Friday, January 27, 2012

US News Ranks Top Online Education Programs

It’s not news to hear that online education continues its high-growth pattern; it is simply worth noting that US News & World Report has created a ranking of online degree programs, similar to the rankings it has long given to colleges and universities and the traditional degrees they offer. The new rankings published by US News help confirm that online education is here to stay and holds a legitimate place in the higher education experience.

According to US News’s Kelsey Sheehy, an all-time high number of students are enrolled in online courses, totaling more than 6.1 million. “Enrollment in online classes doubled between 2007 and 2011, driven largely by a stagnant economy and competitive job market, but also by robust online offerings from established public and private institutions,” Sheehy wrote.

In its introduction to the online education rankings, US News stated, “Pursuing a bachelor’s degree online is great for students who need to attend classes on their own time, who are working or who are older students with some of their bachelor’s degree already completed, or for students who are simply uninterested in more traditional campus life.”

The publication ranked 196 online bachelor's degree programs and 523 online master's degree programs in business, engineering, nursing, education, and computer information technology. To be considered for the rankings, a program needed to have at least 80% of its course content available online.

While the online IT programs at the undergraduate level were not ranked, top master’s programs in IT were. Top rankings in four categories include Johns Hopkins University's Whiting School of Engineering in Baltimore (student services and technology), Penn State University—University Park (faculty credentials and training), Southern Polytechnic State University in Georgia (student engagement and accreditation), and North Carolina State University—Raleigh (admissions selectivity).

Further results of the rankings can be viewed online at Top Online Education Programs.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Free TestOut Webinar This Thursday: “Navigating LabSim 4.0”

Want to learn more about using TestOut’s new LabSim 4.0 interface? This free webinar, “Navigating LabSim 4.0,” highlights new TestOut products and tools prominently featured in the new browser interface of LabSim, including the TestOut Pro Certification exams and the Exam Builder tool.

Join TestOut’s Academic Marketing Manager Peggy Hayes for the webinar, and make the most of the added functionality of LabSim 4.0 to increase your teaching success.

Thursday, January 26, 2012
3 PM EST/2 PM CST/1 PM MST/12 PM PST

The webinar is free and will last about 45 minutes. Register online now.

What you’ll learn:

  • How to access TestOut Pro Certification exams and exam reports
    • TestOut PC Pro Certification
    • TestOut Network Pro Certification
  • The benefits of using TestOut’s improved Exam Builder tool
  • How the streamlined workflow helps you easily customize reports
  • How to quickly associate students and classes to increase reporting efficiency

In addition to Thursday’s webinar “Navigating LabSim 4.0,” TestOut offers links on the TestOut website to view past webinars on other LabSim topics. For tips and guidance that will help you get the most out of the valuable tools in LabSim, please check out the recorded webinars online.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blending Traditional and Digital Learning Styles to Improve Student Outcomes

A number of policy groups dedicate their resources to enacting measures that incorporate technology more effectively in education to improve student outcomes. eSchool News’s Laura Devaney recently highlighted the opinions of several key policy group leaders as they were conveyed in a webinar by the International Association for K-12 Online Learning. The emphasis of the webinar was blended learning, which combines elements of traditional learning with adaptive, interactive learning made possible through technology.

Devaney quoted Deirdre Finn, deputy executive director of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, as saying, “We think the future rests with blended learning.” Why place so much emphasis on blending digital learning with traditional styles of learning? Experts in the field suggest the following benefits of digital learning that make it a crucial part of improving student outcomes:

  • Digital learning can let students customize their education to their learning style and pace.
  • Digital learning tools provide real-time data that educators can use to immediately tailor instruction to students’ needs.
  • Digital learning and digital content can help educators and students take a more personalized approach to learning.
  • Digital learning tools allow instructors to spend more time with each individual student.

Other elements of blended learning that policymakers list as key to successful learning outcomes include quality content, instruction, and choices, as well as the funding and infrastructure to allow for digital tools to be implemented.

The learning components of every LabSim course by TestOut are designed to have the key elements outlined above. Educators who use LabSim especially appreciate the opportunities LabSim gives students to work at their own pace and with the tools from which they learn best. Educators also love LabSim’s reporting features that give them real-time data of everything students do inside LabSim while working on their own.

What else does your school do to leverage technology to improve student outcomes?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Computerworld Reports Strong Outlook for Entry-level IT Hiring

Computerworld offers a good report for college seniors and other IT students ready to tackle an IT job search: the outlook for entry-level IT hiring is bright. While the US economy overall still suffers a high unemployment rate, the IT industry is experiencing healthy growth and demand, especially for entry-level IT workers.

In fact, according to Dice.com, in 18 states and Washington, D.C., there is even a shortage of IT workers, leading to higher entry-level salaries expected in 2012. California, New Jersey, Texas, and New York are the states with the biggest shortages of IT talent.

Starting as an intern while in school or right after graduation can be a great lead-in to a career. Computerworld reports that many companies are hiring interns as a strategy to find their full-time IT staff. Louis Trebino, CIO and senior vice president at the Harry Fox Agency in New York City, explained, "Last year, we had an intern who was stellar. We hired her after graduation.”

What skills are companies looking for in new IT grads? Many of the skills students are developing through training with TestOut’s LabSim courses for A+, Network+, and Security+ are exactly what companies need. Help desk and desktop support job openings are “holding steady,” Computerworld reports, and certifications from CompTIA will support IT grads in finding good positions more easily.

Computer support jobs aren’t the only openings in entry-level IT; new grads will also find many positions available for application developers, particularly for social media and smartphones. And because the demand is so strong and the technologies are new, employers are considering new IT grads whose experience may come simply from a hobby.

No matter what your students’ interests in IT are, they’re coming out of school at a time when the options are plentiful. Training with TestOut’s LabSim courses and gaining TestOut Pro certification will prepare them for their career path and allow them to hit the ground running in their career.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Technology Integration in School Can Lead to Greater Learning Outside of School

Yesterday eSchoolNews published the thoughts of several education technology professionals about the direction ed tech will take in 2012. Some of the experts predicted increased blended learning models, more student-centered learning, or tighter budgets that will lead to greater reliance on open course technologies in order to save money. The prediction of Gene R. Carter, executive director and CEO of ASCD (formerly the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development), stood out to me for its unique emphasis. Carter said:
The first prediction is that a student learning revolution will take off. Over the last few years, educational technologies have flooded into classrooms nationwide. In 2012, the ed-tech boom … will blossom into a true revolution in student learning occurring largely outside classroom walls. Driving that revolution will be (1) the creative integration of technology and digital content into curriculum; (2) an increased focus by school administrators on tracking student performance data, and the thoughtful analysis and application of this data by educators to design personalized instruction; and (3) an increased focus on supporting educators as they gain and sustain the skills needed to address the evolving needs of students. Together, these elements will drive a sharp upturn in creative and innovative blended learning opportunities for students occurring in traditional and non-traditional settings…

Do you agree that learning outside classroom walls is happening more because of the technologies that schools are integrating in students’ learning experiences? At TestOut, we frequently hear educators tell us about students who use TestOut’s LabSim to keep learning at home after school or on breaks because the LabSim courses are available online. Other students keep learning with LabSim even after a semester ends so that they can prepare practically for certification.

Further, the tracking tools in LabSim courses and for LabSim exams help instructors keep up with students who complete work outside of class. Even when school is cancelled for bad weather or when a student is absent, instructors have tools in LabSim to make sure learning can continue.

What other technologies and data tracking tools are integrated at your school that help students keep learning outside of your classroom?