Are you a computer applications teacher looking for new curriculum to teach important computer skills to your students? At Applied Educational Systems we hear from hundreds of middle and high school computer teachers each year when they are reviewing our Business&ITCenter21 curriculum. In talking with these teachers, we know they are usually looking at multiple curriculum options. During this time, teachers often ask us questions like “Is Business&ITCenter21 better than MyITLab?” and “What’s the difference between your curriculum and the Pearson IT Lab program?”
We want to help these teachers in any way we can and hope to answer these questions as best as possible. In this article I will review the Pearson IT Lab computer curriculum and compare it to Business&ITCenter21 to help you decide which would work best for you. Since computer teachers face very specific challenges in the classroom, I will compare the two options in regards to common ones we hear:
- My computer textbooks become outdated too quickly
- It’s hard to find content that meets my standards
- I spend too much time on computer lesson plans and grading
- Finding age-appropriate computer class activities and projects is difficult
Before comparing Business&ITCenter21 and MyITLab in how they solve these challenges for computer teachers, let’s understand the basics of the two options.
What is the Pearson IT Lab Program?
The Pearson IT Lab program (AKA: MyITLab) is an online curriculum to teach Microsoft Office applications and other computer-related topics. This is how Pearson describes the curriculum in a video on their website:
“Designed specifically for Information Technology students and instructors, MyITLab offers quality content developed by practicing IT educators, effectively integrated into training and assessment exercises to enhance students’ knowledge of Microsoft Office applications and computer concepts.”
In the online system, teachers can choose content that goes along with Pearson’s computer textbooks. Teachers have flexibility to customize what students will learn and can add or remove different pieces depending on the needs of the class they are teaching.
Once the course is ready, the teacher provides information for students to enroll and get to work. When going through lessons, students complete work in a simulated Microsoft Office application from within MyITLab. After completing the work in the simulated applications, students move on to completing projects within the live Microsoft Office applications, which are then handed in for automatic grading within the system.
What is Business&ITCenter21?
Business&ITCenter21 is an interactive eLearning curriculum to teach Microsoft Office, Google Applications, computer fundamentals, career readiness, and introductory business topics. In the LMS (Learning Management System), teachers can mix and match modules from the full library of content to fit their courses. When the course is ready, students easily enroll to complete interactive lessons and hands-on projects. All Microsoft Office lessons and activities have students using the live Office applications.
Along with the digital lessons and projects, students complete assessments that are automatically graded. Teachers are provided with additional resources such as lesson plans, presentations, and documents for group activities and discussions.
Overcoming Outdated Curriculum and Resources
Outdated textbooks are a frustration for any teacher, no matter what subject they teach. For a computer applications teacher though, this is one of the biggest challenges. In a classroom meant to educate students on how to properly use technology in their everyday lives and future careers, why should you be stuck using outdated content that is no longer relevant?
Imagine you have a class full of technology-savvy students, and as you hand out textbooks they read the year… Microsoft Office 2007. What do you think their reactions are? Probably something like: “OMG this book is like 10 years old!” or “My mom has Office 2016 at home. Why are we learning 2007?”
Business&ITCenter21 and MyITLab both get a checkmark for up-to-date curriculum. When Microsoft Office 2016 was released, both Applied Educational Systems and Pearson made sure to add that version of Office to their curriculum. Because these programs are digital, adding new content and making updates is easy… and there is no need to download or install a new version.
Both Business&ITCenter21 and MyITLab have a good reputation for adding new content as new versions Microsoft Office are released. So on the surface, it seems like a tie for up-to-date curriculum.
However, keep in mind that though MyITLab is staying up with new versions of Microsoft Office, Pearson recommends you use the online program with their textbooks. That means if you want to switch from 2013 to 2016, you’d need to purchase another set of books to match up with the version you are teaching with their IT Lab program. They are staying up to date, but you are still somewhat tied to using textbooks to teach computer skills.
Meeting Your Computer Course Standards
For many computer teachers, finding curriculum and resources to help meet their standards is of utmost importance. Meeting these standards ensures you are helping your students master the most important skills and knowledge of computer-related topics like Google Applications, Microsoft Office, and Digital Literacy. So how do these two options help teachers meet standards? Well, it depends on your standards!
MyITLab contains content that goes along with any of Pearson’s textbooks on Office Applications or Computer Concepts. This program is heavily focused on teaching the Microsoft Office applications and can help prepare students for Microsoft Office certifications. If your computer class standards are strictly aligned towards Microsoft Office, MyITLab could have everything you need. However, if your standards require you to include topic areas like Google Applications or even business or career readiness skills, your options are more limited with MyITLab.
Business&ITCenter21 has a catalog of content that includes curriculum for Microsoft Office, Google Applications, Digital Literacy, Computer Fundamentals, Career Readiness, and Business Fundamentals. The AES Product Team reviews standards from across the United States to understand what topics are most important to computer teachers, and have seen the shift from a sole focus on Microsoft Office. As Google Applications and “soft skills” started to be integrated into computer course standards, the AES Product Team made sure to add that content for teachers to use.
In terms of meeting computer course standards, Business&ITCenter21 and MyITLab are both good options, depending on your specific requirements. If your course is intensely focused on Microsoft Office and you need pretty in-depth coverage of the applications and other Microsoft software, the Pearson program will be a great fit. If you need a more well-rounded curriculum that includes topics other than computer basics and Microsoft software applications, Business&ITCenter21 will have more of the content you are looking for.
Saving Time with Automatic Grading
As a computer teacher, it’s important that your curriculum has hands-on projects that get your students interacting with the applications. A bonus many instructors are interested in is automatic grading of quizzes, tests, and the hands-on projects students complete. So what about these curriculum options?
Business&ITCenter21 and the Pearson IT Lab program both have assessments that are automatically graded. Business&ITCenter21 has quizzes and tests for students to take as they work through each module. These assessments are automatically graded to help the teacher and students quickly see where they may be struggling with certain skills. In MyITLab, because lessons are completed in a simulation, the system tracks clicks and grades students’ actions.
Both programs also have a number of reports in the teacher’s dashboard for the instructor to review. Where the two really differ with grading is with the hands-on projects.
With MyITLab, students complete hands-on projects both in a simulated environment and also within the live applications. MyITLab has a “Grader Engine” that quickly grades any student-submitted document against the desired outcome. This can be a huge time-saver for any instructor. The downside to having projects that are automatically graded is that students are more strictly bound to following very exact directions. They don’t use as much creativity or problem solving skills in order to complete the projects.
Business&ITCenter21 was developed in such a way that when students reach the step of the hands-on projects, they have more freedom to complete the tasks in their own way. These projects are not automatically graded because the AES Product Team wants students to hand in their own version of the assignment - not a replica of the answer document. Ken Richard, the AES Product Manager, does a great job explaining this philosophy in this video:
Both Business&ITCenter21 and MyITLab have automatic grading of assessments that students complete while going through the lessons. Where the two differ in terms of automatic grading are with the projects students complete. Pearson had a more structured approach with MyITLab, which has automatic grading, but doesn’t allow much creativity or critical thinking. Business&ITCenter21’s projects are not automatically graded, but this encourages students to think creatively and use the skills they learned in order to complete the assignments in their own way.
Finding Age-Appropriate Curriculum
There are many options out there for teaching computer skills, but finding a curriculum that is appropriate for the age of your students can be tough. So what age are Business&ITCenter21 and the Pearson IT Lab program geared towards?
I spent a lot of time looking through Pearson’s website to learn what age of students their curriculum is created for. Though they do not explicitly say MyITLab is for college age students, every single one of their many success stories is from either a Community College, Technical College, or University. I think this gives a good idea of what age the content is best for.
Don’t think this means that MyITLab can only be used at the college level. We have heard from a number of middle and high school teachers that Pearson’s curriculum works great for them. However, because it is more geared towards older students, the scenarios may not be as relevant and engaging to middle or high school students.
Business&ITCenter21 was developed for middle and early high school students. The lessons and projects include scenarios that are relevant and appropriate for that age group. Older student can certainly learn by using Business&ITCenter21, but if you are teaching post-secondary courses, your students may find the scenarios to be too “young.”
Which is a Better Computer Curriculum?
So in answer to the question on whether Business&ITCenter21 is better than MyITLab, it really depends. When looking in more detail and comparing the two on how they meet the needs of computer teachers, one isn’t better than the other. Understanding what each has to offer and making your decision based on that information is how you will decide which is better for your classroom.
If you’re still looking to review other computer curriculum options, these articles could be helpful to you: