Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Looking Back Over the Semester of IT Training


As the semester comes to an end and you look back at what you and your students have accomplished, what stands out to you as the greatest success?

Have you found new ways to make your teaching more effective? Helped your students achieve their first IT certification? Have some students used the skills learned from your class and from LabSim to find an internship or part-time job working with computers? Perhaps you had a student who succeeded in an academic class for the first time because of the opportunity you gave him or her to work hands-on with technology.

Many instructors utilizing LabSim training in their courses have told us of their students’ successes in getting certified this semester. Especially because CompTIA’s renewal policy will soon change, many students made sure they certified in A+, Network+, or Security+ before the end of the year so that they would never have to renew. The hours spent training in LabSim along with the guidance of a good instructor gave these students the skills and confidence to take the big step and certify.

For example, at Middleburg High School in Middleburg, Florida, teacher Charles Thompson has been using LabSim to prepare his students to certify, and several of them finished A+ right before Christmas break to take advantage of lifetime certification.

Thompson’s students train with LabSim until they demonstrate they’re ready to certify. Then, he creates a mock test-taking experience in his classroom and makes it as close as possible to the experience students will have at the real testing center when they certify. Thompson also makes additional preparation time available to students on Thursdays after school. When students are ready, he takes them in groups to a testing center at a nearby college campus. The students print LabSim review sheets and quiz each other on the way to the test.

Over the past year, about 75% of Thompson’s high school students have passed the A+ certification exam on their first attempt, and the others have all passed on their second attempt.

For all instructors using LabSim to train your students, we hope this has been a positive semester—and a positive year—for students’ learning, skills-building, and certification success. We would love to hear from you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

What Are the Tech Priorities at Your School or Campus?

What are the priorities for using technology in your school district or on your campus?

School districts surveyed by the Center for Digital Education during this past semester showed what they are doing to use technology in their district. Converge Magazine reported:

1. 69% are using technology to communicate more clearly how to participate in school board meetings.
2. 88% are offering classes online.
3. 69% are using video conferencing to take students on virtual fieldtrips.
4. 75% are offering a course that lets students research and learn more about technology careers.
5. 63% are making progress on strategic planning for technology.

All of the technology priorities mentioned above are contributing to greater success in education. At TestOut, we also feel that technology instruction itself is a great contributor to educational success. As more students are working hands-on with computers, gaining experience with operating systems, and training with virtual hardware and software, they are transforming into more engaged learners that are well-prepared to enter the workforce or continue their technology education and succeed.

Brian Hartpence, instructor at Polk State College in Winterhaven, Florida, shared with TestOut his experience finding LabSim, putting it to use in online education, and seeing how it helped both the students and the faculty. Hartpence said:
At Polk State College, the aim of the NET (Network Engineering Technology) program is to train students with a focus on real-world, on-the-job experience. We have always given our students as much of that experience as possible from an in-person, classroom/lab setting. We are now taking that same level of training online. In doing this, we needed to create a live experience that the students could use that would represent a real-world situation, with equipment and situations and simulations. The solution that we found was LabSim. When we first looked at LabSim, the idea was to give the students the equipment they could use to do labs in a remote setting. What we found was much better; we found that LabSim opened the doors to more recourses, not only for our students but for our faculty as well. Instructors can now look at reports of quizzes and lab completions to see where they need to follow up. The student can now get to the equipment to complete labs, watch demonstrational videos, and get supplemental lectures on how to set up and troubleshoot equipment. They can also complete quizzes and watch lectures when they are at their peak, even if it's at 2 a.m. LabSim, along with our online CMS system, now gives very near the same training experience online that we provide in the classroom.
Offering classes online was a major step Polk State College took to utilize technology for the benefit of students; using LabSim in those online classes enlarged that step even more by providing deeper resources for learning and practice.

How have your students benefited from the learning and practice resources available in LabSim?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

IT Hiring News Is Good News for IT Students

Dice.com published a new report this week about IT hiring in the United States and what is expected in 2011. IT students who are finishing their education and preparing to enter the job market will be glad to read that 60% of hiring managers and technology recruiters expect to do more hiring in the first six months of 2011 than in the last six months of 2010.

At the same time, students should also recognize that survey respondents emphasized the need for skilled IT professionals. On the whole, many companies and recruiters are struggling to find prospective IT employees that have the skill sets needed by the company. Thirty-eight percent of survey respondents said it is taking longer to fill positions now compared to this time last year, and 52% said the reason is that they can’t find professionals trained for the job. Not finding enough skilled IT workers to fill open positions is a better sign for the economy than having more skilled workers and not enough open positions, and it is a positive situation for your students who are developing their IT skills now.

Specific IT skills mentioned in the report include anything having to do with network or database security, development, cloud computing, and virtualization.

Even though the overall unemployment number in the U.S. is still high (9.8%), Dice reports that unemployment in the IT industry is far lower (5.2%), and the number of open IT jobs continues to rise.

Dice is advising employers to “up their game” to attract the skilled IT workers they need. And the advice to IT students, and others looking for a career in IT, is to be flexible about the location of your future job and to make IT training a priority to increase your marketability.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two Colleges Using LabSim Training Received Top Ratings in Digital Community Colleges Survey

Community colleges that successfully incorporate technology to support student success set an example for all other college campuses. With enrollment numbers continuing to grow rapidly, community colleges that serve those students with digital curriculum solutions deserve some praise. The sixth annual Digital Community Colleges Survey took place this fall and awarded 19 community colleges for their use of technology solutions on campus.

Two colleges who utilize LabSim training in their IT classes were among the top-rated colleges receiving the award, including Scottsdale Community College in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Walters State Community College in Morristown, Tennessee.

According to Converge Magazine Online, one of the survey sponsors, top ratings were given to colleges who have improved students’ educational experience and instructors’ effectiveness through the use of technology. The survey examined the technology tools campuses had in place to provide “alternative learning options,” as well as “the use of online registration, distance learning, tutoring, and advisory services.” Technology training for instructors was also considered in the ratings.

Congratulations to all campuses who received recognition for their use of technology to support students and instructors.

What technologies are available on your campus that you find most supportive of student success? Please leave a comment or send an email to experience@testout.com.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Certificates a Good Option for Technology Education

Complete College America, a nonprofit organization that works to increase college completion rates nationwide, released a report this week showing that a certificate program could be as good an option as an associate’s degree for some higher education students. A high-quality certificate program can significantly increase the likelihood of students’ success both in academics and in career, and in some fields—including technology—high-quality certificate programs yield the same income for graduates as an associate’s degree in the same field.

More than half of higher education certificates come from community colleges, and nearly 40% come from for-profit institutions. In both settings, according to Complete College America, certificate programs that are “built for completion”—meaning, programs that are organized to work more effectively for students with time and economic pressures—have the highest success rates.

A certificate is different than a certification; however, many certificate programs, especially in technology, include training for at least one industry certification.

Durham Business & Computer College (DBCC) in Toronto, Canada, is a private career college that offers full- and part-time certificate programs for high-demand business skills and computer technologies. Students complete their chosen program in 36 weeks, or approximately 8 months, and graduate the college with skills employers are looking for, as well as with a certificate or diploma as evidence of their skills. In fact, the college says its students have an 89% success rate finding employment in their vocation directly after graduating.

Many of the certificate and diploma programs at DBCC also give students the opportunity to receive certifications from industry organizations in addition to a certificate from the college. For example, DBCC offers a network engineering certificate, and students use LabSim to train for certifications such as A+, Network+, CCNA, and MCITP as part of their certificate education. By completing a higher education certificate program from DBCC and receiving certifications employers are looking for, DBCC students are increasing their likelihood for success in the IT industry.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Training in Information Security Needed to Improve Security Landscape

According to a November 2010 CompTIA report, more companies rate information security as a high priority in 2010 than did in 2008, and the number is expected to keep rising. The new report shows that, in 2008, 35% of organizations named information security a high priority. In 2010, that number was 49%, and it is projected to be 62% in 2012.

While many organizations rate security as a top concern, many of those organizations also struggle keeping up with the new threats and vulnerabilities that, in many cases, are more severe than they used to be. According to CompTIA, those new vulnerabilities include social media attacks, cloud computing security, phishing, and security in mobile environments.

As companies and organizations grapple with the challenge of keeping their systems secure, they are “updating security policies, investing in better technology and expanding training,” CompTIA says. Respondents in the CompTIA study say the “security landscape is improving due to better technology (55 percent), improving IT staff expertise (41 percent), improving security policies and procedures (36 percent) and better end user training (33 percent).”

As you see, a large part of the information security battle deals with training IT workers to prevent and combat security breaches. Understanding the security procedures to set in place for an organization helps prevent many of the attacks to the organization’s systems. Training and education also prepare IT workers to respond to attacks as quickly and harmlessly as possible.

TestOut offers training in information security that will bring every IT professional up to speed on the most current information security topics and procedures. LabSim training courses cover Security+ from CompTIA, SSCP (Systems Security Certified Practitioner) and CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional) from (ISC)2 , offering IT students and professionals the knowledge and hands-on experience needed to meet the demand for trained information security workers.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Certify Now Before CompTIA Policy Changes

You’ve probably heard that after December 31, 2010, CompTIA will no longer offer lifetime certification for A+, Network+, and Security+. The organization from which CompTIA receives accreditation for its certifications is requiring that CompTIA change its policy about the length of time certifications remain valid.

Beginning January 1, 2011, three CompTIA certifications often achieved by IT students, including A+, Network+, and Security+, will be affected by the new Certification Renewal Policy. Under the new policy, the certifications will remain valid for three years instead of for a lifetime. After three years, individuals must either take and pass the updated certification exam or participate in CompTIA’s continuing education program to show that their skills are up to date.

The Better Option for You: Certify Now


While CompTIA certifications will still be valuable for you after the policy changes, wouldn’t it be better to get your certification now and keep it for life? Most of us would prefer to take the certification exam once and avoid having to complete continuing education activities to keep it valid.

Several IT instructors whose students train with LabSim courses have told us that many of their students have decided to complete certification before Christmas this year, and that the change in CompTIA’s policy has been an incentive for those students to certify before the change takes effect.

Students completing LabSim training for A+, Network+, or Security+, now is the time to call the testing center and make your appointment to take the certification exam! With LabSim training available to you, you have the resources to prepare yourself fully to pass the certification exam.

We hope you’ll take this important step for your IT career and complete A+, Network+, or Security+ certification before the end of the year. Best of luck!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Growth Continues in Online Higher Education

In January of this year I wrote about the Sloan Consortium’s report on online education and the staggering 17% increase in online college and university courses since the previous year. Well, that number has been beat. This week, the report was published with results from the same annual survey, nearly a year later, and colleges reported an even higher increase in online enrollment—21% more online students in 2010 than in 2009. The total number of higher education students taking at least one course online in the 2010 fall semester is 5.6 million.

The report—“Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010”—provides data based on responses from 2500 colleges and universities. The report compares the data from public non-profit institutions, private non-profit institutions, and private for-profit institutions, showing differences in strategy and priority. The report addresses the following questions:
  • Is online learning strategic? (63% of institutions said yes; for-profit institutions were most likely to include online learning as part of their strategic plan.)
  • How many students are learning online? (30% of higher ed students are taking at least one course online.)
  • Are learning outcomes comparable to face-to-face? (76% of public institutions rate online education as the same as or superior to face-to-face instruction, 67% of for-profits, and 55% of private non-profits.)
  • What is the impact of the economy on online education? (See below.)
  • How do higher education institutions feel about proposed federal regulations on financial aid? (Fewer than 9% of academic leaders believe that using a debt-to-earnings ratio is a good measure of whether a school’s training leads to gainful employment.)
  • What is the future for online enrollment growth? (Most institutions report they are still growing; some report steady enrollments.)

Three-quarters of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for online courses and programs, while nearly one-half of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for face-to-face courses and programs.

Why do you think demand for online courses is greater than the demand for face-to-face instruction in an economic downturn?

Further, the report states that almost all recent growth in online enrollments has come from the growth of existing offerings, not from institutions new to offering courses online.

Many of the institutions who utilize LabSim certification training offer LabSim as the curriculum in online IT courses. For those of you who teach those online courses using LabSim, how has LabSim allowed you to meet the demand for online course offerings?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

19 Years! Happy Birthday, TestOut.

Today TestOut celebrates 19 years as a company. Not many IT certification training providers have been doing what they’re doing as long as TestOut, and it shows in the quality of TestOut’s LabSim training courses and the support TestOut provides to LabSim users.

Today, TestOut CEO Noel Vallejo shared his gratitude for the opportunity TestOut has had to develop LabSim courses and provide training to so many people. Vallejo also expressed gratitude that the company has been able to provide a living for so many people for 19 years.

“I am grateful to be associated with such smart, talented people,” Vallejo said. “In our 19-year history, there have been some difficult times. But although there have been some painful growing experiences, we’ve had far more positive experiences together and that is why we are so strong today.

“There is no greater reward than to associate with all of you. I am thankful for the success we enjoy and look forward to greater success in the future.”

TestOut celebrated its 19th birthday with a company lunch and birthday cake. Enjoy some photos of TestOut’s 19th birthday party!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Nominate a Former Student for the 2011 GREAT Awards

LabSim instructors at private sector colleges and universities, have you recently had an IT student who really stands out to you for his or her excellence? Someone who beat the odds and overcame obstacles to succeed in an IT education and then career? Now is the time you can give that former student some much-deserved recognition.

The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities sponsors the 2011 GREAT Awards that honor recent graduates of career education who have achieved success in spite of significant difficulty. Winning students (5 last year) are given an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony on Capitol Hill before members of Congress.

As you think of the students in your classes over the past several years, some students probably stand out in your mind as those who excelled above others in IT training. Did their work ethic set them apart? You can probably also think of students who have gone on to find success in their IT career. But as you think about your past students, those who have achieved both successes in the face of difficult circumstances stand apart from the rest. Perhaps the student you’re thinking of struggles daily with a physical disability that made their education difficult. Perhaps the student supported a family while working and going to college. Whatever the circumstance, the academic and career achievements of your former student may be recognized through the GREAT Awards.

Please take a few minutes to nominate the student or students you’re thinking of by completing the GREAT Awards nomination form before December 31, 2010.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Why A+ and Network+ Should Matter to You

Still looking for a good reason to get an IT certification this year? Network World’s Elsa Wenzel reported this week that, according to CompTIA, 68 percent of IT hiring managers regard IT certifications as a medium or high priority as they consider job candidates. A candidate certified in A+ or Network+ will earn 10% more on average than a candidate without certification, and a candidate with a higher-level certification may expect a 40% higher salary than a candidate without.

CompTIA certifications like A+ and Network+ are so highly valued because they show you have a broad base of fundamental skills. A+ certification, for example, demonstrates that you are competent installing Windows as well as installing motherboard components; configuring operating systems as well as configuring wireless networks; and troubleshooting power devices and printers. Managers can place greater trust in an IT employee with A+ certification combined with hands-on experience.

Network+
, another entry-level certification, shows employers that you have a fundamental understanding of computer networks and a proven base of skills working with networking components. An employee with Network+ certification will be confident implementing network wires, connecting network devices, configuring DNS addresses, securing network switches, configuring routing, and troubleshooting network communications.

In her article, Wenzel gives specific advice to hiring managers as well: “Don't take someone's experience, training, and certification at face value,” she wrote. “Ask what they had to do to get a certification. Hands-on lab work in addition to an exam is a good sign.”

If you need a competitive advantage in your job search, and if you would appreciate a higher salary, make it a priority to start training with a LabSim course as soon as possible, gain hands-on experience for your field, and complete your certification as soon as possible.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Bright Future in Networking

Today, Network World’s Linda Musthaler, expert in IT career skills, reported a very positive outlook on the networking field of IT. According to Robert Half Technology, she said, “the technical skill set most in demand by a majority of CIOs is networking. What’s more, network managers will see average starting salaries rise 4.3 percent, to the range of $79,250 to $109,500 per year.”

This report surely is good news to IT students planning their future career, as well as to IT professionals still developing their skill set. Because networking skills are in high demand, network engineer is considered one of the top 10 IT jobs.

What exactly does a network engineer do? Network engineers are responsible for organizations’ computer networks and make sure that the networks run smoothly. They’re responsible for installing, configuring, and monitoring the networks, which may be LANs (local area networks), WANs (wide area networks), or other networks. Network engineers work with routers, switches, firewalls, and operating systems.

If networking is the direction you want to go, the Network+ certification from CompTIA is the place to start. Network+ is an entry-level networking certification designed to demonstrate that you have a fundamental understanding of networks. As you train for Network+, you’ll acquire a broad knowledge of networking technologies, including:
  • Network Topologies
  • OSI Model
  • Protocols
  • Cables and Connectors for Networking
  • Network Adapters
  • Internetwork Devices
  • Ethernet Architecture, Specs, Cables
  • IP Addressing
  • DNS
  • Routing
  • VoIP
  • Wireless Networking
  • Network Security
  • WANs
  • Network Management
  • Troubleshooting Networks

According to Musthaler, “the industry experts agree that the career opportunities are there if you have the right networking skills, and now you have more choices than ever on how to ‘skill up.’” With the right training, and with Network+ certification to show your competency, you’ll be ready to succeed in a networking career.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Virtual Labs Offer Benefits of Mobility, Affordability--Not Just in IT

Campus Technology’s Dian Schaffhausser reported today on the Engineering department at Colorado State University and the virtual labs they use to support their students’ mobile learning. Because many students travel frequently as part of their education, the department needed a curriculum solution that would allow students to keep up with class material without needing to be in the classroom. Mark Ritschard, IT director for the Engineering Network Services department, found a solution in virtual labs. Schaffhausser wrote, “With the Web becoming a central point for many universities and colleges, Ritschard said, it made sense for his department to set up shop online.”

While virtual labs allowed students to work from a distance, they were also an affordable solution, saving the department about $1,000 per year per seat because it didn’t need to provide as much physical equipment for each student to use. In fact, with the money it saved, the department was actually able to increase the number of students it serves.

Sound familiar? Many academic institutions have experienced similar benefits by using LabSim training courses to train their IT students. The virtual labs in LabSim give students realistic, hands-on experience working with equipment that most institutions could not otherwise afford. Many institutions—high schools, colleges, career centers, and universities—have found that LabSim is an effective supplement to classroom instruction or an effective core piece of the curriculum. And with LabSim training available through any major Web browser, it is a flexible training solution for mobile students.

Of the virtual labs Ritschard has implemented for engineering students, he said that students only need a computer and Internet access—and it doesn’t have to be the greatest computer either. He said, “All engineering students get the same experience, whether they’re sitting in the actual university lab or working from a remote location. . . . From the student perception, there's really no difference at all.”

Has your experience providing LabSim IT training to your students been similar to Ritschard’s experience? How have virtual labs benefited your institution and your students? Please leave a comment and let us know.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Friday, October 22, 2010

First Meeting of Committee on Measures of Student Success

The Committee on Measures of Student Success met for the first time this week to determine how to best measure the success of community college students. The federal committee has been appointed to advise the U.S. Secretary of Education on how to best meet the completion and graduation rate requirements set forth in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. The 15-member committee is chaired by Thomas Bailey, a professor of economics and education at Columbia University and founder of the Community College Research Center.

After discussions on many topics and hearing presentations by representatives from community college associations, the committee members agreed to examine transfers, developmental education, student learning, and employment. Community College Times writer Matthew Dembicki reported that a main topic of discussion was how to capture data about community college students transferring to four-year institutions, as there is currently little data to gauge success of transfer students. Bailey said, “If we can’t take into account transfers, this will really be distorted and inaccurate,” and committee members agreed that measuring success of transfer students is critical.

For example, a significant number of students “swirl”—that is, they concurrently take courses at the local community college and at a four-year institution. Likewise, many high school students are dually enrolled in college courses. Teachers and instructors at high schools and two-year colleges know these situations well and would agree that, although these students are difficult to classify, measurements of their success must also be reported for the data to be accurate.

Public Comment
The committee’s first meeting has adjourned until February of 2011. If you have ideas or comments for the Committee on Measures of Student Success, you can email them to studentsuccess@ed.gov.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Student Engagement and Retention in Distance Courses

Bridget McCrea, writer for Campus Technology, recently featured the Iowa Valley Community College District’s distance education program. With rapid growth and expansion in distance learning, the college district found that many students were not adequately engaged in their education. Working with an education consultant, the college district developed a program to address student engagement and make sure students’ progress was being tracked so that no one would be left behind.

Their result was the development of a program that included four parts, each designed to work toward the goal of delivering the best learning experience to students:
  1. Online course certification to ensure the quality of online courses and course components
  2. Faculty development/training to help instructors create classes online
  3. Early warnings and alerts to pinpoint students who aren’t meeting standards or progressing
  4. A first-year retention and engagement program
The four-part program will be introduced to faculty and staff over the coming weeks, and the college district feels confident the program will work well for its students.

The challenges addressed by the Iowa Valley Community College District are not unusual for any distance learning program. Many colleges who utilize LabSim training offer their courses exclusively via distance learning or have a large distance education component, and they have discovered that LabSim is the solution to offering IT courses at a distance while maintaining course quality, supporting faculty development, engaging students, and tracking student progress.

Quality instruction. LabSim training videos are taught by industry-certified instructors who are proven experts in their technology. LabSim content strictly follows the objectives of IT industry certifications by CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, and (ISC)2. LabSim is tested and regularly updated with improvements to ensure quality and accuracy in videos, hands-on labs, written lessons, and exams.

Faculty training. TestOut offers tutorials, course guides, best practices documentation, and other faculty resources to give instructors support and ideas for developing distance courses around LabSim training.

Warnings and alerts. LabSim courses include built-in tracking that monitor students’ every action in the course, including their time spent in each LabSim component, their scores, and how many times they’ve attempted each component. Both students and instructors can view the reports in LabSim, making it simple for instructors to track students who may not be progressing at the rate they need to.

Retention and engagement. LabSim engages students by offering training that meets students’ different learning styles: reading, watching videos, working in hands-on labs, and evaluating knowledge in exams. Tracking their own progress toward readiness for achieving industry certification helps retain students’ interest and motivation to complete the course.

If you have taught a distance course using LabSim training, what has been your experience with student engagement and retention? Please leave a comment.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Community College Week--NISOD Student Essay Contest


Community College instructors, here is a great opportunity to share with your students:

Community College Week--NISOD
Student Essay Contest, In Honor of Scott Wright

The National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) announces the second annual Community College Week—NISOD Student Essay Contest in honor of Scott Wright, past editor of Community College Week (1995–2000), recipient of the 1998 Award for Excellence in Higher Education Journalism, and the reporter who brought national attention to developmental education and the unique mission community colleges possess in providing an accessible education.

Submission Deadline: November 8, 2010 at Midnight, Central time

Essay Topic: Describe your most rewarding learning experience with a faculty, staff, or administrator at your college. 

Prizes:
  • $1,000 to the Student Author
  • $1,000 to the Faculty/Staff/Administrator Featured in the Essay
  • Complimentary 2011–2012 NISOD Membership to the Student’s College ($1,000 value)
  • Additional prizes

Submission Guidelines:
  • Each author must be currently enrolled at the community college featured in the essay. The faculty/staff/administrator featured in the essay must also be currently employed at this same community college.
  • Each author may submit only one essay, and it must address the specific essay topic.
  • The essay text is limited to a minimum of 400 and a maximum of 500 words.
  • The following information must be submitted with the essay using our online form: (1) Essay title, author name, address, phone, email address; (2) Faculty/staff/administrator name, college name, college address, phone number, email address.
  • The essay must be submitted by MIDNIGHT (CST), November 8, 2010, via the online form on NISOD’s website. We do not accept submissions via email/fax/or by mail.
  • Essays will become the property of NISOD and Community College Week. Submission constitutes an authorization for NISOD and Community College Week to use the essays for research and grants. NISOD and Community College Week also have the authority to publish the results of the research and the text of the essays.
  • Editor reserves the right to make final editing decisions.
  • Contestants will be notified by Monday, February 7, 2011 regarding the status of their submission.

Additional Guidelines for the Winning Essay:
  • The student and the faculty/staff/administrator featured in the essay will forward their photos and bios to NISOD by February 21, 2011. NISOD will receive the college’s logo by February 21, 2011.
  • If the college featured in the essay is not a NISOD member, the college will receive a complimentary NISOD membership for 2011-2012. If the college is a NISOD-member, the college will receive a complimentary NISOD membership for 2011-2012.

For further information, contact:
Mia Leggett
Membership Representative
(512) 471-4503

Monday, October 11, 2010

Data and an Article to Share with Your IT Students

Last week NetworkWorld reported on new data recently released by the American Community Survey, an annual survey that asks similar questions to the U.S. Census. The data show that employment in computer- and math-related jobs held steady nationwide through 2009, even among the massive decline in overall employment in the United States. While 2009 saw a drop of 6 million in U.S. jobs in comparison to 2008, the number of computer- and math-related jobs went from 3.475 million to 3.472 million in that same period, with a margin of error of 31,000.

States with the highest increases in tech jobs in 2009 were Colorado (up 2.2%), North Carolina (up 1.8%), and Kentucky (up 1.8%).

This is great news for your IT students; they can feel confident that when they graduate, they will find many IT jobs available. Now, they just have to make sure they prepare themselves appropriately to succeed in the job they find after graduation by building the right skills and experience while in school.

Certification Magazine writer Nelson Velez just published an article that every IT student should read for a straight-forward perspective about IT skills and certifications and the steps to take to achieve them in the right order. Some students wonder where to start with certification, and others think they need every prestigious certification before they graduate in order to find their first job.

Velez offers the following basic path for certification that may help your students formulate a realistic plan:
  • Start with A+ to “acquire the basic knowledge of computer hardware and software needed to jump-start your IT career,” Velez said.
  • After A+, move on to Network+. “The best approach to becoming a networking expert is to understand all the basic concepts of networking,” Velez said. 
  • Once you’re in the field, Velez said “it tends to become clearer to individuals what to pursue as a next step or how to take over more complex tasks. . . . Once you have decided if you are an operating system person or a networking person, there are still plenty of options to choose from.”
  • If you want to specialize in operating systems, you may begin certifying in technologies from Microsoft, Linux, or another operating system.
  • If you want to specialize in networking, you may further narrow in on routing and switching, wireless technology, or information security. Each path has certifications to pursue that will further build the skills for that specialization (CCNA, CWNA, or CISSP are all meant for different specializations.)

By teaching IT concepts with LabSim certification training courses, you are developing your students’ foundational IT skills and preparing them to receive the exact certifications Velez and other experts recommend for their career start.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Digital Curriculum Engages Students

Quest to Learn, a public middle school in New York City, has received recent media attention for its innovative ideas to fully implement technology in the education of young students. Based on the idea that young people are digitally-minded, Quest to Learn’s founder Katie Salen, professor at Parsons the New School for Design, and Robert Torres, researcher and former school principal, say they believe school should be “more participatory, more immersive, and also more fun.” Students learn math, science, and English “in a game-like way”—through digital activities like video games and video game design. They also learn skills like team work, project management, and critical thinking.

Sara Corbett, contributing writer for the New York Times, wrote about the theories related to the development of Quest to Learn. She spoke with Michael H. Levine, director of Joan Ganz Cooney Center, who cited a 2006 study conducted by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Researchers surveyed high school dropouts to learn the reasons they left high school, and one reason they heard again and again was that school was “boring.” In their final report, researchers made a recommendation that educators try to make school “more relevant and engaging.”

According to Levine, educators need to be less critical of children’s use of media and explore ways to “harness” their interest in technology to keep them academically engaged. He said, “My view of it is that we will never get to the holy land in terms of educational performance unless we do something about the engagement factor.”

Administrators at Quest to Learn feel that education can be more relevant to young students by structuring their schoolwork around an activity they already enjoy spending time on—video games.

The design of LabSim courses supports a similar idea: students excel when they can practice concepts and skills in a medium that engages their attention.

For example, did you know that TestOut offers a LabSim Crime Scene Investigation course? While LabSim is best known for its IT certification training courses with hands-on labs, the same benefit of hands-on training is needed in other disciplines as well, including criminal justice. Used by many high schools and colleges, LabSim CSI involves students in realistic, simulated crime scenes to give them experience and develop the skills needed in criminal justice careers.


In the LabSim CSI course, students practice real tasks in a simulated environment—investigating a death, tracing evidence, handling biological evidence, fingerprinting, and other crucial criminal justice responsibilities. Teena Calkin, Public Safety & Security teacher at King Career Center in Anchorage, Alaska, said that her students work through the LabSim crime scene scenarios “as if they were playing a virtual game. It makes learning fun.”

What successes have you experienced as you have integrated technology into your students’ learning?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

"Our School Needs" Contest Could Bring Funds to Your School

Would your school benefit from a $100,000 gift to use toward technology education? We know the answer to that. Thanks to Bing, you have a chance to bring the funds to your school! Microsoft’s search engine Bing is sponsoring a user-generated competition, “Our School Needs,” to bring money to public schools. Over the course of the competition—September 20 to October 22—Bing will donate a total $250,000 to schools, and the grand prize winning school will receive $100,000. Plus, an additional $900,000 will be donated to schools over the course of the competition by the non-profit DonorsChoose.org.

To enter the competition, students and teachers at K-12 schools submit an essay and photos that finish the sentence “Our School Needs _____.”

Check out the official Our School Needs website for complete details, but here are the basics:

September 20–October 22: Enter to Win
As individuals or groups, students or teachers create a contest entry that includes:
  • A written essay, 500 to 800 words, that finishes the sentence “Our School Needs _____.”
  • 3–5 photographs that finish the sentence “Our School Needs _____.”
  • (Optional) An original video, no longer than 3 minutes in length, that finishes the sentence “Our School Needs _____.”
While students are encouraged to create the entry, a parent or teacher must submit it.

October 22–26: Rate Submissions
Entries will be displayed online for anyone to see and rate. Top-rated entries will then be narrowed down to 15 finalists by a panel of judges.

October 27–November 5: Official Voting Period
Everyone can submit a vote once a day for their favorite submission, and the first 30,000 voters each day will receive a $3 donation from DonorsChoose.org to support a classroom project.

November 9: Winners Are Announced
Three first-prize schools will win a $50,000 prize, and the grand prize school will win $100,000.

Be sure to visit the official Our School Needs website to read more about the contest and get helpful tools for planning your submission.

Good luck!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

CompTIA's A+ Update to Include Windows 7 Content: LabSim Is Ready

At the recent CompTIA Breakaway 2010 conference, CompTIA announced they are updating the A+ exam objectives to include Windows 7 as a required operating system. In A+ Essentials (exam 220-602), Domains 3.0 and 4.0 will be updated (see the official updated objectives), and in A+ Practical Application (exam 220-702), Domains 2.0 and 4.0 will be updated (see the official updated objectives).

Though CompTIA has not specified exactly when the changes will take place, there will likely be a beta period when new questions are tested in exams but not counted toward test-takers’ scores. After the beta period, successful questions will be kept in the exam question pool. TestOut estimates that the beta period may conclude as early as late December 2010.

How will the changes affect TestOut’s LabSim A+ courses?
CompTIA’s addition of Windows 7 questions in the A+ exams should have no impact on test-takers who train with LabSim A+ courses. LabSim A+ courses already include Windows 7 content, and the LabSim A+ courses will be updated with new Windows 7 practice exam questions before CompTIA’s changes are in effect.

LabSim A+ courses already include Windows 7 content.
As TestOut was developing LabSim courses for the new A+ exams, Windows 7 was already in final beta. Even though it was not required by the CompTIA objectives, TestOut chose to include Windows 7 content in the courses, knowing that people would need to be familiar with the newest operating system both at home and in the workplace. Comparing LabSim A+ content to the updated exam objectives, TestOut only needs to make minor additions to the LabSim A+ courses.

LabSim A+ content will update before Windows 7 exam questions are used.

As CompTIA gets closer to including Windows 7 questions in their exams (both beta and eventually scored questions), LabSim A+ exam preparation will be updated to include Windows 7 practice questions. TestOut anticipates having new practice questions added long before Windows 7 questions are required for the live certification exams.

As soon as any additional content is modified or added to LabSim A+ courses, users will immediately see those changes.

What should I do differently as I teach A+?
If you teach A+ and would like to help your students succeed with Windows 7, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
  • Other than some interface changes and a few new features, Windows 7 is very similar to Windows Vista. Windows 7 has the same system requirements, system files are in the same locations, and most tasks can be completed using the same methods as in Windows Vista.
  • When upgrading to Windows 7, remember the general upgrade rule:
    An in-place upgrade is possible when moving up one operating system version (such as from Vista to Windows 7). A clean install is required when moving up two or more versions (such as from Windows XP to Windows 7).
    For example, when upgrading from Windows XP, you can do an in-place upgrade to Windows Vista, but you must do a clean install to move to Windows 7.
  • Backup and Restore in Windows now includes the ability to back up specific files.
  • A library in Windows 7 is a way to organize and share files and folders. A library is like a virtual directory that includes files and folders from many different locations. Users access files in the library through the library folder instead of browsing to specific folders in various locations.
  • The new HomeGroup feature allows computers on a local area network to easily share files and printers.

Specific interface changes that make Windows 7 different from Windows Vista include:
  • The Sidebar has been removed in Windows 7. All gadgets float freely on the desktop.
  • Icons can now be pinned to the taskbar or the Start Menu by right-clicking the application.
  • The “Show Desktop” button is on the right side of the taskbar. Hovering over the button makes the content of all open windows disappear (called “Peek”); clicking the button minimizes all open windows.
  • “Snap” is a new feature that maximizes a window as you drag its border to the edge of the screen. Snapping multiple windows on the screen tiles them side-by-side.
  • “Shake” lets you hide all but the current window. Click the top window border and shake the mouse to hide or unhide all other open windows.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Last Day to Vote! 2010 Windows IT Pro Awards

If TestOut's LabSim certification training courses have made a difference for you, we would appreciate your vote of support in the 2010 Windows IT Pro Community Choice Awards!


TestOut has been nominated in two categories: Best Training and Certification Product or Service and Best Vendor Technical Support.

Your confidence in TestOut's LabSim can show others that LabSim is the best source for comprehensive, hands-on IT training.

Today's the last day to vote, so please visit Windows IT Pro Community Choice Awards, select IT Pros, and vote for TestOut on Page 2, Questions 27 and 30.

Thank you for your support and for taking the time to vote!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Free LabSim Webinar "Seeing Is Believing--Student Results at Your Fingertips"


"Seeing Is Believing—Student Results at Your Fingertips"

Join us for a Webinar on September 22, 2:00-3:00 PM EDT


Space is limited! Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

Learn how to effectively implement LabSim IT certification training courses and use student reporting and curriculum resources featured in every LabSim course.

Includes LabSim demonstrations on:

Creating Reports of Student Results
  • Track students' scores on labs, quizzes, and exams
  • Observe time students spend viewing videos and data sheets
  • View data based on student, class, LabSim titles, or specific LabSim exercises

Administrative Tools
  • Manage student and class information
  • Activate students in LabSim

Best Practices
  • Maximize LabSim benefits in your classroom

Curriculum Development Tools
  • Complete LabSim course outlines
  • Library of lesson plans in .pdf and Word

Courseware Textbook Mapping
  • LabSim course content mapped to popular textbooks

And much more to help improve instructors' and students' success using LabSim.

Title: "Seeing Is Believing—Student Results at Your Fingertips"
Date: Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Time: 2:00-3:00 PM EDT

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.

System Requirements
PC-based attendees: Windows 7, Vista, XP, or Server 2003
Mac-based attendees: Mac OSX 10.4.11 (Tiger) or newer

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

IT Instructor Displays LabSim Graphic in a Creative Way

Dennis DeBroeck, instructor in the IT program at Walla Walla High School in Walla Walla, Washington, sent us an email with some awesome photos: he printed the new LabSim “Experience Accelerated” poster on a floor tile and laid it in his classroom! He also displayed the graphic as the desktop wallpaper on computers in his classroom. Check out Dennis’s description and photos below!

“I print floor graphics as a way to communicate important details to students. I put wiring diagrams, safety information and warnings, and charts on the floor. Students always seem to see them if I do. I put the LabSim poster down so students would know about the recent changes to the online version. Students also love industry connections.

TestOut sent me the graphics, and I printed them on a Roland printer that is designed to print on several types of material, including floor vinyl. I change them about once a month to content that I am teaching at the time. I am currently working on printing all the ports found on the back of a computer and putting them around the room.”
The new LabSim "Experience Accelerated" poster features an exploding progress bar.
Instructor Dennis DeBroeck uses floor graphics to capture his students' attention.

Walla Walla High School students learn from the latest technologies in their classroom.

Remind students of hands-on benefits of using LabSim with "Experience Accelerated" wallpaper.


About Dennis and his classroom:
“I teach Media Technology & Animation as well as Computer Technology.  I have done so for about 17 years.  I maintain and manage my own classroom technology.  My classroom has two servers, 28 workstations and technical lab area.  We have a large format printer and a media studio with high def cameras and editing.  We currently run Windows 7 64 bit OS and Mac.  We use CS5 master collection and Newtek Lightwave for 3D modeling and animation work.

Our stations use Intel i7 processors and led backlit Vizio monitors.  I manage the lab with Scriptlogic's desktop authority.”

Thank you, Dennis, for sharing your photos with us!

Your Own New LabSim Poster, "Experience Accelerated"
Get your own new LabSim poster and desktop wallpaper to remind your students of the experience they're gaining from LabSim training. Email your request to experience@testout.com.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Require Mastery of LabSim Labs to Ensure Learning

There are many ways to incorporate LabSim training into an IT course you teach. Some instructors assign certain sections of LabSim to match their own lesson schedule, while others assign the whole LabSim course from start to finish. Some instructors use LabSim as the sole curriculum, and others use LabSim as part of a combination of teaching tools.

Even though instructors utilize LabSim in different ways, there is one requirement I hear from almost every instructor I talk to:

Require mastery (100%) of each LabSim lab before students can move on to the next LabSim module.

Instructors emphasize the importance of students gaining mastery of each concept they learn and task they complete in LabSim. Below are comments from five different IT instructors who require their students to complete each LabSim lab with 100%:

“When students miss a question in a quiz or exam, or perform a lab incorrectly, LabSim points them to the sections in the course where they can learn the material they don’t understand. They have to do remedial learning until they can pass the lab with 100%.”

“Repeating the videos and labs until content is mastered is a good thing because repetition helps solidify concepts in students’ minds. Hearing and doing it again reinforce learning. A lot of my students play video games. I tell them, have you ever played a game so many times you can close your eyes and play it in your sleep? It needs to be that way with IT concepts, and LabSim lets you practice until you’re at that point.”

“I look for mastery. I don’t give a final grade on a LabSim lab until students have mastered it with a score of 100%. Students have assigned timeframes to complete LabSim sections, and within each timeframe, they can repeat the sections as many times as it takes to master the concepts.”

“LabSim is 50% of students’ final grade. All they have to do is print off the LabSim report at the end of class showing 100% on everything.”

“Students can repeat videos, labs, and readings as many times as necessary to master the concepts, but I don’t give any credit until their score is 100%.”

Instructors, what successes have you seen by requiring your students to achieve mastery in every lab? Leave your comment or email experience@testout.com.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vote for TestOut in the 2010 Windows IT Pro Community Choice Awards

For the second year in a row, TestOut has been nominated for the Windows IT Pro Community Choice Awards in the category Best Training and Certification Product or Service for TestOut’s LabSim training courses. This year, TestOut has also been nominated in the category Best Vendor Technical Support.

Please take a minute to cast your vote and recognize TestOut as the industry’s best.

Where to Vote
Visit Windows IT Pro Community Choice Awards, select IT Pro, and vote for TestOut on page 2 in Questions 27 and 30.

When to Vote

The voting period runs from August 31st to September 21st. Don’t wait to cast your ballot! Click here.

Why should you vote for TestOut?
  • TestOut’s LabSim courses include video training by expert instructors, written lessons, hands-on lab simulations, and practice exams that prepare you for certification—all in every course.
  • TestOut’s LabSim courses allow you to learn at your own pace and keep track of every action and score you make.
  • TestOut offers the best customer service in the industry.

Here's what other LabSim users have said about TestOut's LabSim training and technical support:
  • “Your customer support group is the best we have ever experienced. One of my students was so impressed they suggested we emulate your support team in our help desk curriculum.” –G. Boswell, IT Instructor
  • “I have always been impressed by the quality of TestOut’s telephone support—technical, sales, or otherwise. Not long ago, I was deployed in Baghdad. Because of security issues, I wasn’t able to install LabSim over the network. I called TestOut’s technical support, and they went above and beyond for me to find a workaround.” –Gary Weber, IT Professional
  • “The problem with CBT Nuggets is it’s just video. When we tried out LabSim, we liked the whole combination of labs, videos, and everything together. That was the best part.” –Jerry Madrid, CEO, IT Company
  • “I used Transcender in the past, and LabSim is so much better. It's more interactive, it has video instruction, fact sheets that you can print out and study, as well as the interactive pieces. Transcender was just a lot of testing and memorizing answers more than actually learning. People ask me about LabSim and I tell them they definitely need to take advantage of it.” –Jeanine Babic, IT Professional

Click here to cast your vote today!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Priority IT Certifications

Which certifications should you make your priority? If you’ve purchased the LabSim library of certification training courses, you already have training for 12 of the most important certifications for IT professionals. Seven of them were included in Dice Learning’s recent list of the Top 10 Pay-Boosting Certifications in Tech:
  • Security+
  • MCSA (Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator)
  • CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional)
  • Network+
  • MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional)
  • CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate)
  • A+
  • MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer)
  • PMP (Project Management Professional)
  • ITIL (IT Infrastructure Library)

“When you combine in demand skill-sets and proven salary impact, specific certifications become valuable to individual technology professionals,” said Evan Lesser, Director of Dice Learning.

TestOut
’s approach to training with LabSim courses is to prepare you through certification training to have the skill-sets needed to do your job and do it well. When you know more and can do more to contribute in your IT role, your career will move more quickly in the direction you want to take it.

While TestOut wants to help you certify and knows certification will be an asset to your career, certification by itself isn’t our end goal. Our LabSim courses train you to certify in the right certifications AND be a top performer in your organization.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Friday, August 27, 2010

"Certify at your level and with what you do."

When you’re at the beginning of your career in IT and not doing quite what you want to be doing (yet), it’s tempting to think that certifications will be the quick solution to career advancement. You may think you need to “rack up” as many certifications as you can in the shortest time possible in order to open doors to better career opportunities. But this plan overlooks the point of certification in the first place, and chances are, a certification not coupled with practical experience won’t get you very far anyway.

This is not to say that certifications shouldn’t be your goals. They still should. Certifications have always played an important role in demonstrating expertise in IT fields. But consider what Ken Wagner of Certification Magazine suggested to a recent IT grad interested in a career in information security. After pointing out that security is a hard field to break into without prior experience, Wagner told the graduate, “Certify at your level and with what you do. When you first get into IT, work toward the CompTIA Security+. Forget about the higher-level security certs like the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) for now until you actually work in the information security field.”

The recommendation to “certify at your level and with what you do” is an important one to remember, no matter what area of IT you want to go into. So, what is your area of practical experience? For example, do you work with networks? Your experience coupled with hands-on certification training will prepare you to receive the Network+ certification. Then, as you continue professional work in networking, you’ll be able to add to your networking qualifications with higher-level certifications. The idea is to work on certifications as you build your experience, not before you build your experience.

Dave Willmer, executive director of Robert Half Technology, wrote that certifications “carry their value only when they’re paired with experience. Choose training opportunities and certifications that realistically enhance your ability to help your current or next employer.”

With that in mind, consider the certification that matches the experience you’re currently gaining for the career you want. Seek training that will give you hands-on experience as you prepare to certify, and build a foundation of skills for your career path.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Monday, August 23, 2010

MCTS Certification: A Step in the Right Direction for Your Career

Did you know that you only need to pass one exam to earn your Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) certification? While MCITP requires passing two to four exams for certification, MCTS can be achieved sooner, and many of the single exams that you may pass to receive MCTS designation also count toward MCITP.

Eric Eckel, president of two technology consulting companies, published a list on TechRepublic of the top ten IT certifications from his practical viewpoint in the industry. Ranking MCTS as number two on his list, Eckel wrote, “Mastering a single exam, especially when available examinations help IT pros demonstrate expertise with such popular platforms as Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Microsoft SQL Server 2008, is more than reasonable.”

The MCTS designation shows that an IT professional has mastered a specific Microsoft technology—and because Microsoft obviously offers a lot of different technologies, MCTS certification allows you to demonstrate a specialized expertise.

For example, a current LabSim user who recently graduated college, started his career in IT, and is beginning to train for certifications that will build his skillset, told me that working with servers is his passion. For him, the MCTS certification will be the best place to start. Either exam 70-640 (TS: Windows Server 2008 Active Directory, Configuring) or exam 70-642 (TS: Windows Server 2008 Network Infrastructure Configuration) fulfill the requirement to be MCTS certified and demonstrate expertise working with Microsoft server technologies. A great start for his resume, the MCTS certification with an emphasis in servers will then count toward the MCITP: Server Administrator certification that he can work toward next.

This example shows just one route an IT professional could take on his or her path to learning and certifying in Microsoft technologies. If Microsoft server technologies aren’t your emphasis, consider one of the other categories of expertise for MCTS certification that will work toward your own career goals.

In his article listing his top ten certifications, Eckel said, “The world runs on Microsoft.” He in no way downplayed the importance of Apple technologies, and he included as many Apple certifications on his list as Microsoft certifications. But he pointed out that, realistically, IT professionals need to be experts on Microsoft technologies. Start with the MCTS certification and you’ll take a big step in the right direction for your career.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Match LabSim Content to Your Textbook for A+ and Network+

Have you seen the recently-developed courseware maps for LabSim A+ and Network+? Instructors, these new course maps are for you!

Although LabSim courses are designed to stand alone as a full curriculum for IT subjects, some instructors also supplement LabSim training with textbooks. However, without a chart that shows instructors exactly which chapters and sections in the text match up to the sections of LabSim, instructors have a lot more work on their hands planning their course schedules.

TestOut has done this work for you by creating useful course maps. Charts based on the objectives of CompTIA’s A+ and Network+ exams show exactly what sections of the corresponding LabSim courses cover those objectives, as well as what chapters of the textbook cover the same objectives.

If you use any of the following texts, LabSim courseware maps are available to help you quickly coordinate LabSim content with your text:

  • Jeans Andrews, A+ Guide to Managing and Maintaining Your PC, 7th Edition
  • Jeans Andrews, A+ Guide to Hardware: Managing, Maintaining, and Troubleshooting, 5th Edition
  • Jean Andrews, A+ Guide to Software: Managing, Maintaining, and Troubleshooting, 5th Edition
  • Mike Meyers, CompTIA A+ Certification Exam Guide, 7th Edition
  • Tamara Dean, Network+ Guide to Networks, 5th Edition

A small selection from the LabSim A+ course map to Mike Meyers's textbook shows you how the charts are organized:

To view or download the complete LabSim A+ course mapping that matches the textbook you use, please visit www.LabSimOnline.com or click these links:

http://www.labsimonline.com/teacher/LabSim_A+_Mapping_Andrews.pdf
http://www.labsimonline.com/teacher/LabSim_A+_Mapping_Meyers.pdf
http://www.labsimonline.com/teacher/LabSim_Network+_Mapping_Dean.pdf

Emily Howard, TestOut

Thursday, August 12, 2010

LabSim A+ and Windows 7 Training—Now In Your Browser


Today TestOut announced the launch of a new version of LabSim—accessed through your browser! Three courses, including LabSim A+ Essentials, A+ Practical Application, and Configuring Windows 7, are available in any major browser, on both PCs and Macs. All other LabSim courses are still accessible through the Windows-version of LabSim installed on your PC.

Over the past several months, browser-based LabSim has been in beta version, and many technology instructors and students helped test and improve the product by utilizing it in their classes. Feedback from instructors shows the overall excitement for LabSim training through a browser:
  • Hermine Turner, senior technical trainer at Focus: HOPE Information Technologies Center, wrote to us, “I am very pleased with the browser-based delivery of the A+ LabSim. Delivery of the product is much faster. . . Students will now have access at local public libraries because the client will not need to be installed."
  • Nick Newell, instructor at Northeast Mississippi Community College, told me, “I tested the browser-based LabSim all summer and will use it to teach my IT Foundations class this semester. I am really pleased with what I’ve seen!”
  • William Schlick, professor at Schoolcraft College, said, “It is faster altogether, and I’ve seen a marked difference. TestOut is definitely on the right track with this!”

If you have purchased any of the three LabSim courses now available in a browser, you can now access them both through the Windows-version of LabSim—the client installed on your PC—and through a browser on any PC or Mac with an Internet connection. Try it out! And no matter which version of LabSim you use, your results will always be up to date in LabSim reports.

Find more information about browser-based LabSim at www.labsimonline.com, or, if you already have a LabSim account, refer to these instructions for launching LabSim A+ or Windows 7 courses in your browser right now:

How to Access LabSim A+ or Windows 7 through Your Browser

To access LabSim A+ or Windows 7 in your browser with the highest quality, please note the following requirements:

System Requirements
  • Windows 7, Vista, or XP
  • Macintosh OS X or higher with Intel processor

Supported Browsers
  • Internet Explorer 7 or 8
  • Mozilla Firefox 3
  • Google Chrome
  • Apple Safari 4

1. Go to http://labsim.testout.com

2. Enter your current LabSim login and password to begin.

3. Follow instructions for adding Microsoft Silverlight, a free browser plug-in with a quick installation:
  • Select the link for either Windows Silverlight or Mac Silverlight. The download will begin automatically.
  • Open the file, and click “Run.”
  • Click “Install now.”
  • Close the browser and then open it again for the installation to take effect.
And as always, get in touch with us and let us know how it goes!

Emily Howard, TestOut

Monday, August 9, 2010

Windows 7 Training: Worth Your While?

Wondering whether Windows 7 training is worth your while—or worth your students’ while? How much will IT professionals really need to know about Windows 7 in the near future? Statistics reported by Windows IT Pro writer Paul Thurrot help answer these questions about Windows 7 deployment in the enterprise.

Admitting he was curious—maybe even a little doubtful—about the actual numbers we would see for Windows 7 deployment in large businesses, Thurrott posed the question, “Has individual excitement around Windows 7 broken through to the fiscally constrained corporate market? . . . Or worse yet, is Windows 7 just another Windows Vista, where talk about deployments eventually disappears as the reality of the situation becomes clear?”

The numbers are speaking for themselves, and according to analysts and research firm IDC, about 65% of corporations have already begun migrating to Windows 7. “Both Dell and Intel are fully deployed on Windows 7 now,” wrote Thurrott further, citing information from Microsoft general manager Gavriella Schuster. Already, Windows 7 is not another Vista.

It also sounds like Microsoft did its research all along the development timeline of Windows 7, working closely with partners (PC makers, ISVs, and solution integrators) to always be up to date on tools Windows 7 would work with and to improve the product with partners’ feedback.

The widespread deployment of Windows 7 at the consumer level, small- to medium-sized business level, and most importantly, at the enterprise level, make it necessary for IT professionals to be trained to work with Windows 7.

If you haven’t yet, try an evaluation of the new LabSim Configuring Windows 7 course in your classroom, and make sure your students are prepared to be the professional on Windows 7 when they enter their profession.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Four Key IT Certifications

You might think you’d like to pursue every certification out there, but you have to start somewhere, right? Recently Certification Magazine’s Dave Willmer wrote about the 4 most in-demand certifications as recommended by IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology:
  1. Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)
  2. Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE)
  3. Project Management Professional (PMP)
  4. Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA)

(By the way, of the 4 certifications named by Robert Half, complete training courses for 3 of them are included in the LabSim library of IT certification training).

Designations like this list by Robert Half Technology help IT professionals decide where to focus their certification efforts. Once they know the area of IT they want to pursue for their career, IT professionals can use this list and other similar lists to know which certifications are most respected in that area.

For example, Willmer writes that “fifty-eight percent of CIOs polled for the ‘Hiring Index’ ranked network administration as the technical skill set in greatest demand within their IT departments.” If networking administration is your career goal, then this list helps you narrow in on CCNA as the certification you should go after.

As you seek professional development opportunities, make sure your time is well spent by training for the industry certification that best moves your career in the direction you want to take it.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Friday, July 30, 2010

Prepared to Protect and Recover Data

I just moved from Utah to Virginia, and in the 3 weeks we’ve been here, we’ve seen a steady line of thunderstorms move through. Yesterday evening’s storm was the worst yet—crashing thunder, trees down, and a large section of town left without power.

This morning I saw Bridget McCrea’s article “Disaster Recovery: Protecting Campus Data Against the Inevitable” in Campus Technology, and considering our recent storm, I was intrigued.

McCrea wrote about the stellar work of IT systems administrator Bob Full at Coastal Carolina University. Located near the South Carolina coast, CCU sees hurricanes every 3 years on average, and many other severe storms in between. To protect the data and entire IT infrastructure of the university from being lost when disaster hits, Full has implemented “an on-site data protection unit (DPU), which allows the university to protect local data (files, folders, and all user data) on its own servers, desktops, and laptops,” as well as a backup system with data mirroring to quickly restore data if it’s ever lost.

I quickly thought of LabSim’s Server+ course that gives in-depth training on fault tolerance concepts such as scalability and disaster recovery, as well as system restore (ASR and creating an ASR diskette), and backup and restore—including training for backing up in Windows, in NetWare, and in Linux. LabSim Server+ training also teaches RAID Array recovery, server shutdown, and remote management.

Knowing how to secure your data and your company's data against unexpected disaster or accidents is as critical as having the data in the first place. Check out LabSim Server+ for more information on what’s included in Server+ training.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Make Sure College Prepares You for Your Career

Graduates, did your college education prepare you for the first job you started after graduation? Did the focus of your coursework match the focus of the field you work in? Were your homework assignments meant to be exercises in critical thought, or preparation for the real work you would do after graduating?

Maybe it was one way, the other, or a mixture of both. While I am a lover of learning in general and appreciate education of many kinds, I also feel excitement when I read about colleges that are making efforts to really align the education they offer with the practical work students will do when they graduate and enter the workforce.

In a field like IT, it’s crucial that colleges prepare their students to work with cutting-edge technologies—the technologies they will work with in their very near future. That means more work for the colleges who teach IT and regular training for the IT faculty to know what those cutting-edge technologies are and learning how to use them. Howard Rubin, professor emeritus of the City University of New York and president of Rubin Systems, Inc., was recently quoted in Computerworld. Rubin suggested “ ‘proactive refresh institutions’ that develop, adapt, and augment technology capabilities more quickly and frequently—and more in line with up-to-the-minute business needs—than what is offered through a traditional four-year approach.”

If colleges had a way to be so proactive as Rubin suggests, it would allow them to prepare their graduates to hit the ground running. One obvious way is through certification training. Industry organizations like CompTIA and (ISC)2 do the work of keeping their certifications up to date with the latest, most in-demand technologies and IT skills; training for those certifications allows students to learn those technologies and develop those skills.

How does your college or university keep up to date with the technologies it teaches so that students are prepared for the workforce when they graduate? Does your college train for certifications in IT?

Emily Howard, TestOut

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Technology on College Campuses

On Monday, CDW-G released its 3rd annual 21st-Century Campus Report, an in-depth look at the role of technology in higher education. The report analyzes results of a survey of more than 1,000 college students, faculty, and IT staff members.

The survey found that both current and future college students have high expectations for technology use in education, and their expectations are rising, not falling. 63% of current college students and 93% of high school students said technology offerings were/are important to them in their college selection process, with wireless networks and campus computer labs ranking highest in importance to students.

An important trend noticed through the survey is that students, faculty, and IT staff all place a high value on technology as a learning tool. Technology allows faculty to create a wider variety of learning environments and experiences. One of the most popular and in-demand examples is online classes that offer flexibility to working students. Digital course content also offers cost savings and more convenient access to learning.

From the survey, the following list shows what campus IT staffs view as the most essential campus technologies, in order of importance:

1. Wireless Internet access
2. Digital course content
3. Smart podiums
4. Online collaboration software
5. Virtual learning (also known as online classes)
6. Recorded class lectures
7. HD video conferencing
8. E-reader devices

Ultimately, CDW-G makes a call to action and suggests that campuses “move beyond just having technology to understanding how technology can change the learning process.” With the technology habits of the “Millenial” generation (students about to graduate high school), faculty and IT staff should integrate technology tools into their teaching to improve learning.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Monday, July 19, 2010

Certifications Keep IT Training Consistent

Have you ever thought about how chaotic it could become if every IT training program focused on different skills, different technologies, and different practices? When you entered the workforce, you might find a struggle of opinions on best practices and fundamental knowledge. That’s yet another great thing about IT certifications; they maintain a consistent focus on the skills truly needed by IT professionals and the best practices for carrying out IT roles.

Ryan Corey, director of admissions for the Academy of Computer Education, wrote:
The IT world has always gravitated toward increased homogeneity of training. Standard certification processes, created by agencies that focus purely on setting baselines of IT quality, ensure that best practices are universally followed. With the increased importance of IT in the modern era, it’s important for business and government to conform to certifiable standards to ensure that the flow of information remains intact.

Take A+ certification, for example. A+ is one of the most widely-required, widely-trained-for, and widely-sought-after certifications in IT. A+ certification evaluates fundamental computer maintenance skills, including working with power supplies, motherboards, processors, memory, video cards, networking, security, and many other topics. All who train for and certify in A+ learn about hundreds of current, key technologies absolutely necessary for a computer technician to understand. With training that follows A+ certification exam objectives, computer technicians are universally prepared to work in any technician role.

Emily Howard, TestOut