Plato CTE Courseware & The Information Technology Career Cluster

Wednesday, October 28, 2015 -- Thomas Boe

Over the past few years, nearly every state in the union has worked hard to redesign its career and technical education (CTE) standards into coherent courses and plans of study. For the most part, states have organized their standards based on the 16 Career Clusters® defined by the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc). In this post, we’ll specifically look at one of those 16 clusters, the Information Technology cluster (IT), which holds a central role in many CTE programs.

What’s so special about information technology?

Mastery of a strong set of fundamental IT skills is critical for success in college and in a wide range of 21st century careers. In several states, the gateway introduction to many of the 16 Career Clusters is a two-semester course in basic IT skills—including computer use, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation applications, and databases, as well as more complex concepts like computer networking, Web design, and development. At this introductory level, students often are able to choose course options depending on their interests and aptitudes. They may pick courses from a “productivity” perspective, mostly focused on applications, or opt to take a full introductory course in IT, with a stronger emphasis on hardware, networking, programming, and IT-specific careers. Some of the other 16 clusters, especially business, often require specialized IT courses aimed at specific practices and objectives. A robust CTE program needs to include appropriate courses for these various purposes and student audiences.

Beyond information technology’s value for college-bound students and across CTE areas, it’s also a very important career field in its own right. IT professionals continue to be in high demand in the job market, and the subject is attractive to many students looking to boost their career skills and supplement other courses of study. As a result, IT-related courses from the introductory level though advanced programming and Web development draw high enrollments in K–12 CTE programs across the country.

Plato IT-based courses

IT is a natural fit for online learning, especially for conceptual development, productivity use, programming, and Web development. The Plato CTE Course Library features the following courses, which are either specifically for IT programs or are offered to support one or more other career pathways:

  • Computers for College and Careers A/B
  • Electronic Communication Skills
  • Business Information Management A/B
  • Principles of Information Technology A/B
  • Computer Programming A/B
  • Web Technologies A/B

Value for students

Plato CTE courses in information technology are designed to meet state standards for curriculum and provide a careful balance of concept development and student activity. Each lesson features embedded self-checked lesson activities, designed as mini projects, which enable students either to put instruction into concrete practice or develop and extend key concepts through their own work and investigation. Plato courses also feature more time-intensive unit activities and course activities to address the need for larger projects. This balance of instruction and focused activity provides students with a strong conceptual base, as well as concrete, practical skills and understanding.

For students who wish to gain professional recognition from their IT skills, Plato CTE courses in IT support preparation efforts for many popular certification examinations. With the skills developed in foundational courses, such as Computing for College and Careers, students may certify their skills through examinations focused on Microsoft Office and other productivity packages. There are also certification tests (such as those through Certiport or Brainbench) appropriate for students who have completed two-semester courses in computer programming or in Web development.

A rich and effective CTE program can help all students be more successful in college and in their careers. Courses in information technology are central to that preparation for many students. Edmentum is proud to provide schools with tools to make college and career readiness a reality. Interested in learning more about our industry-leading CTE offerings? Check out our complete Career & Technical Education Library, or take a look at our new Career & Technical Education white paper: How are you addressing the growing need?