Friday, September 30, 2011

New TestOut Website Has Greater Focus on Students, Educators

Earlier this week TestOut unveiled an all-new look and design of our TestOut.com website. The new website replaces both former sites—LabSimOnline.com that was organized specifically for TestOut’s academic customers and TestOut.com that served primarily IT professionals. Now all of TestOut customers, whether students or IT professionals, will find what they are looking for on TestOut.com. The new site includes sections about LabSim training products, TestOut Pro Certifications for IT students, as well as resources to support students and educators using TestOut’s LabSim products.

Along with a clean new look and logo, TestOut.com now has improved navigation, including top navigation with drop-down menus as well as side navigation on each page, and easy-to-read headings and icons. The better organization makes it easier to find exactly what you’re looking for.

Yet TestOut’s primary goal in developing a new TestOut.com was to focus more attention on the student. We believe the greatest value we can give to any individual is a certification that proves job skills. Everything about the new TestOut.com leads back to students and the value and confidence that is added to their lives through LabSim training, TestOut Pro Certification, and the ultimate career success they achieve through training and certification.

Please visit TestOut.com and get acquainted with the new layouts, new content, and new options for training and certification from TestOut. As always, we would love to hear your feedback.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Does Your IT Program Benefit from a Corporate Partnership?

Many community college programs are greatly enhanced in scope and depth by corporate partnerships that come in many forms. Some corporations partner with colleges and give input on the curriculum the college should offer to prepare students for the workforce. Sometimes companies give students internships or work experience while they’re in school, and some even hire the graduates of partner colleges for full-time positions.

Community College Times
recently featured several partnerships between corporations and community colleges and highlighted the benefits to both the college and the company. For example, Jefferson Community and Technical College (JCTC) in Kentucky has a unique partnership with UPS, one of the largest employers in the state, and with the University of Louisville. UPS needed to stabilize its part-time workforce, and the college wanted to offer more students an opportunity to afford and attend college. Through the partnership, UPS hires students to work part-time in a night shift, and in return, the company pays half the student’s tuition. Through the partnership, UPS has seen a large reduction in employee turnover, and JCTC has seen increased enrollment and improved student retention.

Corporate partnerships may also provide greater access to technology for students, such as the partnerships that Ford and General Motors have made with Southeast Community College (SCC) in Nebraska. The automotive companies provide cars and software for SCC’s automotive technology program, and they pay tuition for students who agree to work at dealerships after they graduate. Because of the car companies’ investment in the education and training of students, the companies gain employees already prepared to work in their environments. Corporate partnerships such as these can be a win-win for colleges and companies who take the time to develop a partnership that meets both their needs.

Instructors, do your IT students benefit from a corporate partnership that gives them practical job experience, tuition assistance, or some other value? Please leave a comment and explain.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Dual Enrollment Makes College More Accessible

Dual enrollment opportunities are making higher education more accessible for many high school students who might otherwise feel that going to college is outside the realm of possibility. Recently, Community College Times featured an Oregon school district that is creating new higher ed opportunities for high school students. For several years, the public schools in Portland have had a partnership with Portland Community College-Cascade Campus known as Middle College. High school students in the district have been able to enroll in Middle College courses through an opt-in program and earn up to 45 college credits by the time they graduate high school.

This year, access to Middle College expanded further, and instead of being an opt-in program, all incoming freshmen at one high school will be enrolled in what is now being called Jefferson High School-Middle College for Advanced Studies. The University of Oregon is also offering scholarships to Middle College students who complete at least one year of college credit.

Middle College in Portland has made a higher degree more attainable to many students who might otherwise not have considered college at all.

Many high schools who use TestOut’s LabSim training in their IT program have also made college more accessible to students who weren’t planning on it. Dennis DeBroeck, for example—an IT teacher at Walla Walla High School, in Walla Walla, Washington—helps his students earn up to 60 college credits at Walla Walla Community College for their work in LabSim and in his classes. Requirements for the credits include earning an A or B in the class, completing a list of competencies, completing a portfolio of the work they’ve done, and putting together a resume and cover letter. In an area where more than 70% of students never complete college, the opportunity to gain college credit while in high school is a huge help to students.

High school instructors, do the students in your IT program earn college credit in your classes? How has LabSim training helped students continue their education after high school?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Better Than Providing a Laptop Is Providing an Online Curriculum Like LabSim

Many schools are investing in iPads or laptops for students, experimenting with replacing textbooks with digital tools that young people respond to. An article in eSchool News last week highlighted several schools who have provided these tools to students and some of the challenges and insights the schools have experienced. Interestingly, the benefits schools mentioned are the same ones instructors point out about using TestOut’s LabSim, while the challenges schools faced would all be avoided if schools could incorporate a course like LabSim into the curriculum for every subject!

For example, the benefits schools mentioned from providing iPads with educational apps to students include:
  1. Students engage in independent learning.
  2. Students get instant feedback about their performance.
  3. Teachers are free to circulate the classroom and work individually with students.
  4. Teachers have access to a dashboard to track student performance.
The challenges mentioned by schools of providing iPads to students include:
  1. Teachers need more support using the technology and more time to get comfortable creating lessons that utilize the iPad.
  2. Teachers need to do more than use the iPad as a direct replacement of a textbook (not just ask students to read text on screen).
  3. Students don’t want to stop; they desire more content on the iPad.
A curriculum such as LabSim—online IT training used by thousands of high schools and colleges—does for schools what they desire the iPad or laptops to do. Instructors who use LabSim tell us of the success they see in engaging students. LabSim allows students to work independently, with built-in tracking that keeps students responsible for their own progress, while making grading more straight-forward for teachers.

Using LabSim, schools avoid the challenges mentioned of implementing iPads. LabSim comes with the lessons already planned—a comprehensive curriculum that includes instructional videos and demos, hands-on labs that give students real practice, concise text lessons, and quizzes to evaluate students’ learning and give them immediate feedback. Students are free to repeat LabSim content at any time to be sure they master the material, and teachers have access to a wealth of resources from TestOut to support their use of LabSim.

For schools who want to replace textbooks with a technology tool, there is no better tool for IT than TestOut’s LabSim.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Technology Is a Strong Suit of For-Profit Colleges

Campus Technology writer John K. Waters made a compelling argument this week about the strength for-profit colleges have in utilizing technology. While the for-profit education industry has been under fire over the past year on other issues, its use of technology in education is indisputably ahead of that of traditional, not-for-profit colleges, allowing for-profit schools to connect with students more personally, keep them well-informed, and offer learning tools that fit students’ needs.

According to Waters, for-profit institutions spend an average 10% of their operating budget on technology, while not-for-profits spend only an average 3%. But the difference isn’t just how much technology the for-profits use; it’s also the way they use it.

Waters quoted Ruki Jayaraman, dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies at for-profit Argosy University, as saying, "The way we use technology supports a kind of academic agility. We implement technology quickly and effectively, and, perhaps more importantly, we abandon it when it no longer serves us."

Charles Flader, executive director for academic technology at for-profit Kaplan University, told Waters, “Our students are pushing us all the time, demanding that they get the same technology experiences here that they get in other parts of their lives. We spend a lot to make sure they get that.”

Technology has made it possible for for-profit institutions to offer students the flexibility that the institutions are known for. Kaplan’s Flader told Waters, "The idea that everyone is going to be able to physically attend a traditional, brick-and-mortar institution for two or four years, full-time, doesn't reflect the reality of modern life. Our students have jobs, families, lots of demand on their time."

But an increasing number of students at not-for-profit colleges also have jobs, families, and heavy demands on their time, and not-for-profit colleges may need to take a cue from the for-profits in the ways they implement technology as a more consistent, over-arching part of students’ education.