the exercise. If you are part of a company, the tools and test equipment can be shared among users in the company and supplies bought in larger quantities (or maybe leftovers from other fiber jobs used.)

Learning More and Developing Skills

Online courses can help you develop the knowledge of a subject like fiber optics but are not going to provide the hands-on exercises needed to develop the skills used in working with the actual components. If you are just getting started in fiber optics, you should consider attending an FOA-Approved school where you will be trained in hands-on labs to develop the skills needed to be successful in fiber optics.

This program has been developed as a cooperative effort of many volunteers from the FOA. If you have comments or suggestions on how to improve it, please contact us at

Reference Materials

You can take this Fiber U Online course using online or sometimes printed reference materials.

Workbook (printed): We highly recommend you purchase a copy of the FOA CFOT Certification Lab Manual which covers many of the processes in this course. It is a step-by-step hands-on workbook with worksheets to record the results of your work.

FOA Lab Manual

Available from the FOA eStore or
Discounts for schools available. Contact the FOA.

FOA YouTube Videos   FOA has over 100 YouTube Videos that cover many topics including the hands-on processes covered in this self-study program.

All lesson plans include FOA YouTube video lectures on the topic.

YT splicing

FOA Online Reference Guide to Fiber Optics
  VHO  "Virtual Hands On" Tutorials take a "step-by-step" approach to the hands-on processes covered in this self-study program. They are a good way to teach yourself the processes here - watch the video for the overview then follow the steps in the VHO web pages.


All lesson plans include links to the FOA Guide pages on relevant topics.

Most lesson plans will also reference FOA printed textbooks.

FOA Guide to fiber optics  FOA Guide  FOA Guide

Including the CFOT Certification Lab Manual

CFOT Lab Manual

Directions for purchasing textbooks are here.


Lennie Lightwave
 Let's get started!

Lesson Plan:

Read the materials linked on each lesson plan before going to the next lesson.

Lesson 1: Introduction, Safety in Working With Fiber Optics
Lesson 2Fiber Optic Tools and Equipment    
Lesson 3Fiber Optic Cables 
Lesson 4Fiber Optic Splicing
Lesson 5: Fiber Optic Termination
Lesson 6Fiber Optic Testing

This information is provided by The Fiber Optic Association, Inc. as a benefit to those interested in teaching, designing, manufacturing, selling, installing or using fiber optic communications systems or networks. It is intended to be used as an overview and/or basic guidelines and in no way should be considered to be complete or comprehensive. These guidelines are strictly the opinion of the FOA and the reader is expected to use them as a basis for learning, as a reference and for creating their own documentation, project specifications, etc. Those working with fiber optics in the classroom, laboratory or field should follow all safety rules carefully. The FOA assumes no liability for the use of any of this material.


Table of Contents: The FOA Reference Guide To Fiber Optics

(C)2012-14, The Fiber Optic Association, Inc.