Making Performance-Based Testing Work For Your Students

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On 3/7/19 at 9:00am, I attended the North Carolina Computer Instructors Association Conference Session Making Performance-Based Testing Work For Your Students at the SCITECH Building at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC presented by Amy Savino, product manager: IT/Networking/Cybersecurity at Cengage.


Making Performance-Based Testing Work For Your Students

Cengage is on a recent path to a deep dive to a more authentic, personal, intentional, inclusive content. They want to make students more employable, building the lifelong performance-based work.

This workshop was intended to be used for a roundtable conversion. This was primarily about certifications and whether students take them, why or why not, and what are the concerns of the students for sitting in the exams, particularly CompTIA exams.

This was quickly apparent that it was not about building these items into our classes with examples. This was not about how to create these kinds of questions, or how to expand existing content to fit into a mold where these would be helpful. Instead, this was an infomercial in which Cengage wanted to talk about their existing service. No one in the class used the service, or gave certifications with Microsoft or CompTIA. So, that was a bit of a bust. Many people were too polite to leave.

I took this time to bring up my concerns over examinations in general, especially Adobe ACA exams. I related my concerns in ways that hopefully they would consider.

The experience of taking a certification exam can be daunting for students, so having a campus center which is convenient is helpful. Students could conceivably study together, work together, and then travel over in a group to the location in relative safety and mental security. A large part of this is also the social aspect- having a social safety net if you fail, or a group with which to celebrate if they achieved a passing grade. Going alone to a testing center where they are not familiar, paying additional proctoring fees on top of testing fees can be awkward and slightly scary. Being alone in that area is also a bit of a downer. Working together before, celebrating or licking wounds together can be helpful. I talked how many more adopters they might have if the testing centers could be more easily located on campuses.

When asked whether we were using Cengage Unlimited products, no one had used this or heard about it. When they asked whether we used any of the practice exam materials provided by Cengage, most of us admitted to having used them in the past. None of us used them any longer.

When asked why, a general consensus noted that practice exams didn’t quite focus on the topics which the final exam covers. Faculty who had used it found large sections went uncovered, and some sections covered did not show up on exams. Still others found that testing in sections had questions which did not relate to materials covered. It can be difficult to find the best product to help students feel that they are prepared while they are approachable and cover an accurate range of questions and materials.

PBT (performance based testing) are seemingly better for critical thinking. They showed several slides with numbers and statistics showing that students using performance-based questions were more knowledgeable on PBT Tests.

Cengage wants people to grow the confidence in the critical thinking skills, and expose them to questions with a PBT feel that they’d experience on the exam.

By 9:15am Cengage dropped a few people, myself included.

At this point they talked about MINDTAP products, specifically about A+ products. I am unfamiliar with this material, and was not the only one. They decided to do a deeper dive. This isn’t really helpful, because it moved into an explanation of the materials and how they worked. Because only 1 person in the group used this, several people immediately disengaged. It was partly explanation, but mostly a sales pitch.

The problem with this should have been clear: If no one is using this software, telling us more about it and requesting feedback is difficult. Hearing about it, and (knowing, using it, answering questions from students about it, etc.) are clearly different things.

They discussed the need for covering Bloom’s Taxonomy in classroom materials with the classes, and most of us were well-versed. Each class included a pre-assessment and post-assessment to show how students have adjusted over time.

Behind the scenes they explained how their materials worked: Mainly each built from scenario-based questions, including quality distractors (items such as: has a USB Mouse), include JIT (Just in Time) Feedback, and remediation maps to chapter Learning Objectives and exam objectives. On top of these questions, they are hoping to add simulations to give the look and feel to the practice exams.

Next, they want to know: Would it be better to have active simulations in the class, VM (virtual machines), or items which will be closest to the exams? Will adding critical thinking and learning skills be helpful so that it is closer to the real world or will it be better to be closer to the exam?

Should Cengage materials be based more on virtual scenarios, or something which is testing based?

Tyler Dockery’s opinion on this matter:

What is the goal you’re hoping to achieve? Make your work based for that. If the goal of the material is to be ready for the real world, have more simulations as assignments. If the point is that full completion of the certification exam is the end goal, the certification exam should have a closer connection to the testing and quiz components. Different teachers will have different goals, so opening options on that will be helpful. Giving faculty the option to have access to real-life materials OR test prep OR both would be your best answer.

Also, some areas of this state have different levels of monetary values, and this adjusts the goal of the class materials.. In some parts of the state, students may not have the money to include the testing as part of their experience.  For low-income areas, teachers may focus more on real-world skills as opposed to testing and the costs involved with that. This offers some the path to certification and others the path to job skills, still others might enjoy both.


Witold Sieradzan’s opinion on the matter

Almost every 2-year degree is outshined by a BA degree. If you have connections with companies, find out how many of them are actually looking for this certification. Can you contact recent recipients of the testing and connect them with companies who value this certification? We are maintaining mostly Community College students, and if the bonus of the certification could be made more clear would be helpful.


9:45 Cengage Unlimited start.

At this point, the Cengage representative began talking about the new Cengage Unlimited product and wanted some feedback. Not much talk about that, since no one used it or heard about it. We looked up CompTIA certification and saw that in NC there are 179 jobs using those as preferred specifications for jobs and requirements.

The Cengage representative decided to talk about a new product they would be creating called Cengage Cloud+. Witold Sieradzan also asked if we had some material for one of our newest classes: CTI-141 Cloud and storage concept. I was unfamiliar with class, so we looked it up online. We introduced the material to the Cengage representative, and she wrote it down. Cloud+ Cengage-They agreed that the material could be a good connection.

All-in-all, I don’t think they got all the information they wanted, but perhaps it was a good test case. Computer Instructor’s Association might be a nice connection for CompTIA, but all the MS Office products were a pretty big stretch. I wish these were more clearly marked as sponsor sessions.


Taking Your Seated Classes Online: An easier transition than you think

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On 3/6/19 at 9:00am, and then again at 10:30am on 3/8/19 I presented at the North Carolina Computer Instructor Association Conference Session Taking Your Seated Classes Online at East Carolina University’s SCITech Building in Greenville, NC. This was co-presented by Tyler Dockery and Carla Osborne of Wake Technical Community College.

Taking Your Seated Classes Online:

An easier transition than you think



How can you handle Attendance in the online environment?

Since students in an online environment might login and logout without contributing and demand that they are counted as attending, we suggest working differently. Base your attendance on turning in all work for the week. Since students have 7 days to complete assignments and materials, failing to present all or part of the course materials is a conscious choice on the part of the student.

If a student turns in all assignments and participated in discussions (regardless of grade), mark them as attending. Failing to complete one or more item in the week deserves a tardy.

What if you do not have ZOOM

Zoom is a free technology, and it allows you to record up to 40 minutes in the free version. Some people use Microsoft Teams, which also has video content. I have access to MS Teams, but honestly I don’t have as much experience with teams to know how it works.

What if you have good content, but its not Closed Captioned?

Some people find they can reach out directly to the video owner and ask for them. On youtube, you can ask the owner to open Community Contributions, and allow you to add in the captions that you’d like, but you can also use to create a closed caption overlay of the original video without breaking copyright. You will have to caption it yourself, but its a small price to pay for good content.

How do you determine the first dates in your classes?

At Wake Technical Community College, we have a course entry quiz which must be taken. The quiz is set for adaptive release, and once the quiz is taken, the plagiarism agreement is shown. Once the plagiarism agreement is submitted, then students can enter the class. This is not used everywhere though.

Some school use the first  assignment submitted as the entry date, but this causes a great deal of work on the part of the teacher, hunting down student by student in several areas just to get an answer. One instructor noted that she got tired of hunting and created her own entry material. Several other teachers followed her path once she displayed how easily it could be used.



Getting Up To Speed With GULP.js

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At 10:30am on 3/6/2019, I attended Getting Up To Speed With GULP.js presented by Michael Schore, at the 2019 North Carolina Computer Instruction Association Conference in the SciTech Building At East Carolina University in Greenville, NC.

Getting Up To Speed With GULP.js

What its used for

Installation process and requirements

Basic usage

What its used for

GULP is a task runner, and its used to automate the processes you have. There are all kinds of helpers out there that help us streamline. Mainly NODE and NODE JS and NPM, Node Package Manager.

Bootstrap connection

Bootstrap is the material components that begin when a computer opens. Babel, browserfly, grunt, bauer, yeoman, all helpful. Most of these sprouted up as open source products, and still are. Starting in the web, everything was proprietary, but now many things are open.


It is often used to do front end tasks such as spinning up a web server, reloading the browser automatically whenever a file is saved. Using preprocessors like SASS or LESS (style systems to overcome CSS problems or inabilities), but also allow you to use global variables. Also it allows for optimizing assets like CSS, JS, and Images.

Installation process and requirements

Node.js requires node, npx, npm. Sass requires Ruby.

GIT from Get Node.js from Ruby from


Installers are pretty straightforward. With NPM installed, we can simply execute a global installation command. Command line can be overwhelming and difficult to understand for GUI-minded individuals. Powershell and CMD or BASH are great to work with.

Installing and verifying GULP

Install GULP into your dev dependencies. Check the versions of the install, and now we’re ready to start GULPing!

Basic usage

To create our first file, it should be in the root directory of your project.

Which yields…

Basic Useful Plugins

Found on the github website:


Running out of the box

Bash will note that an error occurs out of the box. We didn’t give it anything to do, and we didn’t make it local

Be cautious of the node_modules directory. This will grow as time goes on.


Lets add the gulp-less module. This adds the ability to conver LESS to CSS. Less is a backwards-compatible language extension for CSS. This is the official documentation file for LESS. This will be another hands-on bit, so I may only show slides here…


Used to actually automate your tasks. Simple ones like the example just run a goup of tasks when called

Var gulp = require(‘gulp’)

Var uglify = require(‘gulp-uglify’)


Gulp.task(‘uglify’,   … Hands-on…

Going to you can get to a treasure trove of examples using GULP. Items like EMCAscript6 (newest version of javascript at this time) can be found, used and massaged, it can be found. IF your legal department requires you to update the header for the document automatically every time you work with the file, GULP and set that up.

The biggest thing GULP is used for is to watch yourself and run functions when changes are made. It automatically generates javascript or copyscript or typescript files when files are adjusted if needed. It can compile different script files into backward compatible javascript files. Think of the time this would save!

When we as humans find a mind-numbing, repetitive task to do, we find a machine to do it. If there isn’t one, we (historically at least) find a peon, subject, or slave to do the task.

Gulp.js files are used to cover several items- Pipe is a movement command, and its heavily used in an example we cover during class time. This is a different way of setting up tasks and subroutines (or functions) to cover different tasks.

When running the script on your computer, the WATCH function comes into play. When anything happens which affects the files/functions being WATCHED, it updates the materials in the folder. Because items are updated and fixed when changes are made to WATCHED files, this is a major upgrade to workflow on items.


What are some good files to WATCH?

Well, if you’re working with HTML, CSS files, HTML files, IMG files, JS files, etc. As new files are added to a folder, they can be added to the server, PHP plugins are also good. At the corporate level, teams get together  to talk about code and workflow to find out how much they can write, use, and test. This is especially good for items with our students, and to add productivity for workers making high 5 or 6 figure salaries.

Is everything safe?

Dig into it. On the surface it may sound good, but read what people are saying, and you might find that its not what its cracked up to be. It depends on the workflow, variables, and items you’re using. Be vigilant and don’t just take part because everyone else is.

How is SAS acting with all the opensource products?

Who owns github? Microsoft. Corporations use enterprise solutions with them, having their entire software library in their storage. The entire .NET framework is now available as open source code. They are hoping to gain a better product and enhanced usability with the open products. SAS is in a weird position as they are very proprietary in nature. IBM in true IBM fashion, will give things, but try to take things with their other hand.

There is more movement to OS involvement. You cannot add so many proprietary things. Its good to have other eyes looking at your work with and eye to improvement. Our students need to know what is happening in the working world, but they must also take that on themselves.

If we push students all the time, they don’t learn to push themselves. Michael teaches them that this is not the end of the line, this is the beginning of the line. We are giving our students tools that they can use. This is not the end all be all. The tools may be inadequate later, but the skills will take you far. We focus on solving problems, not following steps 1,2,3.


Open Source Applied – Real World Use Cases

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On 10/27/18 at 3:45pm, I attended the All Things Open Conference Session : Open Source Applied – Real World Use Cases at the Raleigh Convention Center in Raleigh, NC presented by Justin Reock, of Rogue Wave Software.

Open Source Applied – Real World Use Cases

This talk began as a webinar. As time has gone on, more Use Cases have been added with real code. So I guess we could say that these examples are the community additions. Several particular projects and technologies and companies were shown here are about how Rogue Wave has helped companies make a full business model out of providing free open source software.

OSS (Open Source Software) is everywhere.  In fact, his first OSS shirt was from microsoft. In the same year that he received that shirt, Steve Jobs said open source software would kill innovation. The microsoft hope was that everyone using the materials would be able to increase its usability and make it the market leader. The Apple context was that clones were dead weight. Steve Jobs saw open source software as the open-door policy for companies to copy one another without innovating, creating a vanilla world with everything the same.

With Open Source, there are no barriers to the content and market. How are people using this and how are they benefiting from it? Numbers show us that many company are building with it, releasing it, and most importantly building off of it and improving upon it.


This guy was incredibly knowledgeable. He was a little fast in his talk though. He noted that he only had 45 minutes to discuss his information, and apparently this was a 1hr talk  🙂

On a personal note, It was interesting to see how many MAC computers were at this conference, and there were certainly tons in this room.

Did I gain as much from this as I could have? Not really, but I wan’t knowledgeable enough to take advantage. This was a very high-level talk and well above my intellectual ken. Justin Reock knew a great deal of the specifics of these objects.

Here’s an example:

Question: “Based on your client example, how portable is this solution?”

Answer “HOw portable? It was a fulfillment warehouse using CAMEL components that were baked into activeMQ and servelts for encapsulating date, so Yes, very portable.”

Well out of my territory. Perhaps you understood it, but sometimes I’m just not brilliant enough for my own plans.


Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) status in Introduction to Programming Using HTML and CSS Achieved!

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At 10:45am On 3/22/18 I attended the Certiport certification lab presented by Certiport at the 2018 NCCIA Conference located at Asheville-Buncomb Technical Community College in Asheville, NC.

MTA-Introduction-to-Programming-using-HTML-and-CSS-2018Tyler Dockery Achieves MTA status in Introduction to Programming Using HTML and CSS

MTA status in Introduction to Programming Using HTML and CSS Achieved!

I chose to attempt this exam because I felt I could validate the skills and knowledge to recognize and write syntactically correct HTML and CSS, structure data using HTML elements, and create and apply styles using CSS. Since I was trained on HTML in 1996 and certified with CSS in 2001, and had been working with HTML and CSS with clients for 18 years at this point, I’m familiar with their features and capabilities, and understand how to write, debug, and maintain well-formed HTML and CSS code.

The Official Breakdown of Subject Matter

Microsoft’s official exam page for this test: MTA EXAM 98-338 outlines the following fundamentals will possibly be covered:


Understand HTML Fundamentals (10-15%)
  • Construct markup that uses metadata elements
    • Script; noscript; style; link; meta tags, including encoding, keywords, viewport, and translate
  • Construct well-formed markup that conforms to industry best practices
    • DOCTYPE declaration; HTML; head; body; proper syntax, including closing tags and commonly used symbols; comments
Understand CSS Fundamentals (15-20%)
  • Analyze the impact of using inline styles, internal style sheets, and external style sheets
    • When to use inline styles; when to use internal style sheets; when to use external style sheets; precedence when using a combination of inline styles and style sheets
  • Construct and analyze rule sets
    • Valid syntax for the CSS rule set; selectors, including class, id, elements and pseudo-class
  • Construct well-formed style sheets that conform to industry best practices
    • Reusing rules and rule sets; commenting; testing on multiple browsers; web safe fonts
Structure Documents Using HTML (30-35%)
  • Construct and analyze markup to structure content and organize data
    • Table tags; h1-h6; p; br; hr; div; span; ul; ol; li
  • Construct and analyze markup that uses HTML5 semantic elements
    • Semantic tags; header; nav; section; article; aside; footer; details; summary; figure; caption
  • Construct and analyze markup that implements navigation
    • Image links; a; target; bookmark; relative versus absolute links; navigating simple folder hierarchies
  • Construct and analyze markup that uses form elements
    • Form attributes; action; method; submission methods; accessibility; input types and restrictions; select; textarea; button; output; option; datalist; fieldset
 Present Multimedia Using HTML (10-15%)
  • Construct and analyze markup that displays images
    • img and picture elements and their attributes
  • Describe the appropriate use of the img, svg, and canvas elements
  • Construct and analyze markup that plays video and audio
    • Video; audio; track; source; simple iframe implementations
Style Web Pages Using CSS (20-25%)
  • Construct and analyze styles that position content
    • Positioning, including float, relative, absolute, max-width, overflow, height, width, and align; inline versus block; visibility; box model, including margins and padding
  • Construct and analyze styles that format text
    • Font-family; color; font-style; font-size; font-weight; link colors; text formatting, including text alignment, text decoration, and indentation
  • Construct and analyze styles that format backgrounds and borders
    • Border-color; border-style; border-width; backgrounds; divs; colors
  • Analyze styles that implement a simple responsive layout
    • Units of measure; responsive effects with CSS, including viewport and media query; percentages versus pixels; frameworks and templates; max width


All in all, this test was well worth the time and effort. The materials covered had a good amount of in-depth knowledge requirement, and I was able to break through with a score in the mid 900s. It was a good challenge, and I felt it will be helpful to me to show students that the MTA exams are a fine choice to showcase their abilities.

Microsoft Technology Associate Status in HTML5 Application Development Fundamentals Achieved!

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At 10:00am On 3/22/18 I attended the Certiport certification lab presented by Certiport at the 2018 NCCIA Conference located at Asheville-Buncomb Technical Community College in Asheville, NC.

Tyler Dockery Achieves MTA status in HTML5 Application Development Fundamentals

MTA status in HTML5 Application Development Fundamentals Achieved!

I chose to attempt this exam because of my knowledge of core HTML5 client application development skills that will run on today’s touch-enabled devices (PCs, tablets, and phones). Although HTML is often thought of as a web technology that is rendered in a browser to produce a UI, this exam seemed to focus on using HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript to develop client applications. I felt confident to take this exam, because I had a solid foundation of knowledge of HTML5 & CSS3, but expected some issues with JavaScript. Since I teach and have hands-on experience with these technologies and since I’ve been working in the field of web design since 2000, I felt I’d have a fair handle on this. While I did not have a ton of experience with Microsoft Visual Studio, I felt I could do well.

The Official Breakdown of Subject Matter

Microsoft’s official exam page for this test: MTA EXAM 98-375 outlines the following fundamentals will possibly be covered:

Manage the application life cycle (20–25%)

  • Understand the platform fundamentals
    • Packaging and the runtime environment: app package, app container, credentials/permission sets, host process, leverage existing HTML5 skills and content for slate/tablet applications
  • Manage the state of an application
    • Manage session state, app state, and persist state information; understand states of an application; understand the differences between local and session storage
  • Debug and test an HTML5-based, touch-enabled application
    • Touch gestures; understand which gestures you test on a device

Preparation resources

Build the user interface (UI) by using HTML5 (25–30%)

  • Choose and configure HTML5 tags to display text content
  • Choose and configure HTML5 tags to display graphics
    • When, why, and how to use Canvas; when, why, and how to use scalable vector graphics (SVG)
  • Choose and configure HTML5 tags to play media
    • Video and audio tags
  • Choose and configure HTML5 tags to organize content and forms
    • Tables, lists, sections; semantic HTML
  • Choose and configure HTML5 tags for input and validation

Preparation resources

Format the user interface by using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) (20–25%)

  • Understand the core CSS concepts
    • Separate presentation from content (create content with HTML and style content with CSS); manage content flow (inline versus block flow); manage positioning of individual elements( float versus absolute positioning); manage content overflow (scrolling, visible, and hidden); basic CSS styling
  • Arrange UI content by using CSS
    • Use flexible box and grid layouts to establish content alignment, direction, and orientation; proportional scaling and use of “free scale” for elements within a flexible box or grid; order and arrange content; concepts for using flex box for simple layouts and grid for complex layouts; grid content properties for rows and columns; use application templates
  • Manage the flow of text content by using CSS
    • Regions and using regions to flow text content between multiple sections (content source, content container, dynamic flow, flow-into, flow-from, msRegionUpdate, msRegionOverflow, msGetRegionContent); columns and hyphenation and using these CSS settings to optimize the readability of text; use “positioned floats” to create text flow around a floating object
  • Manage the graphical interface by using CSS
    • Graphics effects (rounded corners, shadows, transparency, background gradients, typography, and Web Open Font Format); two-dimensional (2-D) and three-dimensional (3-D) transformations (translate, scale, rotate, skew, and 3-D perspective transitions and animations); SVG filter effects; Canvas

Preparation resources

Code by using JavaScript (30–35%)

  • Manage and maintain JavaScript
    • Create and use functions; jQuery and other third-party libraries
  • Update the UI by using JavaScript
    • Locate/access elements; listen and respond to events; show and hide elements; update the content of elements; add elements
  • Code animations by using JavaScript
    • Use animation; manipulate the canvas; work with images, shapes, and other graphics
  • Access data access by using JavaScript
    • Send and receive data; transmit complex objects and parsing; load and save files; App Cache; datatypes; forms; cookies; localStorage
  • Respond to the touch interface
    • Gestures, how to capture and respond to gestures
  • Code additional HTML5 APIs
    • GeoLocation, Web Workers, WebSocket; File API
  • Access device and operating system resources
    • In- memory resources, such as contact lists and calendar; hardware capabilities, such as GPS, accelerometer, and camera


All in all, this test was not bad, but perhaps a little more vigorous than expected. The materials covered had a good amount of in-depth knowledge requirement, and while I suffered a bit with the knowledge of JavaScript and managing session states of the application, I was able to break through with a score in the mid 900s. It was a good challenge, and I felt it will be helpful to me in the long run.

Microsoft Technical Help Desk Certification Achieved!

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I am now emotionally drained. Three tests in one day. I really need not to do this again, and not so close to the last testing date. This test was very easy after understanding and achieving the Computer Tech Support certification from BrainBench. I think after this, I’ll attack some Windows 7 Certifications.