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Excel Supplements shown as ebooks in tablets for Financial, Managerial, Principles of Accounting Courses

Teaching Microsoft Excel in Introductory Accounting Courses

By Eric Weinstein

This article explores the upcoming Excel supplements for existing Financial, Managerial, and Principles of Accounting courses, available for classes in June 2024.

As accounting educators, we strive to prepare students for their careers, and we’ve long appreciated the importance of ensuring that our accounting students are well trained in Microsoft® Excel as part of this endeavor. While the majority of accounting students complete some version of an Excel course during their postsecondary career, based on employer feedback, the current approaches do not suffice. Employers continue to report a lack of applicable Excel skills among the most glaring weaknesses exhibited by new hires.

The question becomes: How can accounting educators address this knowledge gap within our already crowded academic programs?

The Challenges

To many, the answer lies in incorporating Microsoft Excel directly within introductory accounting courses. While this is a logical approach to ensuring that all accounting students both receive the needed Excel training and have time to apply this training in an academic setting prior to graduation, it has challenges. Most prominent is the notion that, to devote time to working with Excel in an introductory accounting course, this time must naturally be taken from instruction in some other area. We all know that introductory accounting courses are already jam-packed with content. Ensuring that students fully internalize this content can be a struggle even without adding Excel into the mix.

Another barrier is the differing levels of experience students bring to the classroom. It is uncommon for a Microsoft Office course to be a prerequisite for introductory accounting courses. So, while some students will enter the classroom with robust prior training in Excel, others will arrive largely unfamiliar with it. Teaching Excel to these students simultaneously presents an additional challenge.

Common issues when integrating Excel in an intro accounting course

Lastly, even in the dream scenario of sufficient time to teach Excel to an audience with similar levels of prior experience with it, deciding on which Excel topics to focus our limited time remains a complication. Employers indicate that their new hires are not sufficiently trained in Excel, but in what areas the training is lacking remains an unknown. From creating basic formulas to using advanced tools such as PivotTables and Solver, to knowing how to tackle an Excel-based assignment, the landscape is seemingly endless.

Accounting educators know that while simply following a standard set of Excel topics when supplementing our introductory accounting courses would be straightforward to do in the classroom, it just will not provide the needed benefit to our students. So, now what?

Balancing the Books

Girl balancing accounting supplements on her head
Don’t try this at home

Labyrinth Learning, a leader in providing educational materials for more than 30 years, has recognized these challenges and developed a comprehensive set of materials designed to supplement financial accounting, managerial accounting, and principles of accounting courses. These companion materials address the primary challenges faced by educators when incorporating Microsoft Excel into an introductory accounting course by covering the right topics in the right way, offering plenty of practice, and making spreadsheet design a focus.

Excel Topics That Align With Accounting Topics

When exposing students to Excel in an accounting course, it’s important to remain focused on the key content students are to internalize in the course. That’s why Labyrinth’s Excel companions provide instruction, procedural tables, and spot-check autograded practice assignments that mirror the content taught in your introductory accounting courses — all within the Excel environment.

The main part of each module is the video content. Some videos focus on quickly explaining how to use Excel, while others provide walkthroughs of that module’s exercise, ensuring students are fully supported with explanatory content as they complete each module’s assignments.

Short videos are a primary teaching tool

By offering efficient, video-based instruction, and ensuring that the content provides additional accounting practice to students learning these key introductory accounting concepts, Labyrinth’s materials ensure that Excel can be brought into the classroom with minimal time diverted from teaching the most important core accounting concepts.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Furthermore, each module includes not only an illustrative example, on which video instruction is based, but also five practice exercises (structured in the same manner as the example) so students have plenty of opportunity to work in Excel. These assignments can be used in whatever manner the educator sees fit: as classroom assignments, group assignments, homework assignments, or assessment tools. Perhaps more importantly, these extensive practice opportunities allow the course to be tailored to individual student needs. While students who have a more extensive Excel background may benefit from completing only a few assignments, students with less experience can work through them all to ensure they fully grasp the content.

Image of Exercise 1: Managerial Accounting Supplement
Multiple practice exercises per module increase proficiency and confidence

Presentation Is Key

Specific student populations will benefit from focusing on different Excel topics. This is why a wide variety of topics are covered within the modules. But that’s not all. The majority of Microsoft Excel textbooks provide some form of step-by-step instructions, but they rarely focus on how to develop an Excel spreadsheet from scratch. Students learn what to click and type to change the appearance of a cell or to enter a formula, but they don’t gain an understanding of how to put together spreadsheet elements in a manner that enhances readability and comprehension. If a new hire writes the perfect Excel formula but presents it to their employer or colleagues within a confusing poorly structured worksheet, the benefit of the formula is lost. Employers want students to be capable of creating worksheets without step-by-step instructions. The Labyrinth companions first explain and show how to create a spreadsheet, and then provide opportunities for students to do it on their own. Students do this not by following detailed steps on what to click where, but by making sound decisions based on the discussions and examples provided.

Spreadsheet design is, in many ways, more important in a work environment than the majority of Excel topics we teach our students. This often-overlooked skill is stressed in our materials so that students can hit the ground running upon graduation.

Example of scattered spreadsheet on left and informative spreadsheet on right
Help students take their worksheets from scattered (left) to streamlined and informative (right)

The Labyrinth Learning Excel Companions

Each companion title is made up of a series of topic modules that follow the same pattern:

  • Spreadsheet Skills – Video Tutorial and Reference Tables
  • Illustrative Example – Example Walkthrough Videos
  • Practice Exercises (5)
Excel Supplements book covers for Financial, Managerial, Principles of Accounting Courses

Topics Covered

Job Order Costing

Process Costing

CVP Analysis

Capital Projects

Determining Variances

Statement of Cash Flows

Financial Statement Analysis

Topics Covered

The Accounting Cycle

Inventory Costing

Bank Reconciliation

Aging of A/R

Depreciation Expense

Payroll Register

Bond Amortization

Topics Covered

(Includes topics from the Managerial & Financial Companions)

Tips for Integrating a Companion in an Introductory Accounting Course


Although many other spreadsheet and data visualization programs are used on the market today, knowledge of Excel continues to be vital for accounting graduates. As educators, we must respond to the feedback from employers and better prepare our students to use this tool in a professional environment. By incorporating Labyrinth Learning’s new Excel companions into your introductory accounting courses, you will be accomplishing this goal and providing students with a set of skills that allow them to outshine their professional peers for years to come.

Young woman at desk with eyes closed smiling in triumph after outshining peers through use of Excel supplements
That feeling when the Excel hits right
Educators can now request review copies of the Excel Companions for Financial, Managerial and Principles of Accounting Courses, available for classes in June 2024.

Preparing Students for the Intuit Certified Bookkeeping Professional Certification

By Eric Weinstein & Laura Popelka

This article explores the upcoming learning solution Accounting Essentials: Complete Prep for the Intuit Certified Bookkeeping Professional Exam, available for classes in Spring 2023.

Recently Intuit Inc., the corporation behind such familiar names as TurboTax and QuickBooks, in conjunction with Certiport, released the Intuit Certified Bookkeeping Professional certification. The certification covers a range of topics broadly categorized into four main groups. Mastering these topics and obtaining this certification can give students an edge as they compete for coveted employment opportunities in today’s competitive job market by setting them apart from the crowd as someone with specialized skills.

But how can a student best prepare for such a wide-ranging certification exam as this? Labyrinth Learning, an industry-leader in creating intuitive, easy-to-use course solutions, has the answer. The company’s soon-to-be-released learning solution, Accounting Essentials: Complete Prep for the Intuit Certified Bookkeeping Professional Examcontains everything aspiring bookkeepers need to ace their certification exam. These cutting-edge materials are approved by Intuit and provide unmatched exam preparation.

Let’s take a look at how these materials accomplish the goal.

Mapping to Exam Objectives

Labyrinth’s bookkeeping certification prep solution includes a mapping of the textbook content to the exam objectives. This visual, which shows the connections between what students are learning about in class and what they’ll be tested on if they go for certification, is a valuable study aid that can be used when preparing for the exam.

This is an example of the mapping of the Intuit Certified Bookkeeping Professional Certification Exam objective (left) to the location in the course content that objective is covered (right). Students can quickly jump to the desired chapter content as they study. You can access a full version of the map to the exam objectives (PDF).

The chapter-level assessment tests and final exam questions are also mapped to learning solution content and exam objectives to further aid and support students preparing for the certification exam. 

But Accounting Essentials provides much more than basic content explanations and mappings. The course includes eight learning content chapters and one project chapter that can be used as a capstone to verify full comprehension of the certification exam material.

Unparalleled Learning Content

Aimed at serving future bookkeepers, this certification prep textbook is optimized for students with little or no prior accounting knowledge and uses Labyrinth’s proven step-by-step approach to teach introductory accounting concepts and how to complete key financial statements.

Key to this are several factors:

Case in Point Examples to Illustrate Concepts

Within each chapter is an array of resources to assist students in mastering the material. Accompanying each main discussion, for example, is a Case in Point section that includes examples and full explanations to illustrate implementation of the concept.

All Case in Point sections relate to the fictional case study company Nathan’s Donut School and owner Nathaniel H. Spencer. Following this new company owner as he gets acclimated to the accounting needs of his small business helps students retain learning by connecting concepts to the real world.

Case in Point sections are not hands-on assignments and there’s nothing active for the students to do or submit for these, but they are a critical course element and effective teaching tool. In this example, students work with journal entries as the critical topic of debits and credits is reinforced. Each “step” is a different transaction (scenario) in which students are shown the journal entry that results from a given transaction as well as notes on how and why the entry is created as it is.

Commentary can also expand upon a discussion point, offer a tip or best practice, and generally give students context so they aren’t just memorizing a few facts. They’re absorbing concepts.

The particulars of a Case in Point section change depending on the concept being introduced and all are designed to extend upon and illustrate the discussions that precede them using real-world examples, compelling visuals where helpful, and other features.

Other Ways to Support Learning

Each chapter also contains one or more A Closer Look sections. In these sections a topic is expanded upon so students can gain a more complete understanding of how it’s employed in the real world. Topics include alternatives to using the T-account, less common depreciation methods and financial ratios, and a variety of other topics.

A Closer Look sections provide context for the student, which in turn allows for a more complete understanding and internalization of the content.

Multimedia content includes supplementary videos and animations to support and enliven discussions and to reach learners of all types. Students may access multimedia from within their ebooks and/or eLab.

An example animation from the ebook
A video prompt in the print book

Ask Yourself

A key to effective learning is to confirm understanding along the way. To support students, each main discussion section features an Ask Yourself question. Positioned just before the Case in Point example, these anchor questions give students the opportunity to stop and check in with themselves before moving on. These are no-pressure questions. Answers and feedback provided!

Example Ask Yourself question in a chapter and section of the answer key. Students can confirm their understanding before moving to the next section.

End-of-Chapter Content

The end-of-chapter content is even more robust, with no fewer than four sections of materials to ensure that students are given all the tools necessary to succeed in both the classroom and when seeking certification.


After the last concept section and Case in Point example, students encounter the Self-Assessment. This twenty-question quiz helps students confirm their understanding of the material presented in the chapter and pinpoint areas of weakness. As with Ask Yourself, answers and feedback are provided so students can use these sections as learning tools.

Questions are succinct, relevant, and answerable within the learning content. Students who complete the Self-Assessment quiz for a chapter will be well prepared for the active Practice Set working sections to come.

Putting It Together

Next comes the comprehensive chapter review in Putting It Together. These sections are similar to Case in Point in that they are examples, but where Case in Point takes the chapter discussion section by section, in Putting It Together, students see the chapter’s accounting work illustrated “soup to nuts” in one section.

This encompassing example illustrates for students how the chapter’s topics fit together and can be applied in a real-world scenario. This feature is unique to Labyrinth’s Accounting Essentials bookkeeping certification learning solution.

It’s a fantastic study aid in that it provides a complete roadmap that can be used as a model for the Practice Sets to help guarantee student success.

Providing aggregated examples that pull together all chapter topics into one scenario to be looked at collectively is a key component of this course. It’s important that students know how to execute individual accounting-based tasks, and it’s also important that they have a complete understanding of how to use these tasks together to complete a larger goal.

Practice Sets

Within the main course content are two Practice Set sections (A and B) per chapter, with a third (C) available online and within the instructor support resources. Each Practice Set section provides a wide variety of exercises, offering educators and students alike flexibility in the types of problems that will be most beneficial.

To some degree, every student learns at a different pace and in a different way. Offering variety in these assignments helps ensure that all students are presented with opportunities to show mastery of the material and just how much they can do.

Practice Set B in each chapter provides essentially the same set of assignments from Practice Set A, with modification made to company names, dates, amounts, etc. This is a key component within this learning solution, as repetition of this course material is vital to student success. And this is why even a third set (Practice Set C) is provided within the online materials. All Practice Sets can be completed online with automatic grading and feedback provided.

As you can see, the structure of the learning solution is designed to ensure full comprehension of the course material. But what specifically will the students be learning?

Topic Coverage

We’ve already mentioned the broad categories that are used for the Intuit Certified Bookkeeping Professional exam. To achieve the goal of covering all topics within these categories, Accounting Essentials starts in Chapter 1 by examining the accounting equation, the accounting cycle, and the process used to evaluate transactions. Chapter 2 provides a broad view of each step within the accounting cycle. This is a novel approach designed to give the student a better understanding of the complete cycle before looking more closely at each individual component.

Chapter 3 moves on to journal entries, T-accounts, special journals, and subsidiary ledgers. Chapter 4 introduces the trial balance, adjusting entries, reversing entries, and multiple depreciation methods. Chapter 5 examines the four financial statements and closing entries.

Chapter 6 reviews petty cash, bank reconciliations, computerized accounting systems, and accounting for payroll. Chapter 7 then considers vertical analyses, horizontal analyses, and financial ratios. Chapter 8 provides a comprehensive project covering the bulk of the material in the first seven chapters.

Lastly, another unique feature of this course is coverage of merchandising businesses and the elements that impact them, such as inventory valuation methods, as discussed in Chapter 9. This allows the student to learn each element of the accounting cycle in the context of a more basic service business, and then to expand on this knowledge in the final chapter and after the project.

Automated Grading & Instructor Support

Of course, Labyrinth Learning also recognizes the need to simplify the lives of educators. As the number of courses offered and associated number of course modalities has grown in recent years, the life of the educator has become much more difficult. With so many competing responsibilities, it can be difficult to spend sufficient time on each element of the course. By offering Accounting Essentials in an online course format (using Labyrinth eLab) and providing automated grading for assignments and assessments, Labyrinth Learning has addressed this issue.

eLab learning and assessment content includes features such as test banks, practice set assignments, and certification exam prep – all automatically graded and with feedback for students.

Further, an array of instructor support materials streamlines course preparation and frees up vital time that is better spent teaching rather than preparing and grading. Offerings include solution material, lecture notes, chapter overviews, course setup notes, a sample syllabus, and much more.

Wrapping It Up

Labyrinth Learning is proud to have crafted these materials that offer outstanding preparation for the Intuit Certified Professional Bookkeepers exam. We look forward to sharing in the successes of students who achieve certification using these materials and hope that you will consider how they can be beneficial in your classroom.

Educators can request a review copy of Accounting Essentials: Complete Prep for the Intuit Certified Bookkeeping Professional Exam, available for classes in Spring 2023.

Responding to COVID-19: Transitioning to Online Classrooms

By Ben Linford, author of Labyrinth Learning’s Microsoft® Word 2019 & 365 Comprehensive

With the spread of the Coronavirus, more and more schools are preparing to move the majority of their classrooms online in the case of a public health lockdown. Such rapid implementation of these measures is proving, in many cases, to be a challenge. We’d like to help minimize the stress inherent in making this switch, especially for teachers and schools who may be unfamiliar with online solutions available. Read on for suggestions on how to successfully prepare, cultivate, and implement online classes as quickly as possible.

The Basics: Moving Essential Classroom Elements Online

A typical classroom is conducted in three phases that are repeated for each new subject:

  1. Learning consists of reading, lecture, initial experimentation, or any other methodology specifically meant to help students learn the material.
  2. Working consists of classroom assignments or projects, the actual deliverables students submit to increase their familiarity with the given subject.
  3. Testing is the exam given, typically at the end, where a student proves, in a controlled environment, their understanding of the material.

As teachers, most of us are very familiar with each of these classroom phases. Let’s explore solutions for moving each of these three phases online.

Throughout this article, I’ll be including a BUNCH of links to various resources and help pages. Many of us have a tendency to skip past the links in articles we read, but I highly recommend you pause and consider each link to see whether it’s useful to you and your needs in switching to an online environment. I’ll also include a full list of links, with descriptions, at end. If the company or service you use is not listed in this article, chances are they’ve also begun preparations for adapting to the restrictions brought on by COVID-19, and I encourage you to Google what may be available, for example, “[company/service name] options for switching to online” or similar. These links and solutions are included only as suggestions, and Labyrinth is not affiliated with nor do we receive any payment from these various companies for linking to them.

No matter which of these various solutions for learning, working, and testing you choose to implement, I highly recommend providing yourself with backup options as well. For example, Zoom is a great way to connect with students online, but considering its popularity (plus the fact that it’s free), Zoom servers might become overwhelmed if a mass lockdown is initiated as the virus spreads, and more and more people are forced to use it to connect.


Teachers employ a variety of tools to help students learn new material. Reading, online resources, and classroom videos are fairly easy to move online by creating and sharing Google Docs or uploading videos to YouTube. Lectures, however, are a different matter entirely. How does one give a lecture online?

A variety of online video conferencing solutions are available to help you move your lectures online. Zoom is particularly popular right now; it’s completely free, provided you have fewer than 100 attendees inside your virtual lecture space. Plus, they’re hard at work making sure they’re prepared for educators who will be switching to online teaching. Teachers can annotate and share their screens, record lectures for later use (or upload them for student viewing), break the classroom into smaller groups, etc. Students can raise a virtual hand to let teachers know they have questions, type questions into a chat box, or speak live to ask questions. Check out Zoom’s comprehensive guide to educating with the platform or this guide from Tufts University educators.

Zoom attendees can use either a computer or a mobile device to attend your Zoom sessions, so it casts a wide net as far as availability and ease of use.

Other free options include Skype, NewRow, and Big Blue Button; you can also use Facebook Live or YouTube Live. Paid services include Vedamo, LearnCube, Adobe Connect, and Electa Live.

Essentially, you have two options when it comes to lecturing online. You can either hold your lectures live and have students attend via a device, or you can record your lecture and upload it for students to view on their own time (use any online video platform, including YouTube, to do this). Either option has its own pros and cons.

Advantages Disadvantages
Live Lecture You can take live questionsAllows person-to-person interaction Interruptions will occur frequently, especially at first, as everyone is getting used to the new system
Uploaded Lecture Students watch on their own timeNo risk of interruption due to microphone noise from students You can’t take live questions

You’ll need screen recording software to record a lecture. Zoom provides it, as does YouTube. You can also purchase screen recording software, such as Camtasia.

A word of advice: Whichever option you choose, don’t plan anything for the first lecture! Instead, make the first lecture an “Introduction to Zoom” or “Let’s meet our new online classroom!” You’ll almost certainly experience problems in that first lecture (connection issues, sound issues, etc.). Instead of planning curriculum content for that first lecture, plan to resolve the problems that almost certainly will occur. Even if you’re simply recording a lecture, it’s a great idea to keep the first one to just a minute or two as a trial run, something students can use, without pressure, to make sure they understand the system. Trying to cover important curriculum content in an environment under stress due to technical issues is nowhere teachers or their students want to be. Remove that risk as best you can.


Chances are, you’re already been assigning classwork or homework that, at least in part, uses online resources. Perhaps your school uses Canvas or Blackboard or a similar LMS (learning management system). If so, you’re already familiar with using these solutions to have students submit their work. If you don’t use any of these options, a couple of great (and free) places you can use to begin accepting submissions and managing your online classrooms are Google Classroom or Edmodo. Both offer solutions for communicating with and accepting submissions from students.

While I suggest ultimately moving your assignments onto online platforms such as Google Docs, you can use paper and pencil assignments in an online environment. For example, students can use mobile devices to quickly snap photos of their completed assignments and submit those to you.


Testing in an online environment can be a significant challenge, especially considering the difficulty in proctoring tests properly to ensure students are not cheating. However, there are some solutions that, while not a permanent solution, will get you by during any potential lockdowns

If you’re already planning to use Zoom for lecturing, might I recommend using it for testing as well. With Zoom, you can keep an eye on your students to make sure they’re not looking for answers, and you can also use private messaging to get individual answers to test questions. For example, you can begin your Zoom session and ask a question verbally or put up a list of questions on the screen. Then, you can either use Zoom’s private messaging to open individual chats with each student, allowing them to submit their answers directly to you, or simply have them enter their answers into a Google Doc, which they then share with you.

In the end, the nature of this type of testing makes it difficult to conduct in an online environment. Considering this, the best solution may be to simply adapt your test to something more suitable. For example, rather than giving students a multiple choice exam, have students do a “production test,” where they produce proof of understanding by writing an essay, or doing a science project and taking pictures, or giving a Zoom presentation.

Steps You Can Take NOW

There are many steps you can take right now to start preparing your online classroom for use in the event of a potential COVID-19-related lockdown. Sign up for an account on the various solutions you choose and run a test. Use your classroom time (while you still have it) to show students how it works. Send a handout (and an email) to parents telling them your plan. Do everything you can now to lessen the burden for if/when the switch happens in your area. The more you do to prepare early, the easier the transition will be, should a lockdown occur.

A great way to get your school and classroom ready is to hold an “online day” where no one comes to school and, instead, everyone tries the online system from home. That way, you can identify challenges early, and when everyone comes to school the next day, help to address them with the advantage of being physically present, something you won’t have if you wait to test things until the lock down. Trust me, it’s far more difficult trying to resolve things over the phone than it is being physically present.

For Labyrinth customers, there are also a wide variety of tools for making online classrooms as user-friendly as possible. Labyrinth textbooks are available online, and the eLab is a great way to accept student submissions. You can use the assignments already built into eLab or create your own.

Adapt, Postpone, or Cancel

I’m sure anyone familiar with teaching online already knows that certain aspects of the online environment necessitate some changes to teaching style. Simply put, you must be willing to change some things. It’s not possible to teach your classes online in the same way you teach classes in the classroom. It’s just different. As suggested previously, you may have to find a way to submit pictures of completed assignments, as submitting paper assignments isn’t possible online.

Choose the tools and solutions that provide the most “bang for the buck.” Rather than trying to come up with ways to personalize online education for individual students, step back and focus on making sure your solutions cast as wide a net as possible. We all have particular students who we know are going to struggle more than others with the switch to online (typically, they’re the same students who were already struggling), but for now, don’t focus your efforts on accommodating those students. Instead, focus your efforts on a one-size-fits-ALL strategy as much as you can. If that’s not possible, then go for one-size-fits-MOST. Once you have that in place, you can start making small, individualized adjustments. For classes that are very difficult to teach outside the classroom, such as lab-based science classes or public-speaking classes, just do your best. It won’t be ideal but, again, find that one-size-fits-all solution first so main concepts can be taught—even if not in the most ideal way.

If there’s something you had planned in your physical classroom that’s too challenging to bring to an online classroom, don’t. Instead, adapt it, postpone it, or cancel it. For example, if you have an upcoming science fair, don’t try to force it to work with an online platform by having everyone be on Zoom at the same time to virtually “walk” through the exhibits. Rather:

  • Adapt by having students use mobile phones to record a 2–5 minute presentation and upload it, allowing teachers and other students to watch it on their own time.
  • Postpone that assignment until after the lockdown has passed and everyone is back in class.
  • Cancel the assignment entirely and replace it with something more manageable in an online setting, such as a research report.

Choose what’s best for YOUR class.

Finally, Don’t Worry!

I cannot emphasize this enough: THINGS WILL SHAKE OUT IN THE END. Certain students will step up and get the work done on their own, others will email you constantly with questions, and still others will require extra attention and harping from you to make sure they turn the work in on time. It may seem like absolute chaos at first, but things will even out. It will be okay. While there are bound to be some challenges in switching over, and a mistake or two here or there, you’ll find that most students and parents understand the circumstances and are willing to accommodate. Even just a few years ago, switching temporarily to a fully online classroom would have been far more challenging.

I’ve heard a lot of concern that students will try to “take advantage” of the online system in order to do less work, or that the online system “naturally” allows for students to get away with doing less, or that certain students “need” physical interaction, or any number of other reasons why online simply won’t work. While I completely understand the reasoning behind these worries, please be assured that most of them are far less of a problem than one may initially assume. Moving online is not better or worse in these aspects, it’s simply different. Students have been cutting corners since time immemorial, and they will do so whether online or otherwise.

Just do the best you can, and everyone (including you!), will eventually find ways to adapt. We’re human; it’s in our nature to adapt when we must. Some of the students you’re most worried about will surprise you and do well in the online environment. Others won’t, but that’s okay! Students will still have to fulfill the same assignment requirements whether online or in the classroom, and again, their doing so will not be better or worse, just different. If they fail to meet deadlines or fulfill assignment requirements, they’ll have to face the consequences just like they would in a regular classroom. Trust that this “difference” is not a bad thing and just let it go. Do your best to prepare, plan for extra time to resolve issues, and let the temporarily online class go forward as best you can.

Full List of Links/Resources

Google Classroom, Google Docs/Google Drive

Google Classroom:

How to create new docs:

How to share Google docs:


Labyrinth Online Learning:


How to upload videos:


Tufts University guide to using Zoom for the classroom:

Use Zoom to record lectures:

Zoom homepage:

Zoom’s preparations for COVID-19, resources for use in classroom:

Zoom’s “Comprehensive Guide” on how to give lectures:


Adobe Connect:

Big Blue Button:



Electa Live:

Facebook Live in the classroom:





Using YouTube to record lectures:

YouTube Live in the classroom:

Teach by Example

By Alec Fehl, author of Labyrinth Learning’s Microsoft PowerPoint 2019 & 365: Comprehensive

I’ve been in school my entire life. My. Entire. Life.

I had excellent attendance throughout elementary school, junior high, high school, and four years of college. Within a year of graduating college, I started work as a day-to-day substitute teacher. I moved into a long-term substitute position, eventually earned my full teaching credential at night, taught middle school and high school in Southern California and North Carolina, taught at private computer training centers, and have been teaching at a community college since 2002. I’ve also taught music privately and at music schools since I was a teenager. I’ve been a teacher for 28 years. I think it’s fair to say I have a lot of experience in the classroom and can recognize the habits of both effective and ineffective teachers.

The Good, the Bad, and the Just Plain Ugly

Throughout my formal student years, which extended well into my 20s, I was fortunate enough to have some outstanding teachers. Some names that stand out in my memories as being the best of the best are William Tuohy, Shirley Gray, and Bob Tamaki. I also had some teachers who should not have been teaching; they’ll remain nameless.

When I finally got my very own class of middle school math students, I often found myself asking, “What would Mr. Tuohy do?” or “How would Professor Gray engage them?” My aha moment came when I realized that I often learned the most from my worst teachers! They taught me, by example, what not to do. To quote author Catherine Aird, “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” These past teachers, effective and ineffective, all taught by example.

You know how teachers have that magic sixth sense? Even with their back to the class, they can tell who is chewing gum, who is passing a note, who is on their phone. Teachers see everything, right? So do students. Be the good example, not the horrible warning.

I had one teacher who came to class late every day (when he showed up at all). After the third week, the students who still came to class at all rolled in late. I had another teacher who never had a lesson plan. He’d flip through the textbook looking for “an interesting proof” to show. Students didn’t bother doing the assigned reading or homework because whatever was assigned in one class had nothing to do with the next.

I had another teacher who was 10 minutes early every day, had a warm-up activity ready when we entered, and as we worked on it, she’d pass back our work from the previous class. Students were consistently on time and engaged in class discussion.

Becoming the Good Example

Ask yourself how you want your students to act and model that behavior yourself. Be a role model. Lead and teach by example. Expect your students to mimic your behavior and make that expectation clear. Here are some tips to consider:

  • Be on time to your own class. This doesn’t mean sailing through the door a minute before class begins. Be there 10 minutes early. Show students that you budgeted your time responsibly enough to be ready to start class the second the clock strikes the hour.

  • Be prepared. Don’t wing it. Your students are more apt to complete assignments and prepare for class if you model the same behavior. Know exactly what you will present for lectures/demos, have solutions worked out, and plan the follow-up assignment. Don’t be that teacher who stands in front of the class flipping through the textbook mumbling, “Hmmm. What should we look at today?” I had that teacher. Twice. That behavior does not engage students.

  • Be timely with grades and feedback. I try to grade and return assignments within 24 hours. Remember, students need your feedback to learn from their mistakes.

  • Give students your undivided attention. Don’t check your phone, email, or social media status during class. Give your students your full attention and expect the same in return.

It’s not that hard to be a good example; it just takes some time and attention. I think you’ll find the rewards—better student engagement and performance—well worth the effort.

Telling Stories and Playing—in the Classroom?

By Jill Murphy, author of Labyrinth Learning’s Microsoft® Word 2016 Comprehensive

Research shows that incorporating stories and play into classroom activities improves student motivation and engagement.

Tell a STORY

In her book, Wired for Story, Lisa Cron says, “Recent breakthroughs in neuroscience reveal that our brain is hardwired to respond to story; the pleasure we derive from a tale well told is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it.”

I like to use stories in the classroom to make sense of software. I believe that a student can more easily relate to a humanizing story about a software feature than the logic behind how it works. Instead of marching through the steps involved in creating an Excel formula, you can bring the process to life—find ways to turn a logical function into a story, because the brain wants stories to make sense of things!

Here are a couple of examples:

Excel: Placement of Equals Sign
When creating a formula in Excel, the placement of the equals sign is different from what you might expect. You use the same equals sign you’ve always used; it’s just that you place it at the beginning of the formula rather than at the end. Why? Here’s how I explain it in a humanizing way:

When you enter data in a spreadsheet, your computer is watching to see what kind of data it is. If it sees a number or an alphabetic character, it assumes that standard data is coming down the line and it doesn’t have to do anything complex. If your computer sees an equals sign first, it figures, “Hey, this is a formula. I’d better pay attention because I have some work to do. I have to figure out the answer to this formula!”

Office Applications: AutoComplete
How do you explain AutoComplete? You could explain keywords and stack overflow tags, or you can simply say that AutoComplete can do some of your typing for you. And AutoCorrect corrects misspelled words and typos for you. The features are helping you.

Make it FUN

Another way to improve your student outcomes is to make it fun. Lois Rice, in her December 15, 2015 Taylor & Francis Online article, Playful Learning, discusses the benefits of play in learning:

“The research presents findings that playful learning can be effective in motivating and improving student engagement, promoting creative thinking towards learning and developing approaches towards multi-disciplinary learning.”

Try to create playful exercise scenarios! Set up a spreadsheet budget for a candy store/ski shop/boat marina, for example. A spreadsheet about fiberglass-reinforced polyurethane materials could make any student’s eyes glaze over. Use fun PowerPoint situations. How about a travel agency with trips to exotic locales—Tahiti, Paris, Capetown—versus a presentation about transducers, switches, and control valves?

You can also use fun exercise files so the student is engaged by the document content, while learning to use its features. Learning how to use bullet points? Have the students add these points to a business etiquette column:

  • Don’t dunk bread in your soup at a business dinner, and don’t crush saltines in the bag and then dump them in your soup!

  • Avoid foods that are tricky to eat; spaghetti, peas, and artichokes all have the potential to create enormous problems.

Using stories and play will energize your students and get them engaged! I’ll leave you with a final warning:

Incorporating stories and play in your classroom may place your classes among the most popular on campus.

Career Opportunities in California Correctional Education

The California Office of Correctional Education (OCE) is seeking educators for a variety of positions. The OCE adult schools serve several thousand California state inmates each day by providing programming in Adult Basic Education, High School Equivalency, Voluntary Education Program, and Career Technical Education. Libraries offer materials to support inmate employment, community reentry and life skills. The libraries also provide legal resources and recreational and educational materials at each prison. OCE programming includes face to face college classes, distant education, recreation services, educational television programming and community transition planning.

Does this sound like something you might find rewarding? Learn more about available positions such as a Senior Librarian, Librarian, Library Technical Assistant, Academic Teacher, or Career Technical Education (CTE) Instructor. Details can be found at this link:

Brian Favro of Labyrinth Learning recently saw firsthand how the Office of Correctional Education is transforming the state prison system when he attended the inauguration ceremony of the San Quentin Machine Shop. This innovative program is one of several using education and job training to give inmates a greater chance of getting and retaining a job once outside the prison walls, thereby lowering their chances of returning to prison.

The San Quentin Machine Shop and the Last Mile ( are just two examples of the types of programs being delivered by the Office of Correctional Education.

Watch the videos below to be inspired by the difference these programs are making.

First Five Episodes of “Titans of CNC”

Episode 1 –
Episode 2 –
Episode 3 –
Episode 4 –
Episode 5 –