Monday, June 28, 2010

Choosing Your Certification Training Course

If you’re planning to get certified through a course at a college or career school, you have more options than you may realize. Many colleges offer certification training as part of their IT curriculum. Online colleges, as well as online courses offered by colleges, are often a great way to fit certification training into an already busy schedule. The online training can often be completed on your own time and at your own pace.

Jamie Littlefield writes about distance education and online learning for, and she recommends asking several key questions when deciding what online college is the best fit for your situation and needs. The following questions are particularly relevant to online certification courses. Consider these before choosing your college for certification training:
  • What hardware will be required? If the college’s certification training includes software, online video trainings, or online labs, your home computer will need to be up to date to meet the hardware requirements of the training course. Find out ahead of time what the requirements are.
  • Will you need to purchase any additional software? Many colleges include course materials in the tuition fee. If your certification training uses software, find out if the software is included in the fee or if you will need to purchase it in addition to the other course materials.
  • How will you communicate with the school? All online or is there a number you can call for help? Email is convenient in most cases, but there may be times when you need a question answered quickly by someone who knows. Make sure this will be possible.
  • Can you speed ahead or take more time and work at your own pace? Some courses give you a certain amount of time and let you work at your own pace to complete all assignments, while others are planned according to a course schedule. There’s not a right or wrong way, but choose a course model that fits your personality and study habits.
  • What curriculum is used? Will you need to purchase textbooks? Do some extra homework and find out exactly what certification training materials the college relies on. Are the materials from a reputable vendor? Read reviews and learn as much about the training materials as you can. After all, you want the course to train you well enough both to pass your certifying exam and to prepare you to succeed in the job you find after certifying.

For those who’ve already gone through this process, what else did you do to evaluate and select the right online course for your certification training?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

New Course Release – LabSim Configuring Windows 7

It’s here . . . the LabSim Configuring Windows 7 training course is now available!

With LabSim Windows 7 training, you or your students will learn all about the new operating system, gain confidence working comfortably in Windows 7, and prepare to pass the Microsoft 70-680 exam to certify as a Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS).

LabSim Configuring Windows 7 offers active learning activities and hands-on labs to give you real practice performing critical tasks in Windows 7. The new LabSim Configuring Windows 7 training course teaches how to:

• Install, upgrade, and migrate to Windows 7
• Deploy Windows 7 by capturing a system image, preparing it, deploying it, and configuring a VHD
• Configure hardware and applications (IPv4 and IPv6 network settings, firewall, and remote management)
• Configure access to resources (setting permissions for files and folders, configuring user account control and Secure Desktop)
• Configure mobile computing (BitLocker, DirectAccess, VPN connections and authentication)
• Monitor and maintain systems that run Windows 7 (updates, disk volumes, file system fragmentation, RAID, event logs, performance settings)
• Configure backup and recovery options (system backup, system restore settings, restoring damaged/deleted files)

LabSim Windows 7 training is your best tool for fully learning Windows 7 because it includes 35 hands-on lab exercises that give you real-life experience. If you want to learn how to troubleshoot Windows 7, you could read a book with someone’s explanation of how to troubleshoot it. Or, with LabSim, you can actually perform all the troubleshooting tasks in hands-on labs. Gaining real practice is how you will develop a mastery of Windows 7.

In addition to 35 hands-on labs, LabSim Windows 7 training offers 74 instructor videos, 68 video demonstrations, 98 printable study guides, and 404 quiz and exam questions to evaluate your understanding and readiness for the certification exam.

Don’t wait to start training for Configuring Windows 7, exam 70-680. Take advantage of TestOut’s discount pricing while the LabSim Configuring Windows 7 course is still hot off the press.

If you have questions about the new LabSim Configuring Windows 7 course or want to know more, give us a call! 1-800-877-4889.

Emily Howard, TestOut

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The TestOut Remodel Continues

There's something new every day during the remodel of the TestOut corporate office! New paint, new doors, new windows, new tile . . . beautiful new brick outside . . . and soon, a new staircase at the back entrance (below you see the demolished old one!). 

Take a look at some of our photos cataloging the progress!

Friday, June 11, 2010

E-textbooks in Higher Education

Steve Kolowich, writer for Inside Higher Ed, reported this week on the use of e-textbooks in higher education. Surveying several for-profit and not-for-profit institutions, he cited the following numbers:
  • For-profit colleges and universities: 75%–90% of courses use an e-textbook
  • Not-for-profit online colleges and universities: 9% say e-textbooks are widely used, and 50% say e-textbooks are rarely used
  • Not-for-profit traditional colleges and universities: 5% say e-textbooks are a priority in the short-term.

At the American Public University System (APUS), 300 of 400 fully online courses assign e-textbooks as the default text, and although they allow the option of buying a traditional text, 90% of students choose the e-textbook. Students have financial incentive, though, to select the e-textbook option; the university bundles the cost of e-textbooks—but not traditional textbooks—in students’ tuition cost. An APUS internal survey found that 42% of students who used the e-textbook said they strongly preferred print texts.

Why is e-textbook adoption more common by for-profit institutions that by not-for-profits? One reason could be that, in general, for-profit institutions of higher learning make it a priority to keep course curricula and materials consistent across all campuses. Instructional designers build the course, and all instructors of that course on all campuses teach with the same materials; at traditional colleges, a professor’s independence in selecting the text and designing the course is “sacred,” said John Bourne of the Sloan Consortium, quoted by Kolowich.

Another reason that for-profits choose e-textbooks could be economic in nature. According to David Bickford, vice president of academic affairs at the University of Phoenix, the wide adoption of e-textbooks wins the school a huge discount from publishers. Additionally, e-textbooks provided by the school through tuition costs are a convenience to students who don’t have to shop online for the best price on a text and wait for it to be delivered.

Kolowich raises an important question: “Switching to e-textbooks seems to be a prudent financial and logistical move. But is it a good educational one?”

LabSim has many users at both for-profit and not-for-profit institutions. Have you used E-textbooks in any of your classes? What do you prefer—traditional texts or E-texts?

Emily Howard, TestOut

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why Certify for Windows 7?

The LabSim Windows 7 training course is coming soon, with expected release this month!

Why should instructors train their students to be proficient on Windows 7? And why should students, as well as IT professionals, plan to certify for Windows 7? Brian Reinholz, Windows IT Pro writer, detailed the benefits of training and certifying for Windows 7 (Microsoft exam 70-680).

“With the rapid rate that organizations are migrating over to Windows 7, becoming familiar with the new OS is absolutely critical to just about any IT pro that works on Windows systems,” Reinholz wrote.

It’s clear that Windows Vista never gained the popularity that its precursor Windows XP enjoyed. Now, many companies and organizations are long overdue for an upgrade. Chris Pirie, general manager of sales and marketing for Microsoft Learning, said, “Microsoft is anticipating a phenomenal wave of desktop refreshes. Understand how policy works, how security works (BitLocker). Also, Windows Server 2008—we expect a wave of deployment upgrades, so make sure you’re on top of the basic hygiene things.”

Windows 7 is a much different operating system than Windows XP and even than Windows Vista. Your training for Windows 7 will teach you how to:

  • Install, Upgrade, and Migrate to Windows 7
  • Deploy Windows 7 by capturing a system image, preparing it, deploying it, and configuring a VHD
  • Configure Hardware and Applications (IPv4 and IPv6 network settings, firewall, and remote management)
  • Configure Access to Resources (setting permissions for files and folders, configuring user account control and Secure Desktop)
  • Configure Mobile Computing (BitLocker, DirectAccess, VPN connections and authentication)
  • Monitor and Maintain Systems that Run Windows 7 (updates, disk volumes, file system fragmentation, RAID, event logs, performance settings)
  • Configure Backup and Recovery Options (system backup, system restore settings, restoring damaged/deleted files)

When the LabSim Windows 7 training course becomes available this month, take advantage of the time to become an expert on a critical technology in the IT field. With LabSim training, you’ll be ready to work expertly with Windows 7 and pass one of the most relevant IT exams today: “TS: Windows 7, Configuring,” number 70-680.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Set Your Professional Goals

As you’re finishing up your education and looking forward to your career ahead, do you feel some uneasiness along with your excitement? It’s common to wonder how it will all work out and to question how you’ll get started in your career. One very important part of beginning a career—and a part that is often overlooked—is setting professional goals for yourself. Goals give you a specific direction and help you focus on getting exactly where you want to go in your career. If you’ve been a goal-setter in the past, then you know how helpful goals can be; if you’ve never set goals before, now is the time to start.

Certification Magazine’s Dave Willmer gave some great tips on setting professional goals. The whole article is definitely worth the read, but this point is particularly useful as you begin setting goals. Willmer writes:
It’s good to always have at least two goals at a time: one short-term goal and one long-term objective. Your short-term goal should be reachable within a few months. You may decide to earn a Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) credential within six months. With your long-term goal, you should look forward several years—to eventually become a network manager, for instance.

Ideally, the two objectives should be complementary—in this case, the CCNP certification would help prepare you for the manager position.

Dawn Rosenberg McKay suggested in a career planning article that “there must be an action tied to each goal.” As you set goals that you can achieve in 3 months or 3 years, make a plan of the actions you’ll take to achieve those goals.

As you set your professional goals, make certifications a priority. Certifications help demonstrate your competence in your field, and they show employers that you took the extra steps to set yourself apart from other candidates.

Best of luck in reaching your professional goals!

Emily Howard, TestOut

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Demand Is Up for Full-time IT Professionals

Computerworld’s Patrick Thibodeau recently reported on the status of hiring in the IT industry, and there’s a lot of good news for IT workers. While there is no single source or set of numbers to indicate the overall state of IT hiring, when many analysts from different sources are saying the same thing, it’s safe to bet on the trends.

Below are several statistics from different analyst organizations recognized for their expertise in the IT industry:

More openings in IT, and more of them full-time., an IT jobs board, had 68,000 IT jobs posted on Monday, May 10, in contrast to nearly a year ago when there were only 47,000 jobs listed. Dice also saw a sizable increase in the percentage of opportunities for full-time rather than contract IT jobs, indicating that employers have more confidence in their long-term needs for IT staff.

Increases in IT jobs nearly every month. TechServe Alliance, an industry group that analyzes unemployment data from the US Labor Department, reported that employers added 14,000 IT jobs in January–February of this year, and 17,300 IT jobs in April alone. Between August 2009 and April 2010, employers added 43,000 IT jobs to their payrolls.

“Positive Momentum” despite occasional setbacks. Foote Partners, an IT labor market analyst firm, indicated that employers are feeling more confidence in hiring again. David Foote, CEO, said, “It’s clear that the bleeding stopped in October and many employers are once again acquiring needed skills and making selective IT hires. . . . The freeze in IT spending for specialized skills has thawed at many of the companies we talk to, and I think we’ll be seeing that transform into less reliance on contractors and consultants by this time next year as companies feel more confident about budgets.”

If you’re looking for work in IT, keep your chin up. The market may still be volatile, but many employers are searching for talented IT staff to support their inevitable needs in IT.

Emily Howard, TestOut