Monthly Archives: November 2012

Six Best Practices for Teaching Online Courses

Online courses are great for working students and remote students, and they allow schools to reach more students than ever before. As these courses have become increasingly popular, we’ve learned what teaching strategies do and don’t work. Below are some best practices to ensure a successful course for all.


Show Up and Teach – The number one best practice for online teachers according to Designing for Learning and the Distance Education Report is to be available to your students. This means being present in the communication forums used to interact with your students on a regular basis to address questions, facilitate discussions, etc. Also, set up virtual office hours so that students can contact you by phone or email outside of class times.


Create a Clear Set of Expectations – Let your students know how you expect them to participate in the virtual classroom, and how you plan to communicate with them.


Provide Feedback ConsistentlyCincinnati State notes that online courses can make students feel a little isolated, but that consistent feedback is a great way to avoid that feeling. For example, you can praise a student for making an insightful comment in a forum, just like you would in the classroom.


Use a Variety of Activities – Several resources also suggest varying the types of classroom activities you use to keep students from becoming bored. Real-time discussions, individual assignments, and group projects are just a few examples of ways to keep the course fresh and interesting.


Use a Combination of Teaching Methods – Designing for Learning suggests combining core concept learning with customized or personalized learning by identifying the performance goals of the course and then mentoring students through the assignments that apply those concepts.


Ensure Students Have the Prerequisite Skills – Students sometimes enroll for online courses without a basic understanding of file management, communicating online, and the basic computer skills required to be successful. Establish a set of criteria, or pre-test students using an online computer inventory test to determine their readiness for an online course.


Are you currently teaching online courses? If so, what best practices do you follow to ensure that you are teaching the course effectively? Leave a comment to share your thoughts with Labyrinth Learning.


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Using Social Media to Reach Your Students

It seems as if every student uses some form of social media to connect with people near and far. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are great places for students to interact with their friends, and in recent years, these sites have also gained the interest of colleges and universities across the country.


Are you using social media to connect with your students?


Last year, USA Today College reported that 68% of colleges and universities reported social media as being important, but how can it be used to reach students and make the learning process more engaging? Let’s take a look at a few examples.



Are you currently using social media to reach your students and enhance their learning experience? If so, please share your ideas with us by leaving a comment below. You can also share your ideas on the Labyrinth Learning Facebook page or tweet them to us @LabLearning.


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Why Use iPads and eBooks in Computer Courses?

Over the past few years, iPads and other e-readers have transformed the way we do a lot of things, from reading to answering emails while on the go. You might be wondering how iPads and ebooks can be incorporated into your computer classes and what benefits they offer. If so, read on and we’ll explain some of those benefits to you.


  • eBooks often include interactive bonuses like videos or animation, which can enhance the information covered in the text or serve as an example of the task students are learning. They also usually include links to other relevant website that can expand upon the topic, according to Success Consciousness.
  • Innolance suggests implementing the latest technologies into your course as a way to keep and increase your students’ interest in the subject matter. Remember, devices like iPads are becoming a way of life.
  • iPads are easy to use due to their touch interfaces. Additionally, the availability of downloadable educational apps can aid in a student’s retention of the course material, as noted by The Guardian.
  • iPads and other tablets are compatible with most cloud-based computing systems, making it possible for them to complete assignments from almost anywhere, The Science of Learning Blog notes.


Are you and your students currently using iPads and ebooks in your computer classes? If so, please share with us what benefits you’ve seen as a result.


Labyrinth Learning offers a variety of resources, including ebooks, that instructors can use to effectively teach computer skills and make their classes more dynamic. For more information, please visit our website or contact us.


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Six Tips for Teaching Computer Basics

Learning to use a computer can be intimidating, especially for the student whose skills aren’t as advanced as their friends or classmates. As computers are becoming a part of our daily lives, it is important to make sure that you teach the basics in a way that is easy for all of your students to understand.


Below are six tips to keep in mind as you teach your next course.

  1. State the goals of the class before you begin instructing so students will know exactly what is going to be covered.
  2. Keep a slow, steady pace. The American Library Association (ALA) suggests to “Assume that you are always going too fast. Take your cues not from the agenda you’ve set for the lesson, but instead the look in the eyes of your student.” If your students’ brows are furrowed and eyes are glazed over, take a moment to see what is confusing them or where you lost them, and work on catching up from there.
  3. Avoid using computer jargon while you teach. Find interesting ways to put jargon into laymen’s terms. Computer Shy says it is helpful to use real life parallels. For example, you can say that “web pages are really just magazine pages that you can read on a computer screen.”
  4. Use hands-on instruction. Tell the class what they will be doing (opening a web browser, composing an email, etc.), and then do it together.
  5. Have students practice through repetition. The ALA suggests doing everything at least three times, as repetition helps students retain what they have learned.
  6. Assign homework. Give your students short assignments daily so that they can practice what they have learned. Computer Shy also suggest providing students with notes at the end of each class so that they can review what has been covered on their own.


Labyrinth Learning has several teaching resources available that instructors can use to effectively teach computer skills to students of all ages and abilities. Please visit our website or contact us for more information.


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The Value of Certification

Do you offer certification testing? Your students can gain an extra edge when seeking employment by taking advantage of certification programs.


Some of the professional advantages of certification include the following:

  • Certification helps broaden employment opportunities.
  • Advanced skills can help students earn more.
  • A study conducted by Microsoft revealed that those who are certified are viewed as more competent, more productive, and more credible by their employers.
  • Certification can lead to increased job satisfaction.
  • Those who pass certification exams are authorized to display certification logos on resumes and other materials to demonstrate proof of certification, according to the National Association of Certified Public Bookkeepers.


Microsoft and QuickBooks offer certification programs that validate comprehensive knowledge of the materials. The Microsoft Office Specialist certification is globally recognized as “the premiere credential chosen by individuals seeking to validate their knowledge, skills and abilities relating to the Microsoft Office application suite.”


Several Labyrinth Learning textbooks are approved courseware for the Microsoft and QuickBooks exams. For more information, please visit our website and look at our Excel and QuickBooks texts.


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Windows 8: What to Expect

When you upgrade to Windows 8, you and your students will see a big difference from your current version. Read on for some of the biggest changes:

Start Screen. The most dramatic change is to the Start Screen, which has been redesigned to look more like a tablet or phone screen than your traditional Windows start screen interface. On the desktop, the Start button only appears when you hover your cursor in the bottom left corner of your screen, where you can return to the Start Screen or launch other desktop apps.

Charms. Charms appear when you move your mouse to the right-hand side of the screen or swipe from the right on a touchscreen device. They include buttons for accessing the Start Screen, Search, Share, Devices, and Settings functions quickly and with ease.

Touch Support. You’ll see better touch support than with Windows 7. Windows has also incorporated an intelligence system to tell it what you are attempting to do, according to TechRadar.

Multiple Monitor Support. Windows 8 is better capable of supporting multiple monitors than previous versions. If desired, you can place the Start Screen on one monitor and the desktop on another.

The Windows Store. Windows 8 has its own app store. Mashable notes that apps can be downloaded from the store and are then accessible on your home screen.

Cloud Integration. Windows 8 also includes cloud integration, just like Office 2013. You can sync your address book, photos, SkyDrive data, and even data within 3rd party apps. You can access the data on any Windows 8 device.

Labyrinth Learning will be hosting a webinar in the coming months to demo the changes and discuss implications for the classroom. Once we’ve set the date, we’ll let you know. In the meantime, feel free to contact us with any questions.

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Computer Literacy: Five Reasons Why You Should be Testing

You may think it’s safe to assume that all of today’s students have a basic knowledge of computer skills, given that we live in the digital age. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. As noted by The Instructional Design & Development Blog of the FITS Department at DePaul University, just because you know how to use social media, it doesn’t mean you are computer literate.

Today’s students arrive at school with a wide range of computer skills. Accurately assessing these skills gives you the data you need to best meet the needs of students – before, during and after coursework. Testing allows you to:

  1. Place students in the course that best fits their skill level. Many students arrive at school lacking basic computer skills such as file management, email, Windows, and the use of applications such as word processing and spreadsheets. Others are well prepared. Placing everyone in the same introductory computer class leaves some students bored while others struggle to keep up. Testing allows you to match students with the right course.
  2. Let advanced students test out of the course. In the same way that students with advanced math skills should not sit in a basic math class, students possessing excellent computer skills should not waste time in a basic computer course. Testing provides an accurate and fair means for allowing advanced students to bypass courses that they have already mastered.
  3. Validate that students registering for online courses have prerequisite computer skills. Online courses require a fundamental understanding of email, file management and other computer functions. If a student doesn’t possess these skills, chances are they will struggle – and have a much higher chance of dropping the course. Testing allows you to identify students who are unprepared and need some basic computer training before taking online courses.
  4. Modify course content to meet the needs of students. As more computer skills are taught at the high school level, student skills are continually changing. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your class and modify course content to meet those needs. Instead of teaching topics that students have already mastered, adjust your content to focus time on the skills that students need. And testing mid-course allows you to identify topics that need more work.
  5. Confirm learning following course completion. Computer skills are essential for success in future classes and in the workforce. Testing after course completion or as a graduation requirement confirms that students possess the skills needed to be successful.

Computer literacy is more important now than ever, and no student should be left behind. To learn more about testing your students, read about Labyrinth Learning’s eLab Skills Evaluation Tool, which instructors can use to test their students’ skills and help prepare them for success. Visit our website or contact us for more information.


Microsoft Office 2013: What’s Changed?

The latest version of Microsoft Office is coming soon, and many of you may be wondering what changes to expect. How is it different from Office 2010? And what is Office 365?

If you have those questions, read on. Here’s a brief understanding of the different options.

Microsoft Office 2010 vs. Microsoft Office 2013

Office 2013 includes all the standard Office programs and capabilities seen in previous versions of Office, as well as a variety of new features that make for a better user experience. Below is a glimpse of some of the new features of Office 2013, along with a few of the differences between Office 2013 and Office 2010:

  • One of the first things you’ll notice about Office 2013 is a refreshed interface. The new look falls in line with the “Modern” interface of Windows 8, featuring a minimalistic appearance that PCWorld suggests will be less of a distraction to users.
  • You’ll see a much more touch-friendly version, allowing you to scroll through items by swiping your finger across the screen. And you can switch to a traditional navigation when you’re using a desktop without a touchscreen monitor.
  • SkyDrive and SharePoint have been integrated for you to more easily access documents stored online from any location.
  •  PDF Editing is another new feature of Office 2013. PDF files can be opened and edited in Word 2013, and then saved as either DocX files or as PDFs.
  • Excel 2013 has the ability to support multiple monitors, unlike Excel 2010.
  • While the Ribbon hasn’t changed too much in functionality, its appearance in Office 2013 has changed slightly. Information Week describes it as being flatter than the 2010 version of the Ribbon. Office 2013 also includes an option to make it more compatible with touchscreens for tablet use.

Microsoft Office 365

While Office 2010 and 2013 must be installed onto a desktop or laptop computer, Office 365 is an online service to which users must subscribe. Instead of purchasing boxed copies or online downloads, users can purchase an Office 365 subscription which provides all the core Office applications, as well as email, shared calendars, public websites for businesses, and internal sites for teams. Those with Office 2010 already installed on their computer can configure the program to work with Office 365 and have the ability to retrieve, edit and save Office documents in the Office 365 cloud. Users can also complete tasks such as co-authoring documents in real-time or begin PC-to-PC calls. Office 365 is compatible with Office 2007 and newer versions.

To learn more about what’s coming in Office 2013, register for our webinar on November 13 for a demonstration of major new features within each application. Visit our website or contact us for more information.

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