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