Monday, November 30, 2009

More College Students Taking Classes Online

With rapid growth in online learning, tools for effective online teaching become urgently important. David Nagel of Campus Technology recently reported, “Nearly 12 million post-secondary students in the United States take some or all of their classes online right now. But this number will skyrocket to more than 22 million in the next five years, according to data released recently by research firm Ambient Insight.”

That’s a lot of students taking online courses. But even more interesting is Ambient Insight’s forecast that the number of students who take all of their courses in physical classrooms will drop from 15.15 million in 2009 to just 5.14 million by 2014. The landscape of college education in the United States is definitely changing. What tools of technology will make this change successful?

Penn Foster Career School
in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a school of independent study with many courses offered online. Penn Foster utilizes LabSim training to offer students a course in Crime Scene Investigation. The training in the LabSim course gives Penn Foster students relevant, hands-on technology education. And while LabSim courses are frequently taught in a physical classroom, they are also extremely effective as online curriculum. Online students succeed in LabSim working at their own pace, viewing instructional videos, online lessons, and hands-on lab simulations. Built-in section quizzes and practice exams test students’ knowledge, and LabSim’s reporting system tracks the progress and scores of each student—accessible by instructors any time.

What other tools do you utilize in online courses to make learning successful?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

TestOut Wins Gold in 2009 Windows IT Pro Editors’ Best Awards

Congratulations, TestOut!

TestOut's LabSim is the Gold winner, selected by the editors at Windows IT Pro in the 2009 Editors’ Best Awards, in the category Best Training and Certification Product or Service.

Plus, TestOut was awarded Silver in the 2009 Windows IT Pro Community Choice Awards, thanks to our loyal customers who contributed their votes.

The Industry’s Best Training and Certification Product

We’re honored that LabSim has been recognized as the industry’s best training and certification product. TestOut’s LabSim training courses are developed with thorough planning and research to be accurate, current, and to give IT learners realistic, hands-on experience working with technology. When students train with LabSim, they prepare not only for a certification exam, but for their future career.

LabSim training courses set themselves apart from other training options with high-quality online labs where students work in a simulated environment, utilizing real-to-life hardware, operating systems, and networking components. Video instruction taught by industry experts, written lessons, and practice exams support the complete training experience provided by LabSim.

Your Experiences with LabSim
We'd love to hear about your experiences using LabSim training courses. Email us at

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy 18th Birthday, TestOut

Happy 18th TestOut!

Eighteen years ago today, TestOut began offering certification training courses. While the courses have evolved with the evolution of technology through the years, the goal has always been the same -- to help individuals be more skilled and marketable in their IT careers. It's been an amazing adventure and we look forward to another wonderful 18 years to come!

Fred Ball of Zions Bank, who does the daily "Speaking on Business" on KSL, shared some of those adventures on the radio back in June. It was a nice early birthday present!

This is Fred Ball for Zions Bank, speaking on business.

For nearly 18 years, Pleasant Grove-based TestOut Corporation's mission has remained the same—to make a real difference in people's lives. And it's working.

Back in 1991, the exploding growth in technology was creating a real demand for certifications and training. As a result, Noel (know-el) Vallejo launched the information technology (IT) certification-training company, in hopes he could help individuals be more skilled and marketable in their IT careers. Through the years, Noel has seen TestOut help thousands, including his brother, become trained IT support specialists through extensive LabSim training. So, what's the secret?

TestOut's LabSim software is built around what no one else in the training field offers: online labs. These online labs put students in a virtual environment that lets them simultaneously learn in class and practice the technologies as if they were using an actual $30,000 physical computer lab. And they do it all from their personal computer, whether they're taking courses online or in a traditional classroom setting.

Coupled with video training, practice exams and text lessons, these online labs give students interactive, real-world scenarios that enable them to acquire the skills necessary to succeed in their careers.

Schools such as DeVry University, ITT Tech and the University of Phoenix are just a sampling of institutions helping their students gain experience with LabSim. This hands-on experience is especially critical in an economy with such a high unemployment rate. Who is going to get the job: the candidate who knows how to do it and is certified to do so or the one who doesn't? Noel says it's a no brainer.

Getting the hands-on experience and certification required for an IT career can make all the difference. TestOut Corporation and its LabSim Online Labs make this experience possible. Mission accomplished.

For Zions Bank, I'm Fred Ball. I'm speaking on business.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Free LabSim Practice Exams in November 2009

Have you wondered how well you would do on an IT certification exam if you took it today? Would you pass?

During the month of November, TestOut is giving you the chance to take LabSim practice exams for free. Every LabSim certification training course includes a realistic practice exam that helps learners gauge their readiness for the actual certification exam. During November, you can have free access to the LabSim practice exams.

LabSim courses include training—instructional videos, hands-on lab simulations, written lessons—and practice exams for the following IT certifications:

  • Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist. The starting point in Microsoft certifications, MCTS evaluates your skills on key Microsoft technologies, such as Windows operating systems, Exchange server, SQL server, and Visual Studio.
  • Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. Evaluates skills for Windows Server and Active Directory administration. Prepares you for jobs such as systems engineer, technical support engineer, and system analyst.
  • Microsoft Certified IT Professional. Evaluates your skills for professional IT job roles, such as database administrator or enterprise messaging administrator.
  • Systems Security Certified Professional. Prepares you for jobs such as network security engineer, security systems analyst, or security administrator.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional. Evaluates experience in access control, application security, cryptography, risk management, security architecture, and more.
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate. Entry-level networking certification, demonstrates your skills in installing, configuring, operating, and troubleshooting networks.
  • Cisco Certified Network Professional. Demonstrates ability to install, configure, and troubleshoot converged LANs and WANs with 100-500 or more nodes, manage routers and switches, and manage applications that integrate voice, wireless, and security into the network.
  • Linux+. Demonstrates a fundamental understanding of Linux systems, including command line, user administration, file permissions, software configuration, and management of Linux-based clients.
  • Server+. Demonstrates technical knowledge in areas such as RAID, SCSI and multiple CPUs, as well as capabilities with disaster recovery.
  • A+. Entry-level certification, tests the fundamentals of computer technology, networking and security, as well as communication skills, professionalism, and hands-on understanding.
  • Security+. Demonstrates competency in system security, network infrastructure, access control, and organizational security.
  • Network+. Focuses on managing, maintaining, troubleshooting, installing, and configuring basic network infrastructure.

Go to to access the free LabSim practice exams. If you pass the LabSim exam, you’re ready to certify. If not, you’ll need some additional training, but you’ll know exactly what your areas of weakness are and where you need to focus your training from now on.

Good luck, and let us know how you do!

Friday, November 6, 2009

CompTIA Survey of IT Professionals Shows Certification Strategies

CompTIA—the trade association that offers industry-accepted certifications such as A+, Security+, and others—released data from their recent survey of 1500 IT professionals. The survey asked respondents about their certification strategies, and the data they presented should give insight to students planning to pursue technology certifications in the near future. Here are several key points from the survey’s results that may be of particular interest to students and instructors:
  • Security is a topic at the top of IT professionals’ minds as they consider certifications. 37% of survey respondents plan to pursue a security certification in the next five years. With security threats occurring more and more often in every industry, better training in information assurance and security is a must.
  • The top two reasons people pursue certifications are 1) to enhance their resume and 2) for personal growth. These reasons, given by 88% of the IT professionals surveyed, probably sound familiar to you and may be the same reasons you as a student pursue certifications.
  • The average length of time respondents spent preparing for their certification exams was 44.5 hours, and 1/3 of respondents said they spent up to 60 hours preparing. If trained IT professionals are spending this much time in test preparation, these exams obviously aren’t the type to cram for! You may be able to complete your test preparation as part of IT coursework at your school.
  • When asked who pays for the certification exam, 50% of respondents said they pay for their own, and 38% get their employer to pay for it. CompTIA senior vice president Terry Erdle said, “This confirms that many professionals are truly committed to the IT field and take pride in developing their skills and showcasing their expertise.”
How do the responses given in the CompTIA survey compare to your own strategies for pursuing certifications? Leave a comment or email us

Monday, November 2, 2009

Do Your Students Perform Better in Online Courses?

Some instructors are reluctant to teach online courses because they’re concerned that students won’t receive the same high-quality learning experience online as they would receive in a classroom with face-to-face interaction with the teacher and other students. Especially for technology studies, offering the courses online begs the question: Are students really gaining the necessary practical experience for understanding the technology? At Henderson College in Henderson, Kentucky, instructor Kimberly Conley was asked for years to teach an online A+ Essentials class, but she refused. She said, “I could teach a theory class all day online, . . . but it’s impossible to teach a practical, hands-on application class online.”

Through technology for Web-based video, instant messaging, and collaborative work online, however, opportunities for interaction in online courses are growing, and studies have been conducted with surprising results. A recent report written for the Department of Education in the United States examined 99 quantitative studies comparing students’ performance in online versus traditional classrooms, mostly in college or adult-learning courses. The studies found that, on average, students in online courses ranked higher in tested performance than students taking the same course in a traditional classroom setting.

New York Times technology reporter Steve Lohr suggested that in the past, “Online education amounted to little more than electronic versions of the old-line correspondence course.” He continued, “The real promise of online education, experts say, is providing learning experiences that are tailored more to individual students than is possible in classrooms. That enables more ‘learning by doing,’ which many students find more engaging and useful.”

LabSim certification training courses are a fine example of the “learning by doing” that can be available for online technology courses, and many colleges have incorporated LabSim into their distance IT curriculum because LabSim allows students to actually perform in a simulation the tasks they are taught. At Henderson College, Conley discovered LabSim in 2006, and she was finally willing to teach the A+ Essentials course online. Now she can give her students the practical, real-world environment they need—“all the benefits of a physical lab without the constant upkeep and expense of a physical lab,” she says.

What experiences do you have teaching a course online, and how have technology tools improved your students’ online education? From your perspective, do students perform better in your online class or in your traditional classroom? Leave a comment, or email us your story at