Virginia School Reinforces Learning with Support Site
- By Linda L. Briggs
High school students at a vocational school in Virginia that prepares students for careers as IT technicians are reinforcing their classroom learning by sharing information, encouragement, and their own quizzes and flash cards at a wiki-style website that offers a wealth of online tutorials and resources, all free. The site, ProProfs, combines some of the factors of a social networking site, with member blogs and chats, with elements of a wiki, in which users create and edit the content themselves.
ProProfs offers academic aid tools like tutorials and flash cards that allow students--at no charge--to use that content, and to create their own tools to share with others. The site launched its Quiz School service in March, with quizzes focusing on topics ranging from technical certifications to passing exams such as the SAT. Quiz School is one of a number of free online learning tools and resources on the ProProfs site, which is intended for students in K-12 and higher education, as well as anyone preparing for a myriad of other tests. Sub-sites focus on preparing for exams such as CompTIA's, Microsoft's and Cisco's technical certification exams, for example, along with the SAT.
"I've been encouraging students to get involved in the [ProProfs] forums to reinforce what I've been teaching in the classroom," said Larry Aldrich, who teaches the operating system and software side of a computer and technology class at Valley Vocational Technical Center in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.
The two-year program at Valley Vocational, for juniors and seniors, is geared toward helping students earn a technical credential offered by an industry organization, the Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA. The certification, called CompTIA A+, evaluates the hardware and software skills needed by a computer support technician. Valley Tech students are encouraged--though not required--to take the A+ exams during or at the completion of their studies. Hence, a site with a focus on understanding the material to pass those exams is enormously helpful.
Aldrich, who said he discovered the ProProfs site about a year ago and hasn't seen anything else like it, said he thinks that his students learn better when they socialize and exchange information amongst themselves, which the ProProfs site allows and encourages. "Real learning occurs when [students] associate with their peers and have 'skull sessions' together," Aldrich said. He said he encourages that in the classroom, but also finds ProProfs useful. "They can point out a way to remember something or [discuss] something I didn't cover."
While there is a plethora of sites that offer training and support, including practice quizzes, for students preparing for all different sorts of standard exams, Aldrich said ProProfs is the best he has seen that is offering--and maintaining--content around preparing for the CompTIA A+ exam absolutely free. Anyone can access the content on the site; students who want to create quizzes or flashcards need to register first.
Initially, Aldrich said, ProProfs created the web site content, but users are now encouraged to contribute. The site is closely maintained and monitored, he said: Inaccurate information or inappropriate postings are quickly corrected or removed.
Eventually, ProProfs plans to offer sub-sites dedicated to other standard exams, including the Graduate Record Exam (GRE), Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), and standard teaching exams.
ProProfs founder and president Sameer Bhatia launched the site two years ago and has added content aggressively since. The site is advertising-driven, he said, but selectively so. "Advertising is very intrusive on many sites," Bhatia said. "We don't do any of that."
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About the author: Linda L. Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, CA.
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