Monthly Archives: May 2015

From School to Career: How to Prepare Students for the Workforce

Image courtesy of Ambro at
Image courtesy of Ambro at

When it comes to new college graduates’ preparedness for their future careers, studies show a great divide between the perception students have of their skills, and what employers see from interviewing and working with recent grads. In areas such as organization, working in teams, and applying skills and knowledge in real-world settings, students were more than twice as likely to think they were being well-prepared for the workforce as employers were.

Colleges provide many resources for students to prepare for their chosen careers, but usually only students who are proactive about finding and utilizing those resources benefit from them. Following are some improvements colleges can make to better guide students to be prepared for the workforce once they graduate:

Hire more experienced career center staff – Better-qualified career center staff with hiring experience can give updated career and job-searching advice that reflect the realities of today’s job market, and will be better able to communicate to students what hiring managers are looking for. This will allow students time to improve their qualifications before they graduate.

Teach networking and interviewing skills – These are two very crucial skills one needs to get a job, but many students graduate from college not knowing how to network or what to expect in a job interview. Career centers could better promote the opportunities they provide to sign up for practice interviewing sessions, as well as add lessons and practice sessions on networking. Colleges can also hold more career-related events where students can learn about and practice these skills with career coaches or hiring managers, as well as incorporate lessons on networking and interviewing into many different courses.

Stress the importance of work experience outside of a degree – Jobs and internships while in school will give students a significant advantage when it comes to job-hunting, as they will be starting the job search with valuable experiences and skills on their résumés that their peers who only have classes and extracurricular activities lack. They also have the benefit of allowing students to explore a particular career path to decide if it is really right for them, and giving them the chance to change direction and explore other options before graduation if they discover it isn’t.

Improve soft skills by connecting activities in the classroom to necessary job skills – Many classroom activities that students may see as being an unnecessary nuisance are actually a taste of what is to come when they start their careers. Instructors should emphasize how class requirements and activities like group projects, class participation, analytical essays, and even interactions with their classmates and instructors are precursors to what their careers will require of them. Once students graduate and find work, they will likely find themselves having to collaborate with their coworkers to complete a project, participate in and contribute ideas in meetings, analyze problems, results, and customer feedback to improve a product or service, and communicate effectively and appropriately with coworkers, upper management, and customers. Raising awareness of the similarities between what goes on in the classroom and the workforce may motivate students to take their classroom experiences more seriously.

Our solutions use case studies to provide a real-world context for how the skills students are learning in class will be used in their careers. For more tips on how to prepare your students for their careers, contact Labyrinth Learning to learn more about our solutions for Business and Accounting, as well as our Mastery Series.

Combined Academic and Vocational Education Leads to Success

Image courtesy of t0zz at
Image courtesy of t0zz at

Nearly 60% of students entering community colleges aren’t prepared to take college-level vocational or educational classes and require non-credit remedial courses in math, reading, and writing before they can start on their vocational or academic degrees. Taking months, or even years, of high school-level courses in these subjects before being able to advance to credit courses and start working towards their credentials extends the time and money it takes for students to complete their degrees. The frustration and discouragement this often leads to is apparent in the completion rate: only about a quarter of students who start out taking remedial courses complete a degree in eight years.

Washington community colleges are combating this drop-out rate with their innovative program called I-BEST (Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training), which offers credit courses that teach basic math, reading, and writing skills alongside the technical skills students will need once they complete their credentials. Areas in which colleges offer I-BEST programs include accounting, business clerical skills, information technology, nursing, and academic transfer, among others. In I-BEST, students are taught basic academic skills that they will use in their chosen careers in the context of how they’ll be used on the job. There are two instructors in each I-BEST course: a basic-skills teacher and a subject expert. The basic-skills teacher lectures on the subject area for the first part of class, then the students immediately go to the lab portion of class where the subject expert teaches job procedures, applying what students have just learned in the lecture. The program has been replicated by colleges in 29 other states.

I-BEST has proven to be highly beneficial in the following ways:

Accelerated the speed at which subjects are taught: Many students don’t need an entire semester or year of remedial coursework, only strengthening in certain areas. I-BEST fills the gaps in students’ skills by concentrating on what they need to know for their career paths. In addition, the direct connection between academic work and job skills improves retention of learned basic skills knowledge.

Increased likelihood of earning a vocational or academic degree: Taking non-credit remedial courses can cause a financial strain, as many students may run out of money for credit courses before completing their credentials or even taking a single credit course. I-BEST offers basic skills intermingled with career courses for credit, allowing students to take the courses they want from the beginning. It also lays out a clearer pathway for what courses to take in order to complete a credential or work toward a degree. As a result, over 80% of I-BEST students have completed their credentials or returned for another quarter.

Produces long-term economic benefits: Students who have completed at least a year of college-level classes and earned a credential obtained better jobs and saw a significant increase in earnings.

Labyrinth Learning’s Payroll Accounting, 2nd Edition combines case studies, concepts, and hands-on exercises, both in text and in our new Homework Grader feature in eLab, to teach students the theories and practical skills of payroll accounting. Contact us to learn more about how this and our other Business and Accounting solutions can help your students to succeed in their careers.


Online Learning vs. Classroom Instruction

With the rise of online learning in recent years, students have more options with which to accomplish their educational goals. They can take a course, or even earn a degree, entirely online, receive

Image courtesy of sixninepixels at
Image courtesy of sixninepixels at

traditional classroom instruction, or utilize a combination of these options, either throughout their curriculum or within a single course. Each option has its advantages and disadvantages depending on factors such as personality, learning style, time commitment, and computer literacy level. Understanding these influences can help you construct your course, whether it is in class or online, to ensure that your students receive the best learning experience.

Some of the benefits of online instruction are:

Increased flexibility – Students can access an online course at any time from any computer with internet connection, whether that be at home, the library, or a café. This makes it easier to fit a course into their schedule when they have responsibilities like work, children, or other commitments, in contrast to a traditional class, which would only be offered at certain times that may not fit the student’s schedule and preclude that student from taking the class.

Can be tailored to different learning styles – Many online courses come with a variety of resources, like videos, simulations, links, and articles, and the student can choose which resources to use according to how they learn best. Online courses also allow students to manage the pace of their learning, as opposed to having to adjust to the pace of their instructor and classmates. They can skim material that they already understand, while devoting more time and concentration to lessons which require more of their efforts to learn.

Encourages participation in class discussion – The relative anonymity that online courses offer can make students who might not speak up in a classroom more comfortable with participating in online discussions, which can contribute more ideas and add to the learning experience of all the students in the course.

The advantages of classroom instruction are:

Immediate interaction with instructors and peers – Classroom instruction offers in-person access to the instructor and classmates. Students can ask questions and contribute to class discussions, as well as receive answers and feedback immediately, rather than waiting for their instructor or classmates to see their posts or e-mails online. Hands-on activities and group projects can further enhance students’ learning experience. And interacting with instructors and peers in person can also better facilitate personal and professional relationships.

Offers a set schedule and structure – For students who may not quite have the self-discipline and time-management skills to complete an online course, traditional classroom instruction can provide that needed structure and motivation to successfully complete the work. Having a set schedule to attend class can help students manage their time more effectively, and having to submit work and take tests in person, which will eventually be graded and handed back in person, adds a certain sense of accountability that students may not feel in an online course, where those same interactions feel more anonymous.

Fewer technology requirements – For students that do not have access to a computer or internet at home, or who don’t have the level of computer literacy necessary to take an online course, a classroom course is beneficial for receiving on-site assistance from their instructor with any technological issues or questions they have.

We offer solutions that will optimize your students’ classroom and online learning experiences and help them attain their educational goals. Contact us at Labyrinth Learning to learn more about our full solutions for business and accounting courses, and also beginning- and intermediate-level computer courses.

Enhancements to 529 Plan May Soon be Realized

Image courtesy of bugphai at
Image courtesy of bugphai at

The Senate Finance Committee has unanimously passed measures that enhance the 529 Plan, an educational savings plan that helps parents fund their children’s college education. The 529 Plan is operated by state agencies and organizations, and withdrawals for education expenses are exempt from federal taxes.

Among the improvements added to the bill are:

  • Students can use 529 funds to purchase a computer – Under the current law, students can only use the funds to purchase a computer if the college they are attending requires them to have a computer. The new measure would allow students to purchase a computer with 529 funds whether or not their schools require it.
  • Taxation and the tax penalty on higher education expenses have been eliminated – Currently, when students withdraw from college, their refunds are subject to taxation and a 10% tax penalty. Under the new measure, refunds received when a student withdraws from school can be redeposited into their 529 within 60 days without penalty, allowing parents to use the funds to pay for the student’s education should they return to school at a later date, or even use it for another family member.

Lawmakers hope the increased flexibility these enhancements provide will encourage more parents to utilize the 529 Plan. The bill has strong support in Congress, with the House of Representatives having passed a similar bill, and the full Senate expected to pass this bill as well.

Fall semester will be here before you know it, so check out our high-quality, low-cost Business and Accounting solutions for your students today. Our full solutions include resources for both students and instructors. Contact us at Labyrinth Learning for more information.