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Business Education | Cengage SAM

Top 5 Alternatives to Cengage SAM for Business Education

December 26th, 2019 | 8 min. read

Chris Zook

Chris Zook

Chris Zook is a contributing author to the AES blog. He enjoys everything about online marketing, data science, user experience, and corgis.

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We hear from hundreds of business education teachers every school year.

Many of them are looking for ways to answer one major question — “How can I get my students MOS certified?”

A lot of these teachers gravitate toward Skills Assessment Manager (SAM) by Cengage.

However, Cengage SAM isn’t a great fit for everyone!

As they say on their website:

“SAM (Skills Assessment Manager) is a web-based application that measures student proficiency in Microsoft Office software and technology-related topics. SAM teaches Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access, Outlook and Internet Explorer, in addition to foundational computer concepts.”

We’ve heard teachers say that they switched from Cengage because the curriculum is too advanced for their grade levels, the cost became overwhelming, or that it’s simply not flexible enough (among other reasons).

With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at five alternatives to Cengage SAM that you can use to get students ready to become certified Microsoft Office Specialists:  

  1. MyLab IT from Pearson
  2. GCFLearnFree
  3. Microsoft EDU
  4. TechnoKids
  5. Business&ITCenter21 from AES

We’ll discuss what you get from each of these providers and how to determine whether you’re a good fit for what they offer!

Also, it’s important to note that AES develops and sells Business&ITCenter21. That means we’ll have more information on that alternative than any other.  

However, we know that different teachers have different needs. That’s why we want to show you as many options as possible! 

Let’s start with Pearson!

1. MyLab IT from Pearson

Cengage SAM Alternative: MyLab IT from Pearson

Format: Cloud-Based Microsoft Office Simulations

You’re a good fit if you don’t have Microsoft Office subscriptions at your school.

MyLab IT is a curriculum library produced by the textbook company Pearson.

This includes a simulation of all applicable Microsoft Office products, which makes it great for teachers who don’t have Microsoft Office available at their school.

MyLab IT is entirely web-based, meaning your students just need to log into the website from an Internet-connected computer.

Then, they’ll work through the simulations to hone their skills with Microsoft Word, Excel, and more.

Teachers enjoy some key benefits from MyLab IT’s back-end system, including the ability to go back through a student’s answers and see where they were right and wrong.

Then, teachers have the freedom to assign assessments in real-time, look through the feedback reports, and discover where students can improve.

MyLab IT also comes with the benefit of working on any operating system, meaning it’s Mac-compatible. This is thanks to the fact that MyLab IT simulates Microsoft Office interactions instead of guiding students through the actual applications.

However, most teachers enjoy MyLab IT’s ”real-time labor market insights.”

This is a feature that is unique to MyLab IT, as far as we can tell. It’s a career readiness tool that shows your students different career paths that use the skills they’re practicing.

Then, your students can actually apply to those jobs!

If you teach middle school students, this probably won’t be as useful since your students may be below the legal working age.

But for high school students, this is an ideal way to connect them to jobs that could help them start their careers!

Either way, MyLab IT can help your students understand the value of the skills they’re learning today so that they can succeed tomorrow.

2. GCFLearnFree

Cengage SAM Alternative: GCFLearnFree

Format: YouTube Tutorial Videos

You’re a good fit if you want video demonstrations to fill your curriculum.

GCFLearnFree is an organization that offers free educational resources to anyone and for virtually any purpose.

They focus on technology-related education, including Microsoft Office.

The key with GCFLearnFree is that they’re not necessarily a curriculum resource.

Instead, they’re a tutorial resource.

That means that you can absolutely teach students how to use Microsoft Office with GCFLearnFree.

The problem is that you may not be teaching them the information they need to pass the MOS exam.

That’s because GCFLearnFree is owned by Goodwill, who has no affiliation with Microsoft or no stated goal of helping learners achieve certification.

It’s true that GCFLearnFree provides other resources like learning plans and teaching guides, but these aren’t necessarily based on any significant learning theory or idea.

They’re 100% based on GCFLearnFree’s tutorials, which simply show how to use a Microsoft product.

As a result, GCFLearnFree is great for demonstrating how to use different products.

However, it’s a bad fit for any teacher who wants to get students MOS certified or teach according to established standards.

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3. Microsoft

Cengage SAM Alternative: Microsoft

Format: One-Off Curriculum & Lesson Plans

You’re a good fit if you want to get information straight from the source. 

What better place to get curriculum for MOS certifications than Microsoft itself?

Microsoft recently made it easier for schools throughout the world to get students MOS certified by introducing Microsoft 365.

While Microsoft Office used to cost a lot of cash, educational institutions can use Microsoft 365 for free if they qualify!

This comes in handy when you start looking into the different learning paths that Microsoft offers, which include the Office suite of products.

In each path, Microsoft structures different learning modules according to topics they cover. That could include everything from how to use Microsoft Word to protecting data loss.

Unfortunately, there’s a significant challenge to using Microsoft to find MOS-related content.

Microsoft makes most of its profit from working with other businesses. That means educators aren’t always at the top of their minds when it comes to using their products.

As a result, it’s a real challenge to parse through all of the content that Microsoft has for its different certifications. Microsoft Office is just one small part of the Microsoft as a whole, and it feels that way when you try to find student-friendly content.

Still, Microsoft is the creator and issuer of the MOS certification.

They’re the people who will have the most up-to-date and accurate information when it comes to using Microsoft Office because they make it themselves!

This is the #1 benefit of using Microsoft’s resources — you get the information straight from the horse’s mouth (so to speak).

So if you’re someone who wants to get information straight from the original source, it’s worth your time to look at Microsoft!

4. TechnoKids

Cengage SAM Alternative: TechnoKids

Format: Project-Based Curriculum Resources for Online and Offline Use

You’re a good fit if you need to fill a few gaps in your curriculum.  

TechnoKids is an organization that specializes in K-12 technology projects, many of which involve Microsoft Office.

They group their curriculum into grade levels:

  • Primary (K-3)
  • Junior (3-6)
  • Intermediate (6-9)
  • Senior (8-12)

These grade levels correspond to the difficulty and complexity of the projects. It’s also important to note that some grade levels have more curriculum than others.

Regardless of which grade you teach, all TechnoKids curriculum requires you to have access to Microsoft Office. The lessons and activities are not simulated.

In addition, the projects from TechnoKids are all sold separately, so each one is designed to stand alone.

That makes them great for simply filling your curriculum, but they fall short of creating a comprehensive experience.

Still, TechnoKids allows you to purchase individual “curriculum packages,” “curriculum sets,” and “bundles” that can help you lay out a logical framework for your students to learn.

There’s no guarantee that one is available for your desired grade level and Microsoft application, though.

At the end of the day, TechnoKids has a wide range of curriculum options available, but they don’t have the course sequencing, alignment, crosswalks, or guides to help you use them.

In some cases, they may not even have any curriculum for your needs at all!

So if you need one or two activities to round out your pre-existing curriculum, you can go with TechnoKids.

But if you need to create a class from scratch, our next option will be a stronger fit!

5. Business&ITCenter21 from AES

Cengage SAM Alternative: Business&ITCenter21 from AES

Format: Digital Curriculum

You’re a good fit if you want versatility, curriculum, classroom management, and back-end LMS support.

Business&ITCenter21 is a digital curriculum system designed to help business education, computer applications, and career readiness teachers.

It helps teachers plan their classes, teach their students, and assess their students’ progress all from a web browser.

The only requirements for Business&ITCenter21 are:

  • Students must have access to computers
  • Students must have access to Microsoft Office
  • Students must have access to the Internet

You don’t have to install anything onto their computers aside from the proper Microsoft applications and a web browser.

Then, students can work through instructional material that’s based on a learning framework called the four phases.

The four phases are:

  1. Explore
  2. Learn & Practice
  3. Reflect
  4. Reinforce

Using this framework, students walk through using Microsoft Office applications to learn a variety of different skills.

This framework aligns well with Business&ITCenter21’s central goal of long-term information retention.

In other words, Business&ITCenter21 can help your students prepare for the MOS exam — but it does more than prepare them for a test.

It helps them remember the essential information that’ll make them proficient in using the world’s most common office programs.

Then, once students pass their MOS exam, they’ll be more likely to remember the information they need to succeed with Microsoft Office in the workplace.

In that way, Business&ITCenter21 helps student succeed in both short-term and long-term goals.

They need their MOS certifications. But they also need the instruction that’ll help them succeed in their careers.

The curriculum in Business&ITCenter21 is coupled with a number of different features that help you manage your classes as well.

Automatic grading, student data breakdowns, and anytime-anywhere access make Business&ITCenter21 one of the most robust curriculum options in the world.

But you don’t have to take our word for it — you can try it yourself!

Try Business&ITCenter21 for Yourself!

Business&ITCenter21 is used by more than 1,500 teachers nationwide. They use it for everything from introductory coursework to certification prep and more!

That includes computer applications teachers looking to get their students MOS certified.

You can see what all the buzz is about by getting your free 30-day trial of Business&ITCenter21 today!

Click the button below to start your trial!

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