Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Entry-level Certification Training Gives Students What They Need

Teachers and professors, if you’re giving your students training for an entry-level type of certification—A+, Network+, etc.—you’re giving them exactly what they need, according to reports from certification industry experts.

“Certifications for workers in the information technology industry, historically targeted at professionals with at least a few years of experience on the job, are more and more being tailored for entry-level candidates,” wrote Certification Magazine’s John Venator. And we’ve noticed that at TestOut as well. Our LabSim A+ training course is by far the most studied course.

The A+ industry-standard certification is required by many corporations for their IT and technical support staff because it demonstrates a broad base of knowledge and competency in areas like installation, preventative maintenance, networking, security, and troubleshooting. When schools incorporate training for a certification exam such as A+ into their technology curriculum, they’re teaching students the core concepts that corporations need most in their employees but frequently can’t find. Preparing students with A+ and other entry-level certifications gives them a powerful advantage as they begin their job search.

Higher-level certifications will certainly still be useful for your students, but more important in the future, when they’ve chosen a specialization for their career. “Certification vendors have begun targeting the entry-level crowd, offering certs aimed at proving your starting point rather than your final destination. The traditional, powerhouse, industry-standard type certifications aren’t going away, but they are getting augmented with a throwback to the apprentice levels and a future eye toward the specialization sector,” wrote Certification Magazine’s Matt Walker.

We’re sure many of you have seen your students succeed because of the starting point they received through certification training in your classroom. We’d love to hear your experiences! Leave a comment or email us at

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Microsoft's Transition from 70-640 to 83-640

You may have heard that Microsoft has updated the 70-640—Windows Server 2008 Active Directory—certification exam within the United States and some other countries to include performance-based questions. The new version of 70-640 is called 83-640. Both versions of the exam count equally toward the MCITP certification, but if you’re in the United States, you’ll only have the option to take the 83-640 when you arrive at the testing center.

What’s the difference between the two versions? Performance-based questions. The purpose of performance-based questions is to measure your realistic skills. Multiple-choice questions can measure knowledge, but performance-based questions go further and ask you to actually perform real tasks.

Even though Microsoft just added performance-based questions to their exam, LabSim has always included training for performance-based exams in our interactive, hands-on lab simulations. We want your training to be complete, no matter what type of exam you take.

Preparing for a performance-based exam requires more than just studying a book about the concepts in the exam. You’ll need hands-on practice to prepare for the hands-on evaluation. Marc Vaglio-Laurin of SAS made a great analogy about it: “When you learned to drive a car, you didn’t just read the book. You got behind the wheel and you practiced, and most of us don’t have our own car to practice on,” he said. “…IT performance-based tests are no different. You have to have seat time with the technology. You have to have experience driving. It doesn’t have to be with a live system. There are lots of training classes out there where they use simulators. ”

Vaglio-Laurin is right; “seat time with the technology” is crucial, but it doesn’t have to mean purchasing all the hardware and components to practice with at home. Training courses like LabSim and others offer simulated environments that prepare you for the performance-based evaluations you’ll face in 83-640. If you do have a home lab to practice with, use it in conjunction with a well-designed training course to ensure you’re fully prepared for the exam.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

LabSim Training Course in Crime Scene Investigation

Do you teach criminal justice in a high school or college? If so, how do you give students the hands-on training they need on crime scene investigations? Having a class full of students at an actual crime scene isn’t very practical.

To prepare for a career in criminal justice—as police officer, medical examiner, or crime scene investigator, for example—students need to learn correct procedures for:

• Lifting fingerprints
• Performing DNA tests
• Handling crime scene evidence
• Interviewing suspects
• Working in emergency dispatch centers
• Investigating death
• Photographing and documenting crime scenes

Teaching a full classroom of criminal justice students is difficult to do effectively unless a way can be found to individualize each student’s opportunity for hands-on experience with each procedure.

King Career Center in Anchorage, Alaska—a vocational high school for grades 11–12—solved this issue by incorporating the LabSim Crime Scene Investigation course from TestOut into its Public Safety & Security classes in 2007. The CSI training suite is full of graphics, simulations, and video trainings that give students hands-on, realistic experience for future work in criminal justice careers. With LabSim in the classroom, every student completes each hands-on simulation exercise—realistically practicing each task they’ll need to learn and master for success in the criminal justice field.

Instructor Teena Calkin explains, “After we walk through all of the terminology and bookwork-type material, we pop in the LabSim crime scene scenarios and they actually get to work through them as if they were playing a virtual game. It makes learning fun.” Watch a clip from the LabSim CSI course to see how students learn through simulated experience.

In subsequent entries on our blog, we’ll talk more about the LabSim Crime Scene Investigation course and the benefits of using it or other simulated labs instead of physical labs in your criminal justice classroom. Specifically, we’ll discuss how it can help individualize the instruction for your students and lower the costs of teaching your course. We’ll also discuss situations where the LabSim CSI course is an ideal supplement to a physical lab in your classroom.