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Tech Skills & the Job Market

November 15th, 2010 Comments off

Having taught for close to four years now, I’m still blown away by the lack of computer skills exhibited by a vast majority of students.  Despite my best efforts to encourage people to take advantage of our semester together to learn even basic Excel skills, few people include even basic formulas in their homework submissions and those that do, I suspect, knew Excel before they landed in my class. 

Against that backdrop comes some analysis from Hunter Richards at softwareadvice.com that looks at what skills employers desire in job listings. that looks at what skills employers desire in job listings.  As I’ve stated many times, though, the foundation starts and ends with Excel and Hunter repeats that in his anlaysis as well:

This article would be a whole lot shorter, and a lot less interesting, if I focused on the one product you absolutely must know — Microsoft Excel. Nearly one hundred percent of these employers mentioned Excel skills as a necessity. If you’re an accounting student and you don’t know about Excel, I advise you to stop reading this immediately and go learn it.

For those of you that have mastered Excel, please take a look at the other skills that are in demand.  As I’ve stated in class, I’d rather hire someone with demonstrable skills in the product(s) used at my company than someone with a high GPA or a college degree.  That’s the real world.  Take a look at Hunter’s analysis at this link:: http://www.softwareadvice.com/articles/accounting/which-tech-skills-help-accountants-land-jobs/

Tweeting Students Earn Higher Grades

November 13th, 2010 Comments off

To the extent that tweeting during and outside of class can make students more engaged, I am not surprised to learn that it might lead to better outcomes. I know that when I attend conferences where I am able to tweet the highlights of each session I pay closer attention to the topic.  It keeps my mind from wandering to other things outside of the class I’m attending.

This being the case, it is interesting to me that so many faculty continue to ban the use of laptops and phones in class.  There are too many instructors stuck in the “we didn’t use them when I was in school” world.


Tweeting Students Earn Higher Grades Than Others in Classroom Experiment – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education
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Categories: Education Tags:

Textbook Rentals May Not Save Students Much

November 7th, 2010 Comments off

Photo credit: greenasian on Flickr

Well, the textbook rental program that is starting at Metropolitan State University may not be enough to save meaningful amount of money, it seems.  According this Associated Press piece, there are still several other factors impacting the textbook industry that may cause savings to be less than advertised.

About half the nation’s major college and university bookstores offered textbook rentals this fall, according to the National Association of College Stores, hoping to cut the $600-$900 students spend buying books each year. That’s roughly a fivefold increase from around 300 stores a year ago.

But schools and publishing experts say the programs are expensive to start up and difficult to operate. In addition, there are complaints that rental prices are still too high, even though they can be as much as half the cost of a new book.

http://customwire.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_COLLEGE_TEXTBOOK_RENTALS

Categories: Associated Press, Education Tags:

Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits

September 19th, 2010 1 comment

Courtesy scui3asteveo on flickr

Here is an interesting article that challenges many of the long-held beliefs about how best to study/learn.  One of the most important lessons is that problem solving practice shouldn’t involve doing the same kinds of calculations repeatedly…it is important to mix up the problems to learn best:

“When students see a list of problems, all of the same kind, they know the strategy to use before they even read the problem,” said Dr. Rohrer. “That’s like riding a bike with training wheels.” With mixed practice, he added, “each problem is different from the last one, which means kids must learn how to choose the appropriate procedure — just like they had to do on the test.”

Another thought is that practice tests are useful:

“The idea is that forgetting is the friend of learning,” said Dr. Kornell. “When you forget something, it allows you to relearn, and do so effectively, the next time you see it.”

That’s one reason cognitive scientists see testing itself — or practice tests and quizzes — as a powerful tool of learning, rather than merely assessment. The process of retrieving an idea is not like pulling a book from a shelf; it seems to fundamentally alter the way the information is subsequently stored, making it far more accessible in the future.

As I’ve said, I think that students just need to know what works best for them.  To the extent that these tips help you do that they are useful…but since everyone learns in different ways there isn’t one “magic” method that will work for everyone.

Read more at this link: Mind – Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits – NYTimes.com.

Evernote for Windows

September 13th, 2010 Comments off

Here’s an interesting product that students may want to check out: Evernote.  From text notes to screenshots to audio files, this one application can help you stay organized.  I’d be interested to hear from students that use this to better understand the pros/cons in an accounting classroom setting.

Here is a video clip from CNN where Evernote is discussed:

Categories: Education, Software Tags:

Textbook Rentals Close to Home

September 3rd, 2010 Comments off

It sounds like the U of M has started offering textbook rentals for some courses. You can read more at KARE-11 or watch the video below (the textbook story starts about 30 seconds in). Time will tell if this practice spreads, but I’d guess that even the notion of a paper-based textbook will seem quaint in 10-15 years (maybe sooner).

Categories: Education, KARE-11 Tags:

Open-Source Textbooks? Part II

August 1st, 2010 1 comment

Courtesy of greenasian on Flickr

Over a year ago, I wrote about open source e-textbooks and I mentioned that I had trouble envisioning e-textbooks replacing paper-based books in a course like management accounting.  During that time I’ve read many things about the future of textbooks and I’m now of the opinion that limiting the thinking to things that exist today (like paper books and e-readers such as the Kindle) is probably dangerous.  I have a feeling that as states like California, some universities, and leaders with backgrounds in other industries (see below) push into open-source textbooks that can be modified to suit the needs of instructors everywhere that we’ll end up with something that looks/feels a lot like Wikipedia that will serve as the textbook of the future.

We won’t call it an “open-source textbook,” in my opinion.  Instead, the course material will be integrated into what we now see as learning management systems (such as D2L) and will be accessible through all kinds of devices including PCs, mobile phones, dedicated internet tablets, etc.  It just seems natural to me that learning will evolve in this direction as people that have grown up with technology think in different ways and use technology differently than those that have gone before them.

An interesting post (at this link: In School Systems, Slow Progress for Open-Source Textbooks via NYTimes.com) continues the discussion of where textbooks are heading.  This time, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems is behind an effort to do for learning what open-source software has done for computing.

Mr. McNealy, the fiery co-founder and former chief executive of Sun Microsystems, shuns basic math textbooks as bloated monstrosities: their price keeps rising while the core information inside of them stays the same.

“Ten plus 10 has been 20 for a long time,” Mr. McNealy says.

Early this year, Oracle, the database software maker, acquired Sun for $7.4 billion, leaving Mr. McNealy without a job. He has since decided to aim his energy and some money at Curriki, an online hub for free textbooks and other course material that he spearheaded six years ago.

I suppose we are years away from seeing things change at the university level, but it sure would be interesting to me if I had the ability to edit/add/clarify things in a textbook for my students.  I don’t know what kind of economic model would produce these works (one can’t expect experts to spend time writing for free…or can they?) but that is something that will get ironed out along the way when/if open-source products take off.

One Free Year of Amazon Prime for Students

July 12th, 2010 Comments off

I see that Amazon has launched a new site/product called “Amazon Student” where you can get free Amazon Prime (which give you free 2-day shipping on anything you buy sold by Amazon) for a year.  If you buy textbooks (or anything, I guess) from Amazon this could be a great value.  And it is free so what the heck…

Amazon Student

Categories: Education Tags: ,

What if you could rent college textbooks?

May 25th, 2010 Comments off

With St. Cloud State University starting up a textbook rental program I wonder how long it will be until other campuses do the same.  I have a feeling that any rental program will be relatively short-lived given that at some point colleges are sure to move to electronic textbooks instead of the paper versions.  I guess time will tell.

MinnPost – What if you could rent college textbooks? St. Cloud State will try it this summer.

Categories: Education, MinnPost Tags:

Amazon is Buying Used Textbooks

May 10th, 2010 Comments off

This topic is interesting for a couple reasons.  First, the strategy of Amazon getting into the textbook buyback business is an interesting business model.  Second, many people that read this blog are students that can probably make use of this service.  It will be interesting to see how long college bookstores can operated as they have in the past with increased competition on this front not to mention the pressure from Kindle textbooks and the potential of textbooks being replaced by open-source products.

I see that Amazon is paying about $78 for the Horngren textbook we use in Acct 320 and it looks like they will pay the shipping as well.  This might be a good avenue for those of you looking to sell books especially if a book you have is an old edition that the bookstore is not buying back.

Here is the link:

http://amzn.to/bookbuyback