Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Have You Used the LabSim Custom Exam Editor (Beta)?

Instructors, have you taken advantage yet of the new Custom Exam Editor (Beta)? This new browser-based LabSim tool for instructors allows you to create custom assessment exams to measure your students’ IT skills and knowledge in specific areas you want to emphasize.

Unlike the quizzes and exams built in to LabSim courses, exams designed with the Custom Exam Editor (Beta) are not instructive in nature. They are assessment exams, giving instructors the ability to assess what students know and can do, without giving students the opportunity to re-take the exam or receive instant feedback about each answer.

With the Custom Exam Editor (Beta), instructors can:
  • Utilize TestOut’s bank of LabSim exam questions and labs to create skills assessment exams or memory/recall exams
  • Take simulations from LabSim courses and turn them into exam questions
  • Pull simulations and questions from multiple LabSim courses into a single exam
  • Schedule the time when students can take the custom exam inside browser-based LabSim

To learn how to use the Custom Exam Editor (Beta), please view the instructions How to Create a Custom Exam and How to Schedule Students’ Exams.

The Beta version of the Custom Exam Editor is fully functional, though TestOut is welcoming and asking for your feedback to make the tool better. As you use the Custom Exam Editor (Beta), please send TestOut your comments and suggestions for how the tool can be improved to better meet your needs.

If you’ve already used the Custom Exam Editor (Beta), please leave a comment here and let others know what you think!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Technology Helps Students 'Own' Their Learning Experiences

In his article “Technology’s Essential Role” on EdTechMag.com, Andy Lausch starts by saying, “Students like to own their learning experience.” Lausch, VP of CDW-G Higher Education, goes on to address how technology is essential in engaging students in their education and supporting their need for collaboration and digital learning.

“Students report that they are more engaged when they use new and innovative technologies,” Lausch writes. He continues, “Institutions need to recognize that this generation is accustomed to accessing information digitally and that they may be more likely to keep up with classwork and earn degrees if they can interact digitally on campus.”

Lausch’s argument for better integrating technology in students’ learning methods is supported by the comments many IT instructors share with TestOut after using LabSim in their class.

For example, Mark Price, IT teacher in the State of New York’s Cattaraugus-Allegany Board of Cooperative Educational Services (CABOCES), has incorporated the LabSim training curriculum in his courses and reports that the technology has changed the mindset of his students. According to Price, the high school dropout rate in New York is over 30%, but LabSim has engaged his students in learning IT and keeps them fully involved.

“With LabSim, the mindset of the class is engagement. They're ready to learn anything you put in front of them,” Price said. “LabSim takes the ownership of learning and puts it back on students' shoulders.”

One example of how LabSim has engaged Price’s students is seen in comparing the LabSim content with a textbook. Price explained, “Students wouldn't read our textbook, and it became a problem in class. LabSim is like a game, so they play it. It helps them engage.”

Have you had experiences where technology integration has made a difference in engaging students in your classroom? Please leave a comment.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Why and How Online Education Is Growing

Are you a student in an online IT course? Colleges and universities continue to expand and improve their online offerings, citing student demand as the force behind the expansions. EdTech Magazine’s Wylie Wong just featured several colleges and universities in EdTech with highlights of the programs they offer online for student learning.

Wong quoted Eastern Maine Community College's dean of information technology, Tim Conroy, as saying, "Students today are fully wired. They can get anything they want online, and they expect to have the option to either come to class or get their education online."

Online classes are helpful and attractive to students for many reasons. For example, at TestOut we hear of many students who use LabSim IT training courses in online college courses because the online offering is a flexible option that works around their already busy schedule balancing classes, a job, and sometimes a family. Additionally, Wong wrote that students also “view online courses as a valid alternative to classroom learning because the technology offers rich, interactive learning experiences.”

Carolyn Hardy, professor at Northwest Missouri State University, uses LabSim Network+ as the curriculum in an online course for graduate students for the very purpose Wong described—as an interactive component.

Bonnie Yates, Master’s student in Instructional Technology at Northwest Missouri State, explained that the interactive, hands-on elements of LabSim give her what she needs to learn how different technologies work. “I need hands on,” she said. “LabSim gives me that.”

In Wong’s article, he wrote that even though students demand the flexible option to take courses online, most still prefer to attend class on campus when they’re able. “But they also want to enhance their studies by accessing video lectures and interacting with their classmates and professors online,” Wong wrote. He quoted Valorie McAlpin, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, as saying, "If a faculty member is teaching a large course, and more and more classes are increasing in size, they opt for a blended approach because it's a way of engaging students.”

For the same reason, many IT programs utilize LabSim as a blended approach to on-campus IT courses. Students may use LabSim in class, where the instructor is present to answer questions or give one-on-one help, or they may use LabSim at home for continued training online.

IT students, what has been your experience using LabSim as an online curriculum?

Monday, August 15, 2011

New IT Grads, The Hiring Outlook Is Good


If you’re just finishing up your college degree in IT and working to find a great start to your career, you are working against a pretty good outlook. According to Computerworld, job seekers in IT have the upper hand in the IT job market, even if you barely graduated from college.

“A quick scan of numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms this about-face in the IT job market. In May, it pegged the IT unemployment rate at 3.8%, significantly lower than the national average unemployment rate of 9.1%. At the same time, 65% of 900 hiring managers surveyed by Dice.com said they expect to hire even more tech professionals in the second half of this year than they did during the first six months of 2011,” reported Computerworld’s Julia King.

Further, IT positions are staying open for many months—evidence of the industry’s growth and the high demand for qualified applicants. A report from Dice.com suggested that “now may be a great time for IT job candidates to ask for more money than they're offered initially,” King writes.

IT grads, as you interview for jobs and negotiate your pay, remember that your training with TestOut’s LabSim has given you more than just book knowledge. The hands-on experience you’ve gained in LabSim labs is practical know-how that will allow you to come on board an employer, ready to contribute. And if you’ve taken the extra step to get certified, you have that much more room to negotiate.

Best of luck in your search! Please let us know what you find and how you apply the experience you gained from LabSim in your job.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Closed Captioning in LabSim Offers Broad Appeal

Colleges and universities are making closed captioning a greater priority than ever before as the need for it—and the usage of it—grows. New methods of course delivery, such as distance courses in which professors capture their lecture on video, are presenting new situations where closed captioning is needed. Additionally, more students than just the hearing-impaired are using closed captioning functionality to improve how they learn.

“While the impetus for closed captioning stems from a desire to accommodate students with hearing issues, schools are also discovering that closed captioning has broader appeal, particularly among students for whom English is a second language. And for the rest of the students on campus, there's one other big benefit: It allows them to search captured content quickly, by enabling keyword searches,” wrote Bridget McCrea of Campus Technology.

McCrea highlighted several universities, including George Mason, Oklahoma State, Western Kentucky, Penn State, and Gallaudet, that are utilizing technologies such as DocSoft, Echo360, and 3Play Media, as well as the help of student transcriptionists, to incorporate captioning on a broader scale. However, some curriculum materials—like TestOut’s LabSim—don’t require the extra time and resources of the university to add closed captioning. LabSim videos are already closed captioned.

For the last several years, TestOut has incorporated closed captioning in the instructional videos in its LabSim courses, and students tell us frequently of the benefit they find in it. There are hearing-impaired students that train with LabSim and are able to get just as much out of it as the next student. Other LabSim users turn on closed captioning while they listen to the audio to help reinforce learning. Some LabSim users with attention deficit disorder have said the closed captioning helps them keep focus. Many are grateful for it when they’re studying LabSim in a library and need to mute the sound on their computer.

In what situations do your students use the closed captioning in LabSim?