Towson University empowers students to excel with Microsoft Office Specialist certification

Towson University, located in Towson, Maryland, is a public institution with a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1866. The institution is renowned for its diverse academic programs spanning education, business, health professions, liberal arts, and sciences. It caters to a broad spectrum of students and is recognized as one of the nation’s best public universities.

One of the larger departments on campus is the Department of Business Analytics and Technology Management, which is dedicated to preparing graduates with valuable analytical and technical skills through programs in business analytics, enterprise resource planning (ERP), project management, and supply-chain management. The curriculum is employer-focused, providing students with the essential skills to navigate business processes, technology, and people in today’s competitive landscape.

Validating Microsoft Office skills for a data-driven future

The department adopted Microsoft Office Specialist certification in 2015, when they wanted to rework their curriculum to prepare students for the data driven economy and analytical careers. Local businesses and the advisory board played a pivotal role in this decision, expressing a need for individuals with expertise in Microsoft Office Excel and data analytics.

Dr. Chaodong Han, Chair of the Business Analytics and Technology Management department, explained the shift in focus: “We created new programs and a new business analytics major, moving away from traditional warehousing and labor-intensive job functions to fully support the mission of preparing students for the new economy.”

As part of this refocus, the department adopted Certiport’s Microsoft Office Specialist Excel certification, acknowledging that Microsoft Excel™ skills serve as the bedrock for the courses within the curriculum. The certification exam became a prerequisite for upper-level business courses, ensuring that every student in the program can develop and validate these essential skills. Due to the importance of validating Excel skills, taking and passing the certification exam became a requirement for graduating and earning a business degree.

Implementing MOS Excel certification

Lynnwood Cook, one of the main instructors teaching the essential Excel courses, brings a wealth of corporate experience to the classroom. As a former Chief Executive, he focuses on building upon the key concepts of Microsoft Excel to empower his students to apply critical thinking to business questions and problems. He incorporates group projects and simulates business scenarios to help his students be able to utilize Microsoft Excel in a real-world setting.

“I’ve been using Microsoft Excel for almost 40 years. There were times I had to train my employees on how to use Excel and unfortunately, some of them were unable to learn some of the components that I needed them to understand,” he explained.

To better equip his students for the demands of the workforce, he stresses the importance of learning Microsoft Excel and likens it to learning a language. Through understanding the “verbs, nouns, and pronouns” (formulas and functions) of an Excel spreadsheet, individuals are able to make sentences and paragraphs that end up creating a story through data.

He couples this project-based learning approach with Certiport’s CertPREP Practice Tests, powered by GMetrix, to help his students fully grasp the functionalities of the software. This approach also helps students take and pass the Microsoft Excel certification, as it is a project-based exam that is “Live-in-the-Application.” With his methodologies, Towson University has seen a significant increase in their certification pass rates.

Cook celebrates students who pass the MOS Excel certification, showcasing their achievement on an Excel Olympians wall divided into bronze, silver, and gold categories. This visual representation reinforces the positive impact of adopting MOS certification on his students and courses.

The transformative impact of MOS Excel certification

The impact of MOS Excel certification on the Business Analytics and Technology Management department has been substantial. Since its introduction, the institution has observed higher employment rates among graduates, a stronger department with increased student pass rates, and enhanced confidence among students pursuing internships and jobs.

The certification has supported students in pursuing careers in various fields, including human resources, aerospace and defense technology, computer information, project management, operations, and supply chain management.

Additionally, the certification program has allowed Towson University to stay agile and responsive to evolving industry needs, fostering a dynamic learning environment. The implementation of the certification not only bridges the gap between academia and industry but also contributes to the lifelong learning journey of their students.

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