Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Learning Technologies Engage Students

Engaging students is one of the key ways to help them succeed through the challenges of gaining an education. Even when the course material is difficult, an engaged student sees the resources available to help him or her succeed, whether that resource is a fellow student offering help, an approachable faculty member, or an engaging curriculum material.

At Purdue University, a full-time Informatics group—part of the Information Technology department—works to develop learning technologies that will keep students engaged and ultimately help them succeed. Converge Magazine reported on three award-winning engagement apps Purdue has developed using social and mobile tools students already use.

The first engagement app, Hotseat, is used in large lecture classes and allows students to ask questions of the professor or other students during lecture where they can receive quick responses. Mixable, another engagement app, is a tool students use outside of class to connect with each other to give and get help. Finally, DoubleTake is an engagement app for courses that give video assignments. DoubleTake allows students to record video using their mobile phone and send it directly to their professor. Each of these learning tools takes advantage of technologies that engage students and help them succeed.

Many instructors in high schools and colleges say that the technologies in TestOut’s LabSim engage students who are learning IT. The brief videos and demonstrations are interspersed with hands-on labs, where students practice real-life tasks in computer maintenance, networking, or information security.

Mark Price, IT instructor at Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES in New York State, said he is utilizing LabSim to engage CABOCES students in their education. “The mindset of the class is engagement. Students are ready to learn anything you put in front of them,” he said. According to Price, LabSim’s realistic graphics and interactivity in hands-on labs makes LabSim “like a game, so students play it.”

Have your students been better engaged in IT education since you’ve incorporated LabSim? What elements of LabSim engage your students the most?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Accessible IT Training

Campus Technology reported that Dartmouth College has formed an initiative to make technology more accessible to all students and to ensure that the campus’s IT offerings are usable by students with hearing and visual impairments.

Sarah Horton, director of Web strategy, design, and instruction at Dartmouth, spoke of the priority of digital accessibility at Dartmouth and the new steps the college is taking to make it happen, starting with a close look at the college’s Web site and other online resources to see where improvements are needed, such as:
  • Closed Captioning for online videos
  • Embedded code that makes it possible for students to use screen readers
  • Options for larger fonts

TestOut’s LabSim is accessible to hearing impaired and deaf students by the Closed Captioning available in LabSim videos and the printable transcripts. Steve Shumko, a former student at Tooele Applied Technology College, benefited from TestOut’s Closed Captioning that made it possible for him to learn from the LabSim videos and demonstrations. Shumko is deaf, and the courseware he first used to prepare for A+ certification didn’t adequately prepare him for the exam because he couldn’t hear the lessons. After his college began offering TestOut’s LabSim training, Shumko retrained with Closed Captioned videos and LabSim’s hands-on labs.

Shumko passed A+ on his second try and then continued training with LabSim to become Network+ certified as well. He said, “I passed the CompTIA Network+ certification exam using LabSim almost entirely. That is, LabSim was my sole source for study material--videos and labs and practice exams in all sections.”

Have you or someone you know benefited from the Closed Captioning available in LabSim training?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dice Survey Shows Continued Growth in IT Industry

A recent hiring survey conducted by, an IT staffing firm, shows that hiring in the IT industry is continuing to improve, even since the same survey was conducted 6 months ago. According to Dice, whereas the national unemployment rate is 9%, the unemployment rate in IT is only 4%. Sixty-five percent of the companies surveyed by Dice said they plan to hire more IT workers in the last six months of 2011 than they hired in the first six months.

Although employers report the need to hire more IT workers, 63% report that they are struggling to find enough qualified IT professionals to fill open positions. Demand is especially high for IT professionals skilled in mobile computing, java and .net development, cloud computing, data security, and network security.

If you are currently in school getting your IT education, consider the Dice survey good news; 47% of survey respondents said that new-hire salaries will be higher in 2011 than they were in 2010. If you are already working in IT and looking for better compensation, Dice says to “know that the pendulum has swung back in [your] favor a little. The market is tight and employers don’t want to lose good people. So there is a chance for [you] to take advantage of that.”

TestOut’s mission is to give you the training to develop skills you need to excel in the IT industry. With TestOut’s LabSim training courses, you get hands-on experience working with networks, security fundamentals, and key technologies from Microsoft, Cisco, and others. As you gain experience and certification, you’ll be armed with the skills and credentials to take advantage of the positive growth in the IT industry.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New LabSim Security+ Course to Address CompTIA’s Recent Exam Updates

On June 2 CompTIA announced the release of an updated Security+ certification exam. CompTIA has revised the Security+ exam to keep it current and to maintain accreditation according to ISO standards.

With new objectives for and questions on the Security+ exam, TestOut has been busy preparing updates to the LabSim Security+ training. Watch for the new LabSim Security+ course to be released this summer to give you the training you need on all the updated content for Security+ certification.

Security+ certification is a vendor-neutral certification for information security professionals and covers a broad spectrum of security concerns. A growing number of companies and organizations rank information security as a high level priority, according to a recent CompTIA study Eighth Annual Global Information Security Trends. Security expertise proven through Security+ certification gives IT professionals greater forward momentum in their growing IT careers.

What’s on the revised Security+ exam? According to CompTIA EVP Terry Erdle in a CompTIA press release, “The new exam covers more of the approach that organizations need to take to proactively address security risk control and mitigation. We’ve also included more content in areas such as forensics, cloud computing and virtualization. The focus is on the proactive elements like designing network security to accommodate cloud and the potential threats associated with it.”

CompTIA described the following content areas for the 2011 revision of the Security+ exam:
  • Network security (21 percent of exam)
  • Compliance and operational security (18 percent)
  • Threats and vulnerabilities (21 percent)
  • Application, data and host security (16 percent)
  • Access control and identity management (13 percent)
  • Cryptography (11 percent)

The 2011 Security+ exam is available now at testing centers. The 2008 version of the Security+ exam will still be available until the end of 2011 when it will be retired.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

IT Career Retraining Comes in Many Forms

If your career was sidelined during our nation’s economic downturn and you’re looking for ways to retrain, writer Gregory Karp at the Chicago Tribune has detailed the pros and cons of the different avenues you can take for gaining new skills. Community college programs, career schools, and workforce training centers offer opportunity to learn the skills you need to get hired in the IT field of your choice. Understanding the details about each option can help you determine which is best suited to your needs.

For example, a community college may be the most affordable option. Community colleges have campuses scattered throughout each state, and there’s probably one located not too far from you. Most community colleges offer a program in computer technology that allows you to emphasize computer support, networking, or another IT area of emphasis, to work toward a technical certificate or an associate’s degree.

Many times community colleges also offer courses you can take to learn just a particular skill without working toward an entire degree. For example, Steve Bowker is an IT instructor of a non-degree course at Harrisburg Area Community College in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Many of Bowker’s students take the class to train toward one or more IT certifications that will qualify them for a job they want. Bowker utilizes TestOut’s LabSim to give all his students—ranging from young to old and from computer novice to computer near-expert—hands-on IT learning.

Another career retraining route you may take is attendance at a career school or for-profit college such as DeVry University or Corinthian College. These schools tend to make it a priority to offer flexible class schedules and course deliveries to make it possible for people who work full-time or who have family obligations to complete coursework. Unlike community colleges, for-profit schools are private businesses and therefore tend to be more expensive.

Lastly, there are many job training centers whose sole role is to help you gain the skills you need to be employed in a specific job. These centers may be for-profit or government funded. Programs may be brief such as 12 or 16 weeks, and in IT, these programs frequently focus on getting you trained for one or more certifications.

Karp recommends that, no matter which path you take, you do your homework and ask many specific questions about the programs offered and the certifications you’ll be trained for. He points out that volunteer opportunities may also help you learn new skills.

Best of luck to you as you seek the retraining you need for your IT career.