About Aaron Guy

Aaron Guy serves as the Continuing Education and Technology Manager of the Center for Professional Studies (CPS). He is responsible for the overall development, continuous enhancement and implementation of the non-credit, certificate based, and professional development courses administered through CPS. Aaron is also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) through the Project Management Institute (PMI). Aaron’s blog posts range from highlighting new CPS courses to providing insight on the intersection of technology and education.
Aaron

Aaron

Back in March the Center for Professional Studies launched its CompTIA A+/Network + certification program drawing upon industry talent and expertise to develop a fully online foundation training program for entry level IT professionals. Continuing along with our goal to build a catalog of continuing education programs, from the ground up, while utilizing Towson University faculty talent and expertise, we have developed and launched our newest online program Professional in Human Resources (PHR).

 

About the PHR Certification
The PHR certification is a globally recognized credential awarded through the Human Resource Certification Institute (HR Certification Institute) and signifies that those who’ve passed the exam thoroughly understand the PHR Body of Knowledge, which outlines the responsibilities of and knowledge needed by today’s HR professional. The PHR certification is not industry specific and can be applied to the framework of any company’s human resources department. Furthermore, certified PHR employees earn about $15,000 more than their non-certified counterparts [1] and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 55 percent increase in number of HR jobs in the next decade. In fact, certified PHR employees also have a higher chance of receiving a promotion than their non-certified counterparts.

phr

Image credit: PayScale Human Capital

Course Development
The workforce appeal of the PHR certification made it a decision for us to pursue the development of this new program. However, our first hurdle was to find the right instructor to build the content. Dr. Tobin Porterfield, who developed our flagship Project Management Professional online program, suggested that we reach out to Dr. Alan Clardy, who is the Director of Human Resource Development (HRD) Graduate Program here at Towson University. Not only does Dr. Clardy head the HRD graduate program, but has years of experience in the field as well as an expansive array of book and paper publications and presentations. Leading up to our first meeting with Dr. Clardy we were not sure what to expect and if he would be open to working with us on developing this content, however after we laid out our plan and intent, he was more than willing to jump right in and begin building the content. Dr. Clardy even enlisted the help of two of his past students in the Human Resource Management graduate program to review and double check his content. The team dynamic helped ensure that the content is in alignment with the PHR Body of Knowledge, while Dr. Clardy dove deep into churning out the course content. This resulted in a deep and robust course that fully prepares students to successfully sit for the PHR certification exam. Dr. Clardy also wrote an entire module on ‘taking the PHR Certification Exam,’ that details the overall nature of the exam, what to expect, how to gather the relevant information and apply through the HR Certification Institute, and even how to schedule your exam through the Prometric testing center.

 

We are all very pleased with the end result of our PHR program and even more excited about enrolling students into this new course. Our catalog of Towson University developed Continuing Education programs is growing and we hope to keep up with this pace and continue to provide high quality course offerings.

 



Aaron

Aaron

Our CCNA Course
Earlier this spring Towson University Center for Professional Studies (CPS) launched the self-paced online CompTIA A+/Network+ program, drawing upon the talent of our in-class instructor, Nick Markakis. Almost immediately after launching our online CompTIA A+/Network+ program we began the process of developing an online Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) program, as well as an in-class CCNA program to append to our existing in-class CompTIA A+/Network+ program. Our students showed great interest in this ‘3-cert’ bundle and thus we felt it necessary to provide this program. Furthermore, diving into Cisco related content felt like a natural next step for us, especially since we were recognized by Cisco as the region’s first Academy Support Center and Instructor Training Center, spearheaded by our own Nancy Null.

As we began tapping into our instructor talent pool and researching the best methods to properly develop and deliver a CCNA course, we quickly realized that we would need to provide an environment where our students can be exposed to realistic networking situations and scenarios for them to gain true networking experience. This is where NETLAB+ came in.

 

What is NETLAB+?
In very basic terms “NETLAB+ is a server appliance with all the software tools preloaded for academic institutions to host real lab equipment, virtual machines and lab content for trainees to complete labs.” So what does this mean? This means that with a NETLAB+ environment we can host real IT equipment, virtual machines, lab content and assignments, while our students can have access to all this content via a simple web interface, which gives them the ability to schedule and complete lab exercises related to our CCNA course. This  gives our students a significant competitive advantage. Not only will our students be exposed to real networking environments and scenarios that appear in the official CCNA exam, but they will also gain the type of real-world experience necessary in the workforce.

netlab_concept

After procuring our NETLAB+ server appliance and all the other needed equipment our next step was to actually put it all together. Building the NETLAB+ environment is a very challenging and intricate process. To accomplish the task we reached out to one of our CCNA certified instructors, Jesse Varsalone, who has built these types of environment for other institutions. We also reached out our sibling department, Office of IT Services, to provide us with hosting space, as well as extra hands for building this environment. We were extremely lucky to have the in-house talent of Matt Koontz and Brian Bechtel, who played a significant role in helping Jesse create this complex networking lab environment. Today, thanks to all parties involved our NETLAB+ environment is up and running and is being utilized in our first in-class CCNA cohort. We also plan to incorporate our NETLAB+ capabilities into our online CCNA course, which is currently being developed and expected to launch this Fall.

 

What’s next for NETLAB+?
Although, we acquired NETLAB+ primarily for its Cisco content, assignments and networking environments, this server appliance has much more capabilities in more topic areas that we plan to utilize in future courses. We are currently in the early stages of figuring out how we can incorporate NETLAB+ into the academic side of the university, specifically within the Master’s in Applied IT program. Such a partnership will allow our enrolled degree seeking students to also have access to these real-world labs and scenarios, which will only bolster their academic undertakings. We are excited to see what can come of this new tool at our disposal and how we can use it to transform learning. Stay tuned to find out where we take this NETLAB+ environment next.


Aaron

Aaron

Back in January we filled you in on our exciting new project with Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), where we were tasked to develop webinars for Maryland teachers that follow up on the content they were exposed to during the summer 2012 Educator Effectiveness Academy (EEA). We successfully launched the first four of these professional development webinars in January to a great response from MSDE staff and teachers statewide.

 

At the end of April we launched our second set of webinars to complete the professional develop releases for the current school year. In the upcoming weeks, we will be partnering with some of the Master teachers to provide live Virtual Office hours facilitated through WebEx. This will allow other teachers who’ve viewed the webinars to ask questions and engage with these Master teachers regarding the webinar content.

 

These webinars have already proven to be an excellent resource not only for the teachers who were able to attend the summer 2012 EEA, but also for teachers who were not able to attend and were interested in acquiring more information on Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Standards.

 

What’s next?
Because of the wide positive feedback from teachers across the state, MSDE has decided to expand our scope of work.  This year we will not just record a few selected EEA breakout sessions, but rather capture 12 full days of EEA content, spanning 5 different counties and composing of over 100 hours of content. This new scope will allow MSDE to segment the broad spectrum of summer 2013 EEA content into several programs targeted towards teachers and principals in all content areas, as well as in all grade levels. Towson University’s Center for Professional Studies will again utilize the Towson University Blackboard system to make all these programs available to teachers across the state.

Image credit: Washington Post

Image credit: Washington Post


Aaron

Aaron

Last November Towson University Center for Professional Studies (CPS) launched their Online Project Management course which prepares students to take the Project Management Professional (PMP) and Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) exams administered through the Project Management Institute (PMI). This Online Project Management course was our inaugural online course fully developed in house and has proven to be a great success since its launch with almost 30 active students thus far.

 

A sample question in the Online Project Management course interface

A practice question in the Online Project Management course interface

 

During our research to uncover the largest in-demand certifications we discovered that there was a great demand for certified IT professionals, especially in the foundation level of IT topic areas, as well as IT networking. This made it clear to us that our next online Towson University developed course needed to be a joint CompTIA A+ and Network+ program. In fact, a recent salary survey done by Certification Magazine listed CompTIA A+ title holders with an average annual salary of about $65,000, and CompTIA Network+ title holders with an average annual salary of about $67,000.

 

About CompTIA A+/Network +
comptia-logo.gifThe Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a non-profit group that acts as a voice and advocate for the global IT industry and also serves as the certifying body for the A+ and Network+ exams. The CompTIA A+ certification is the foundation level certification that teaches students about personal computing hardware and prepares students to be competent as a computer technician. The CompTIA Network+ certification prepares students to become network technician, which encompasses understanding of network hardware, installation, and troubleshooting. Our CompTIA A+/Network+ program combines all the topic areas and content of these two separate certifications into one cohesive online program that fully prepares the students to successfully take each of these certification exams.

 

One of the great benefits of both these CompTIA certifications is that they are vendor-neutral. This means that the skills learned through this program is not tied to any specific IT brand or company, but are completely transferable among countless different hardware components, networks and systems. This makes these CompTIA certifications extremely desirable among IT employers as it is known that a solid vendor-neutral technology foundation will always help IT professionals in today’s multi-vendor world. Furthermore, major IT companies such as Microsoft, Novell, and Cisco, to name a few, have all recognized CompTIA A+ and Network+ as part of their certification tracks.

 

Course Development
Towson University Center for Professional Studies has been delivering CompTIA A+/Network+ in-class programs since 2011 with great success, so when it came time to develop our online asynchronous CompTIA A+ and Network+ program we decided to utilize our in-class teacher, Nick Markakis, as the primary developer of our online course. Nick, who is Towson University graduate with a B.Sc. in Computer Science, is also CompTIA A+/Network+ certified, has over 6 years of CompTIA A+/Network+ teaching experience and works at the Maryland Department of Transportation as a Computer Network Specialist II Supervisor. He was able to bring all his knowledge and expertise into the development process to build us a robust online asynchronous CompTIA A+/Network+ program. Coupling Nick’s technical background and proficiency into our online Learning Management System, resulted in rigorous, yet user friendly and collaborative online course that incorporates audio narrations, lesson assessments and interactive graphical displays that is sure to engage our students and propel them through the program. Additionally, enrollment into our CompTIA A+/Network+ program gives each student two vouchers to take the two parts of the CompTIA A+ exam at any authorized Pearson VUE testing center. Our CompTIA A+/Network+ program is set to launch April 22nd and we’re confident that it will also be a huge success.

 

Stay tuned for our online Professional Human Resources (PHR) and Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) programs launching later this year.


Aaron

As the largest producer of teachers and the go-to resource for teacher professional development and education, we are naturally involved in many aspects of the Race to the Top program. One new initiative is the Educator Effectiveness Academies (EEAs), which support teacher development in the Maryland Common Core State Curriculum Standards and Framework, specifically in the STEM fields.

 

6300 educators—that’s the number of educators served by the first regional EEAs, which were held during the summer of 2011. The audience included four-person teams from schools across Maryland, including:

  • School’s Principal
  • Reading English/Language Arts specialist or teacher
  • Mathematics teacher
  • Teacher from a STEM area

These highly successful EEAs were offered again last summer, but this time MSDE reached out to Towson University’s Center for Professional Studies to develop a series of webinars to reinforce and build upon the summer EEA as well further disseminate the content to ALL of Maryland’s public school teachers. By partnering with Towson University, MSDE is now able to convey vital educational information to thousands of teachers statewide in a productive, virtual session. Here are some specific s about the webinars:

  • 16 total webinars will be produced; 8 for this school year and 8 for next school year
  • Over 80 total hours captured from the EEAs will be used to produce the webinars
  • Webinars will be disseminated to over 1500 Maryland public schools and their teachers
  • The first four for this year launch Monday, January 14th
  • The national Race to the Top program will also be utilizing the webinars to provide professional development opportunities for teachers across the country

What makes these webinars different than just recordings of the EEAs? The team worked side-by-side with MSDE subject area specialists to create webinar packages that do not just showcase the content of the EEAs, but also provide viewers with the opportunity to experience very practical teaching and learning environments with narrations and examples from the appropriate experts. Additionally, the team also captured footage of Maryland master teachers applying Maryland Common Core State Curriculum protocols and best practices within their classrooms in several schools around the state in all content areas and grade levels, as well as interviews with other teachers, principals, MSDE staff members and superintendents across Maryland.

 

A University Resource – We have enlisted the expertise of a Towson University faculty member from the Department of Electronic Media and Film, Carol Appleby, to oversee the filming and editing of these webinars. We have also tapped Blue Rock Productions to complete the videos and will offer internship opportunities to some of our students.

One of the master teachers featured in the webinar. (New Town High School in Owings Mills, MD)

 


aaron

Aaron

Okay now that I have your attention let me first apologize for such a misleading title. What I really meant to ask was, ‘Can your degree be worth a lot more to potential employers when coupled with an industry accepted certification in the same field of study?’ but that was too long of a title.

Today’s job market is horrendously competitive, especially for those fresh-faced, wide-eyed undergrads stepping out onto a national arena where they have to compete with the over 1.6 million other graduates for that first out-of-college job. So what sets John Smith with his B. Sc. in Computer Science and a G.P.A. of 3.8 apart from Jane Johnson with her B. Sc. in Computer Science and a G.P.A. of 3.8? graduation capsEven before the potential interview process, how can Joe Public prove on paper that without a significant amount of work experience he does have the practical and relevant industry know-how to be competent in the role he is seeking to fill?

The Answer: Accredited Industry Certifications

The first thing to note is that the industry certification is not a replacement to the traditional degree, but rather should be complementing the degree. Some faculty and deans of traditional tertiary level educational institutions seem to be threatened by the increased validity of the industry certification and dismiss it as something that should be left to vocational institutions. This is far from accurate, and far from the current reality of what it means to be career ready for the graduating class of today and tomorrow. If part of a university’s mission is to ensure that their students are not only critical thinkers and profoundly educated, but to also make them more valuable on the job market so that they may actually apply what they’ve learned over their academic career, then there should be an educational alignment with certain key industries.

For Example…

Consider the case of Jane Johnson with her B. Sc. in Computer Science and a G.P.A. of 3.8. Let’s say within the wide field of Computer Science, Jane Johnson is specifically interested in networking technologies, then Jane Johnson will become exponentially more attractive to employers if she were to also graduate with a CCNA or CompTIA Net+ certification. Another example is Paul Simon, graduating with a B.A. in Foreign Languages and is very proficient in German, then Paul Simon will immediately become more valuable to employers if he were to also complete his academic tenure as an ATA certified German translator. The point here is that the industry certification does guarantee that a candidate will land the coveted position that they applied for, but being able to state a professional certification on his/her resume definitely helps them stand out among their competition. Now obviously it will be up to the student to sit and pass the certification exam, but universities should be thinking about ways to align their programs so that students can take an elective class that will prepare these students for the exam, and possibly even sponsor the vouchers for them to take the exam. Such a system not only adds value to the student, but also the educational institution.

The Prior Experience Challenge

One notable hurdle is the qualifications needed to take many of these industry certification exams. Many exams require proof of prior experience to even schedule the exam which could present a challenge. However, most industry certifications offer scaled back or associate versions of their top tier certifications for those who have not yet gained enough time in the field. For instance, pmi logothe Project Management Institute (PMI) offers the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), as an alternative for the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, and Cisco offers the Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT), as an alternative to the Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) exam. Furthermore, this alignment of traditional degrees and industry certification is not just for undergrads, but could also be applied to graduate students.

It is also critical to point out that while the coupling of industry certification and traditional degrees work favorably in the Information Technology, Business, and Medical professional fields, the concept does not lend well to other academic fields like Humanities, Art and Political Science for example. There is no industry-accredited certification for an artist or for a political science major. Although, having politicians be industry certified is an ingenious idea, but let’s save that topic for another blog post.