I am currently looking at studying for the DCD, I have no real design experience so I understand this is a big undertaking!
Is the official course a good starting point? I have heard mixed things about the course and was hoping the people that have been on it can give me their views about it and how much/little it helped!
I can give you an ex-instructor's perspective...
There's no doubt it will help you given your lack of experience - the instructor will be certified themselves, plus the other students in attendance will be a great source of information - the workshop is made by the people in the room sharing ideas, best practices, and stories/experiences.
I haven't taken the Design Workshop for the 5.x series, however I did take it back in the 4.1 series and it was a great experience. The networking of the people, working through the design problems they give you, it was all great. However it gives you really good grounds on design choices, best practices, etc, it however is not the be all, end all to study for your DCD attempt. There is much more to prep for prior to attempting your DCD. I have heard many people take this course thinking it will line them up for a successful attempt at the DCD and if it doesn't they are upset. I think if you haven't had a great deal of design work in the past it is a great course to take as a starting point. Or if you have done design in the past but haven't done it in a while its a great refresher. However I would also suggest looking at some other study materials.
1.) The DCD Blue print, it is very LONG and has a tremendous amount of information in it, some of the "study" materials linked in it are not so great but none the less it will give you an idea of what can be asked on the exam.
2.) The community forums are another great place to look for study guides and other blogs where people have blogged about their experiences / study materials
3.) There is an extreamly great Study Group on google+ called VCAP-DCD Study Group with a lot of people who are also currently attempting the DCD or have taken it recently.
4.) Lastly I have created a DCD Simulator at www.virtualtiers.net which will give you an idea of what the exam is like. Also at the end of the simulator I have created a study guide with the materials you should know prior to attempting the DCD. The Study Guide I created is mostly the Blueprint with all the fluff stripped out of it. Not all sections in the table of contents have been finished yet but there is a few that dive into each topic area very well. The study pack is still a work in progress.
I hope this has helped, if you have any questions please let me know.
Thank you for your input.
I would be very surprised if the course was enough to pass the exam lol
I have the official dcd book and the scott lowe design book, both recommended by the people in the google group
I just have no knowledge of design and by what you said it sounds like the course might be what I am after, I just have to make sure is worth it as I am funding it myself!