I couldn't agree more - development kits are a great way to gain familiarity with a specific product or product family. I have utilized microchip kits in the past and using their online tools and their MPLab IDE for some design work and it really gave me a great jumpstart since I was not familiar with their specific microcontrollers at that time. This promises to be a great series!
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.