Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous vs Synchronous chart

The eLearning space continues to grow at a rapid pace. It is expected to reach over USD $1 trillion by 2027. This has been driven by increasing demand for technology-enabled solutions. There are two primary forms of eLearning: synchronous and asynchronous. While the difference between the two may be one letter, the meanings are polar opposite.

Synchronous Learning

Synchronous learning means that you will attend classes together with other learners at the same time. There is an established start and end time and most importantly, an instructor is present. There are three critical distinctions. The first is learners get to ask questions in real-time. Second, they benefit from having the instructor explain something in multiple ways (learning does not always happen on the first try). Third, someone too shy to ask a question will benefit when another asks what was on their mind. This point is extremely relevant because human nature often dictates that we “review” our question mentally before verbalizing it. This ensures it passes the “looking good/sounding smart” test.

Asynchronous Learning

Asynchronous learning allows you to learn on your own schedule. It means you can access the course materials, often in module form, whenever you choose. The motivation to complete the coursework is entirely self-generated. This form of learning is generally executed by pre-recorded videos that teach key concepts. You can watch them as many times as desired. Learners are directed to complete assignments and/or tests to determine whether they have learned the material. The feedback is usually immediate.

Pros & Cons

There are benefits and challenges to both forms of learning. The convenience of asynchronous learning may be appealing to some learners. In fact, over 90% of eLearning is asynchronous. My Software Tutor has adopted an alternative point-of-view that makes us different. We recognize there is a material subset of adult learners whose educational experiences have primarily been enshrined in real-time communication with a live instructor. There is a strong feeling of comfort knowing they can ask questions in real-time without judgment. In fact, one of the most common comments we receive is our level of patience when a learner is struggling to understand something. MST has established a successful methodology to help people “turn on their learning lightbulb.” We look forward to seeing you in a future course.

The PowerPoint Origin Story

History of PowerPoint

Development

The development of the software that would later become PowerPoint began in 1984. The project was led by Robert Gaskins at a Silicon Valley startup called Forethought. The original product description was called “Presentation Graphics for Overhead Projection.” Development focused on the Mac platform.

However, the team needed additional money to further fund development. This became the first investment for Apple’s venture fund called the Strategic Investment Group. Then Apple CEO John Skully reportedly said “We see desktop presentation as potentially a bigger market for Apple than desktop publishing.”

The intention was to launch the product under the name Presenter. However, that name was not available. They considered “SlideMaker” and “OverheadMaker.” According to Gaskins, he randomly came up with the term “powerpoint” in the shower. While not anyone’s first choice, his colleague Glenn Hobin had coincidentally seen an airport sign with the words “POWER POINT”). Fate directed them to keep the name. It was changed to a single word with an upper-case P to be consistent with the Mac software naming convention.

Launch

PowerPoint was introduced in April 1987 exclusively for Mac computers. Concurrently, Microsoft had initiated an internal project to create presentation software. They contemplated an acquisition to speed up the process. When the idea of the Forethought purchase was brought to Bill Gates, he responded “No, no, no, no, no, that’s just a feature of Microsoft Word, just put it into Word.”

To his credit, Gates listened to the team. Based on an initial 10,000 unit sales success, Microsoft purchased the company three months later (July 1987) for $14M. This marked Microsoft’s first significant acquisition. Within two years, it was integrated into the Office suite (1989 for Mac, 1990 for Windows) and the rest is history.

Over the past few decades, PowerPoint’s market share has been as high as 95%. While Apple’s Keynote and Google Slides have chipped away at PowerPoint’s market dominance. it is believed more than 35 million PPT presentations are still made every day by an estimated 500 million users worldwide.

Microsoft Excel Can Help You Get A Job Offer

In today’s increasingly competitive business environment (made even more challenging due to COVID-19), securing a job offer has become extremely difficult. The pandemic has caused the loss of many jobs at all levels, further fueling competition. The key in a crowded field of interviewees is to differentiate yourself from others. One great way is to tout your skills, a critical factor for most employers. In many roles, one of the most important skillsets is the Microsoft Office Suite, specifically Microsoft Excel. Proficiency with this software can be critical to navigating the interview process and securing a job offer.

Questions they might ask

Interviewers could ask you about functionality in Excel. This might include experience using specific functions and/or formulas such as: how the $ symbols are used across data sets in Excel? What is VLOOKUP? What does a pivot table do? Be ready with short, accurate answers to help you stand out among most prospective employers.

A simple explanation for each is as follows. The $ symbol is used to lock absolute references in place, which is important for certain types of calculations. VLOOKUP is a function that allows you to search for specific data points across large sets to draw specific insights.  A pivot table is an essential tool to summarize, aggregate, reorganize, sort, group, count, average, or compute segments of data sourced from a much larger dataset. All of these topics are covered in MST’s Excel curriculum.

Solutions

Excel knowledge, specifically around formulas, functions and terms is important to gaining a valuable advantage in the interview process. Whether you are learning about this material for the first time or have a base understanding and would benefit from a refresher, there are many resources at your disposal. You could easily watch videos on YouTube. However, most are taught by techies so they may not be easily understood by all viewers. Many learners fare better with live classes rather than pre-recorded lectures. It allows them to ask questions directly and interact in real time with a teacher. An effective teaching methodology and compelling instructor can make all the difference. Whatever path works for you, choose it sooner than later. It may just help you get the edge for that next job.

(Guest post by Jordan Barry, former MST intern)

Strong Excel Knowledge Is Valuable to A Paralegal Career

Microsoft Office, especially Excel and Word, continue to be ubiquitous in most law firms. Many courts require filings to be made in Word format. Lawyers, and especially paralegals, use Excel for a range of operational and project specific processes. Yet sometimes this program does not get the respect it deserves. Many paralegals use Excel all the time. Here is a partial list of uses:

  • Organizing invoices & financial statements
  • Generating timeline exhibits as trial evidence
  • Managing and merging contact files
  • Creating charts and tables for various type of reports
  • Tracking amortization payments in real estate cases
  • Analyzing large data sets with pivot tables, slicers and pivot charts

As you can see, Excel is not just for adding up numbers in columns. Its uses range from organizing data to analyzing relationships between the datasets. And while Excel is not going to replace more expensive specialty litigation software, it does increase a paralegal’s productivity and efficiency. Here are some other related use cases:

  • Calendaring future court dates
  • Creating billable time databases
  • Analyzing expansive privilege logs
  • Organizing a searchable Bates Number database
  • Maintaining a database of relevant case documents

At the end of the day, increasing one’s knowledge, strengthening current skills and adding new ones makes any paralegal more valuable to attorneys and the law firm itself. It also breeds confidence, provides a competitive edge and increases marketability which can increase opportunities for raises and promotions.

Google Docs versus Microsoft Word: ‘Technical Incompatibilities’ Blamed For Improper Legal Filing

oops keyboard button

The American legal system runs on deadlines. That’s especially true if you’re representing the plaintiffs. “Emergency Complaint For Expedited Declaratory And Emergency Injunctive Relief” involved the United States Presidential election before a Federal District Court. For those keeping score, that’s two emergencies and one expedited in a single motion.

Plaintiffs employed a team of lawyers to prepare their responsive brief. During the course of preparation, plaintiff’s counsel encountered numerous technical incompatibilities in the software versions between Google Docs and Microsoft Word resulting in editing difficulties and text problems.

The Plaintiffs needed to request a one-hour extension to file their brief because they were having trouble getting Google Docs and Microsoft Word to play nicely together. Really?

The most startling thing was finding a lawyer who even acknowledged using Google Docs. For those in the legal community, Microsoft Word is not just a de facto standard; in many cases it’s the de jure standard as well. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, for example, notes on its attorney info page that it is “a Microsoft Word-only court.”

An informal survey of attorneys showed 83% said they and their law firms use Microsoft Word exclusively. One lawyer said “I have never used Google Docs in law school or as an attorney. We always use Word. No court or firm for which I’ve worked uses Google Docs.”

Another said “I find Google Docs unusable for legal work, it’s too difficult to get the final formatting to work, especially if you’re working with other lawyers. Maybe I could fix this by investing hours understanding it, but, well, I’m not going to. So Word it is.”

Maybe they should have also turned on spell-check. It probably didn’t help their cause that the header, in BOLD CAPS at the top of the first page, misspelled the name of the District Court. Oops.

(This post is synopsized from the article posted on ZD Net Jan 3, 2021. Read the entire article here.)

Upskilling Your Team for Digital Transformation

“If we don’t start upskilling/reskilling now, we run the risk of a big part of society becoming irrelevant.”Antonis Christidis, Oliver Wyman

The current wave of digital transformation is creating a seismic wave that will have a huge impact on the future of work. On the one hand, automation is threatening the current workforce with redundancy as machines take over jobs. But at the same time, the rise of complex new technology such as machine learning and artificial intelligence calls for new skills that most current employees are not equipped with. In a recent study by IBM, AI and automation mean that up to 120 million workers will need to improve their digital skills or change role in the next three years.

The Covid-19 Impact

Right now, the Covid-19 crisis has created a need for business everywhere to adapt and focus on technology as the main business driver for critical functions like global payroll to help manage staff absences. Remote working skills and technology are being depended on like never before due to a global necessity.

These changes have combined to create a skills gap between employer requirements and current employee skill sets. In the UK, around 12 million people and 1 million small businesses aren’t equipped with sufficient digital skills. And the issue hasn’t gone unnoticed by bosses. According to PWC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey, 79% of CEOs cite a lack of skilled workers as one of their top three worries. 46% plan to introduce upskilling to close the gap.

What are the benefits to your business of implementing an upskilling programme?

Business Continuity

This has become the most important benefit. Any businesses who have used their digital resources to test business continuity procedures and contingency plans are ahead of the curve. Other business are forced to upskill on the go. They have to make immediate investments in remote working technology and rely on the adaptability of their workforce. This gives rise to a hugely unexpected series of challenges brought about by a global pandemic.

Create Qualified Candidates

In the current job market, hiring managers are noticing a lack of qualified candidates. Statistics show that in the US, the number of software-related jobs is growing twice as fast as the number of general jobs. There is simply not the personnel to fill all the new roles.

Boost Employee Value

Even if there were a wealth of eligible candidates on the job market, it is more cost-effective to train existing employees in the required technical skills than to lay off redundant staff and rehire and onboard new talent. Plus, the newly upskilled employee becomes more valuable to the business. A recent CareerBuilder survey highlights than 60% of US employers’ vacancies stay open for 12 weeks or longer. This can cost businesses up to $800,000 a year.

Employee Engagement

It’s not just C-suite and hiring managers who are worrying about the employability of the current workforce. Employees themselves fear that their skills are becoming obsolete. They also have concerns about their ability to carry out their duties effectively during remote working measures. Many need reassurances during this time when they are clearly outside of their comfort zone.

The most common result amongst employees is a disengagement with the employer. 55% of employees would switch company if they felt their digital skills were losing relevance. 47% would choose instead to work for a company with better digital upskilling initiatives. Investing in upskilling boosts employee engagement.

How to upskill internal talent?

It’s about delivering the right opportunities at the right time via a holistic offering of videos, workshops, seminars, in-house, outsourced and online content. But more than that, establishing a culture of lifelong learning where upskilling is the norm.

Personalised Successful professional development is personal to the staff member and their role. Take into account the employee’s age, learning style, existing skills, current job and career path.

Upskilling has never been more important. Human resources managers must identify the most at-risk group of employees, investing in their upskilling first before moving group by group through the business.

(This post is synopsized from the article posted on Payslip on March 27, 2020. Read the entire article here.)

The Importance of Excel in Business

Microsoft Excel was released in 1985. Since then it has become one of the world’s most important workplace programs. All industries can benefit from employees with strong Excel knowledge. This software has become entrenched in business like few others. It is used for a range of processes from analyzing inventory and budgeting to organizing client lists. Here are a few areas it has become an indispensable asset:

Finance & Accounting

If you work in financial services or accounting, you know these areas use Excel every day. In the 1980s, financial analysts would spend weeks running advanced formulas. They would be calculated manually or by using IBM’s Lotus 1-2-3 or other programs. Today you can perform complex modeling in minutes with Excel.

Marketing & Product

While marketing and product professionals look to their finance teams for heavy lifting, spreadsheets are most often used for customer and sales targets. You can manage sales teams while planning marketing strategies. Pivot tables support quick customer and sales summary data.

Human Resources & Planning

Database systems like Oracle and SAP are used to manage payroll and employee information. Even then, that data is frequently exported into Excel. This supports trend identification and cost/benefit analysis. It also helps users better understand workforce design based on function and compensation.

Google has made material inroads into Microsoft Office’s workplace domination. However, Excel is not going anywhere. Businesses continue to use it as a primary tool for diverse functions and applications from IT projects to sales projections.

The job market is extremely challenging. There are far more job seekers than positions. A functional knowledge of Excel is vital for most every corporate professional today. Practical Excel skills can open the door to promotion and leadership opportunities. It’s a powerful tool in the hands of a savvy worker. He/she can then take advantage of everything this software has to offer. That’s a win-win strategy for everyone.

(This post is synopsized from the article posted on Investopedia on June 25, 2019. Read the entire article here.)

Why Learning Microsoft Excel is Important

In the world of digital competitiveness, skill development has become the ever-growing quality one must have to surpass any work. Whether growing professionals or students, possessing several soft skills will keep you one step ahead of everyone.

So, what is an important tool you must learn as a part of your computer literacy? Of course, learning Excel is the one to enhance your skill sets.

Microsoft Excel is one of the powerful spreadsheets and data analyzing programs with wide-ranging capabilities. From basic mathematical functions to complex statistical analyses, it is a popular tool in Business, Engineering, Accountancy, and many more industries.

Top reasons to learn Excel

Employers highly value candidates who are learning Excel and favor them in many ways. So, how it benefits? Let’s find out.

  • Increases your value in the job market.
  • The more you advance your Excel skills, the more efficiently you will be able to complete a variety of projects and tasks.
  • Many finance and Accountants-related positions rely on and can help to analyze financial modeling, and report documentation.
  • Engineers or Data Analysts can prepare valuable datasets for forecasting performances and making decisions.
  • Increases your salary for knowing such a universal computer program.

Bottom line

One of my recent observations revealed that most of the hiring companies or job positions ask for basic or advanced literacy in Excel. As such, many job-seeking individuals are often found competitively lagging behind and are not able to ace the interview rounds. Believe it or not, Excel is a proven skill that increases your chances of securing a job and makes you stand out of the crowd.

(Synopsized from the Aug 9, 2020 article published in Medium by Syeda Benazir Hossain. Read the full article here)

10 Tips For Finding A New Job During A Pandemic Or Recession

6. Upskill, Upskill, Upskill!

You have identified one or more skills gaps that need filling to move forward in your career. It’s now a good idea to establish a pattern of proactively upskilling. Make use of the various related resources out there – including online – that could help you to achieve it. Upskilling will help to improve your chances of finding a new job. This will make you more employable and demonstrate to employers your commitment to lifelong learning.

Even for those currently self-isolating or otherwise working from home, there are various ways to upskill, including reading business books, listening to podcasts, attending virtual events, conferences and webinars, and enrolling in relevant online courses. Now could also be a good time to take advantage of any training and development resources your employer offers you. Read the entire article here.

Companies Re-skill And Upskill Their Workers

TalentLMS surveyed 282 training and hiring managers, C-level executives, and decision-makers. The goal was to understand their re-skill and upskill strategies. They then surveyed 400 full-time employees in the US to learn about their employers’ training initiatives. During the lockdown, 43% of employers figured it was the perfect time to expand their teams’ skill sets with more courses and training material. 42% employees pursued training on their own. Read the entire report here. If your company is not providing the training you need, it’s your responsibility to get it. MST can be your partner.