Faculty Focus


How to Teach a Course That Leads to Certification

The Computer Information Sciences program at ECPI College of Technology offers job oriented, “hands-on” education required to meet the needs of an ever-changing and increasingly technical society. We encourage students not only to earn their degree but also to get certified in their respective fields. The great success we achieved in getting more than 50 students Comptia Security+ certified compelled us to share our experience.

Most of the students in the class were traditional college-age students, while others were working adults trying to earn their degree to advance their careers. Approximately 85% of the students attempted the certification and 90% of those passed in the first attempt. This article briefly discusses the planning process, the execution and the lessons learned.

Planning Process: Achieving certification prepares IT students for the types of careers they want to pursue. It also gives them edge over those that don’t have certifications. The scope of this article is limited to Comptia Security+ certifications achieved at the Newport News campus by students from the “Network security Concepts” class.

The most important step is choosing an instructor who is certified and has in depth knowledge of the certification objectives. The next step is choosing a book that covers most of the exam objectives and one that has plenty of practice tests. The coursework should be designed with the goal of getting students certified and minimizing the busy work.

Execution: The instructor should clearly explain to the students that he/she expects them to be certified by the end of the course. Our course was 45 hours and lasted a full semester. The tasks achieved and approximate time spent is listed chronologically as follows.

Hours Tasks
8 Instructor leads discussion on certification objectives.
20 Instructor leads in-depth discussion on practice tests.
8 Students lead discussion on practice tests with instructor input.
3 Send first batch of students that are ready to take certification test
6 Continue training remaining students in preparation of the certification test.

Conclusion: The practice exams, followed by student-led discussions increased students’ participation and interest. Keeping track of individual student progress and finding students who are ready to take the exam is also very important as it keeps students engaged and motivated.

Once students have demonstrated proficiency of practice tests, they are allowed to take the certification exam. Their success motivates the rest of the students to work harder. We believe this sense of competition leads to a higher success rate.

Vijay Bhuse, PhD, CIS faculty, ECPI College of Technology, Newport News, VA. vbhuse@ecpi.edu.