Thursday, March 31, 2011

LabSim Helps Instructors Meet Students’ Needs

A new survey sponsored by MetLife, “Survey of the American Teacher: Preparing Students for College and Careers,” shows that K-20 educators feel one of their greatest challenges is differentiating instruction for students’ diverse needs. The survey looks at student differences and how teachers are addressing them.

According to the survey, educators consider the ability to differentiate instruction for their students as essential for students’ success. Educators surveyed say that their ability to personalize instruction and help diverse learners succeed could be helped by:
  • greater collaboration with other educators
  • better technology resources
  • tools for understanding students’ areas of need

As I read what educators said they need to help them personalize their instruction to reach the needs of students with different backgrounds and levels of understanding, I thought of the many instructors using TestOut’s LabSim who have told me how the training helps in each of these ways.

Collaboration with Other Educators
For example, the video instruction in LabSim courses, taught by industry experts, works in collaboration with classroom instructors. Bill Wittman, IT director and instructor at National College, said, “When students watch a video in LabSim, they get another professional’s perspectives, and it teaches them to keep an open mind. Change is constant in IT, and my lectures aren’t gospel. LabSim is another resource for sharing ideas.”

Technology Resources
TestOut’s LabSim is a resource that helps instructors reach all their students, no matter how the students learn best. Ginger Ring, instructor at Southern Hills Career and Technical Center, said that LabSim appeals to students’ different learning styles because each course includes instructional videos, hands-on labs, written lessons, section quizzes, and a final exam. “Some students learn better listening to audio; some like more hands-on learning or more variety. LabSim helps address that. My students don’t like to read—across the board—so the different teaching methods in LabSim reinforce what I require the students to read in a textbook,” Ring said.

LabSim is a technology resource that can be completed individually and at each student’s own pace. Jag Gossai, instructor at Durham Business & Computer College, said, “I can’t be everywhere at the same time, but if one student’s doing A+, another Network+, and another CCNA, it’s okay. With LabSim, they can continue working on their courses while I help students one at a time.”

Tools for Understanding Students’ Needs
The reporting tools in TestOut’s LabSim track each student’s understanding of the course material, and reports are viewable by instructors so they can evaluate exactly where students need help. Carol Chapman, director of New Jersey Career Center, said, “LabSim gives all of the information we need to know about every student to evaluate whether they’re really ‘getting it.’”

If you have used TestOut’s LabSim instruction in your classroom, how has LabSim helped you differentiate your instruction for diverse students’ needs?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New CompTIA Academy Partner Program May Be a Fit for Your School

At the end of last week, CompTIA—the industry association that offers A+, Network+, and Security+ certifications—announced that it is expanding its Partner Program to include not-for-profit academic institutions. Now, high schools, colleges, universities, and government-funded training centers that offer education for careers in IT may qualify to become a CompTIA partner.

CompTIA said that it chose to offer its CompTIA Academy Partner Program in an effort to prepare students for IT careers and supply the workforce with a greater number of skilled professionals. In a CompTIA press release, executive vice president Terry Erdle said, “All businesses need IT professionals and in large numbers – by the tens of thousands according to most estimates. . . . Our Academy Partners are among our most important strategic partners because they’re on the front lines improving workforce development, student employability and delivering long-term education value.”

Academic institutions who partner with CompTIA agree to purchase a certain number of certification exam vouchers from CompTIA who, in turn, gives the institution a number of additional exam vouchers for free. Institutions who already purchase exam vouchers for students, this is an especially good deal for you!

In addition to offering discounted exam vouchers, the Academy Partner Program also offers resources for IT curricula, access to industry research, and complimentary training and exam vouchers for instructors. Academic institutions will also have access to CompTIA logos and other resources for their own marketing purposes.

For more information about CompTIA’s Academy Partner Program, check out CompTIA’s official program guide and other documents.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Governors Urge Using Market Data to Guide Education Goals

In light of the United States’ recent focus on improving college enrollment and increasing the number of college graduates, governors in some states are working to approach those goals more strategically. Specifically, governors and policymakers of Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, and Washington State are trying to align the postsecondary education offered by public colleges and universities in their states with the market needs of their state’s economy.

A new report, “Degree for What Jobs?” published by the NGA Center for Best Practices says, “Higher education, including community colleges, four-year colleges, and research universities, cannot help drive economic growth in their states unless students’ academic success is linked to the needs of the marketplace.” The report asserts that while “any degree is better than no degree,” a degree can’t help lift the economy if it doesn’t fit the job marketplace.

The governors’ assertion makes sense, and their report suggests using market data to form state education goals. For example, the report illustrates the idea of moving from an existing state goal of achieving 500 new degrees annually, to a new state goal that first analyzes market data, then specifies the need for 200 new healthcare degrees and 300 new IT degrees, to arrive at a total 500 new degrees annually.

In a highly innovative, global economy, as higher education allows marketplace needs to guide degree and certificate offerings, the degrees and certificates that are produced will (1) help graduates find new jobs in the same field as the degree, and (2) benefit industries and economies.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cisco Survey Shows International Priorities in Education Technologies

In March, Cisco released the results of an international survey it commissioned about technology in education. The survey was conducted by research firm Clarus Research Group, who contacted educational administrators and IT decision-makers in 14 countries across 5 continents. A total of 500 educators offered responses in the survey, half from K-12 schools and half from colleges or universities. Educators in the United States were not included in this survey, though Cisco compared the results of this international survey with the results of a similar U.S. survey from 2010.

In all countries surveyed, the vast majority of educators, 85 percent, said they see technology as playing a “large role in how students learn” and that technology encourages student engagement and participation. Most also indicated they see potential for technology to improve student employment prospects, distance education opportunities, student engagement, communication and collaboration, and research capabilities. Particularly in Asia-Pacific, respondents said they “believe technology will play a critical role in preparing the workforce of the future.”

To help prepare students for working in a global economy networked together by technology, Cisco has recommended incorporating the following technologies/approaches in students’ education:
  • Use networked PCs or online approaches to teach so that students may progress at their own pace, freeing teachers to focus on students who need more help in certain areas.
  • Use technologies such as telepresence to educate students remotely and reduce the cost of delivering education to all students.
  • Use video and collaboration technologies to allow educators to be more effective and productive in teaching, anytime, anywhere.

What technologies play a large role in how students learn in your classroom?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Explore IT Job Roles with Help from Microsoft

IT students, do you ever wonder how you can choose the IT field you want to work in when you don’t exactly know what your job would be like? Microsoft has developed a new resource to help you understand key IT job roles so that you can better plan the route you want to take.

With a tool for exploring job roles, the new Microsoft Student Career Portal lets you select a specific job role and see a typical job description in that role. You can also view the skills and experience you would need for the job, the job titles you might hold within the role, possible future positions you could hold within that IT field, and the Microsoft certifications that would help you excel in the job role.

The information isn’t just for jobs at Microsoft, either. The job descriptions, skills, and positions listed are all written to help you understand job roles in the IT industry in general.

For example, if you select the job role “Database Administrator,” you would read this helpful job description:

As a database administrator, you are in charge of important databases that span multiple platforms and environments. You are a strong team player who thrives in a fast-paced environment. You build complex, highly scalable databases that meet business needs and security requirements. You are an expert in optimizing, maintaining, and troubleshooting databases, but also in designing archival, data distribution, and high-availability solutions.

You learn that in the Database Administrator job role, your job title could be Data Storage Manager, Database Analyst, or Database Designer.

Other job roles you may explore in the Student Career Portal include Server Administrator, Consumer Support Technician, Web Developer, and Windows Developer (more job roles coming soon, the site says).

Exploring job roles is just one of the career planning resources offered in the new Microsoft Student Career Portal. Check it out, and you may find answers to take some of the guesswork out of your career planning.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Survey Shows LabSim Instructors Value Built-in Reporting Tools

Several weeks ago, TestOut’s Vice President Don Whitnah told you about the LabSim Instructor Reports and Assessment Solutions Survey that TestOut was conducting. He also mentioned that when the results were in, we would share them with you!

The survey results show how instructors at hundreds of academic institutions are using LabSim in their curriculum, and what instructors’ priorities are for assessment and reporting tools.

Thank you to all instructors who took the time to provide feedback in the survey! As we go forward, TestOut is utilizing your feedback to improve the tools offered in each LabSim course.

Please view the survey results below.

1. How important is it for you to review the learning progress of your students (including quiz scores, lab exercises, practice exam performance) using reports built in to LabSim?

Percent %
Not Important
Somewhat Important
Very Important

2. Which statement best describes your experience with using the existing reports in LabSim to track student progress?

Percent %
I’ve used LabSim reports, and they are useful.
I’ve used LabSim reports, and some are useful.
I’ve used LabSim reports, but they are NOT useful.
I’ve used LabSim reports, but the reporting tool is difficult to use.
I know LabSim has reports, but I’ve never used them.
I didn’t know that there are reports available in LabSim.

3. Do you use (or want to use) the following LabSim features as a way to grade your students?
I Don’t Know
Section Exams
Lab Exercises
Certification Practice Exams

4. Which of the following best describes your need for improved assessments within the LabSim product?

Percent %
I need a way to measure student success to qualify for government funding for the course.
I need a way to prove competency on the course to justify budget expenses for my school.
I need a way for students to prove they have the skills necessary for a job.
I need activities that can be scored and used for grading purposes.

 5. How likely are you to use the following solutions to assess student learning, if they were available in LabSim?

Definitely would NOT use
Likely would NOT use
Likely would use
Definitely would use
A single exam composed of lab questions that measures students’ ability to perform the skills taught in the course
A tool that lets me write test questions and create my own exams
A community where I can share additional test questions with other instructors
A tool that lets me use existing questions in the product to create my own quizzes and exams

6. Please rank the following solutions based on how useful they would be for assessing your students' learning. (1 is the highest rank.)

A tool that lets me use existing questions in the product to create my own quizzes and exams
A single exams composed of lab questions that measures students’ ability to perform the skills taught in the course
A tool that lets me write test questions and create my own exams
A community where I can share additional test questions with other instructors