Microsoft Technology Associate Certification at the University of Lincoln


Guest Post by Dr. Derek Foster, Principal Lecturer in Computer Science, School of Computer Science University of Lincoln.


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The School of Computer Science (SoCS) at Lincoln has seen rapid growth in both student and staff numbers in recent years, recently appointing four new Professors to extend its research focus and base. Domiciled within the College of Science, the School sits in the top 20% nationally for NSS overall satisfaction for the subject area of Computing. Benefitting from state-of-the-art facilities, the School offers a broad range of expertise in computing technologies and information systems, including specialisms in robotics and autonomous systems; computer vision and image engineering; medical applications of technology, and social and games computing. In addition to this wide range of expertise, our students have access to free Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certification which enhances employability and career pathways, and compliments their academic programmes.

Industry 4.0 Curriculum at Lincoln

SoCS is focused on the development of cutting edge Industry 4.0 (ID 4.0) curriculum, a response to the UK government’s ‘Digital Skills Crisis’ report [1], and digital industrial strategy that encompasses widening the national ID 4.0 agenda [2]. This approach supports the SoCS strategy of equipping our graduates with next generation ID 4.0 skillsets that are currently in short supply in the Computing industry. SoCS staff are steering committee members of a HEFCE funded Industrial Digitalisation project with the primary focus of embedding ID 4.0 content in programmes across the College of Science such as Engineering, Computing, and Maths/Physics [3]. An additional part of the project’s remit is to explore embedding cross-disciplinary ID 4.0 content across non-STEM subject areas.

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Isaac Newton Building, home of the Lincoln School of Computer Science

MTA Certification Strategy

To supplement the school’s ID 4.0 curriculum, further value has been integrated in all undergraduate programmes of study by giving students the opportunity to sit an MTA exam for each year for their programme. Essentially, this means a SoCS graduate could achieve three distinct MTA certifications to take into industry in their chosen career pathway. The school currently has around 700 students enrolled on undergraduate programmes across Computer Science and Games Computing, as such the school has built the capability to manage MTA certification at scale with fantastic results. The benefits of Industry Certification to supplement academic programmes are clear, leading to improved career opportunities and a unique selling point for graduates when entering the employment market. The school has already identified instances were recent graduates have gained desirable employment as a direct result of attaining certification, which is excellent news to support validating the effectiveness of certification.

At present the school offers the full MTA certification portfolio to students through a targeted strategy. For students in their first year, the emphasis is on achieving certification across the programming MTA offerings, in second year the emphasis is on Networking and Databases certification, with the final year opening up all MTA certifications to students. This approach for final year students facilitates the benefit of being able to choose an MTA that best aligns with their career aspirations. Exam sits are planned alongside the university-wide exam weeks in January and May for first and second years students. For final year students it is acknowledged this is the most challenging year of their academic programme, and therefore more flexibility is desirable on when they can sit MTA exams. This is done through offering multiple exam sits throughout the academic year that are mindful of the school’s overall assessment submission strategy.

Student Results

The school completed its first rollout of MTA certification between November 2017 – May 2018. During this time the initiative experienced very high levels of student engagement and received positive feedback. In terms of learning resources for revision, student has free access to the Gmetrix service, supplementing the learning resources available from the school’s Microsoft Imagine Academy membership. Students reported they preferred a wide range and type of learning resources available to them to revise for MTA exams, indeed this caters for preferences across different resources such as video tutorials, textbooks, and mock exams.

Our statistics show that between November 2017 and May 2018 SoCS students sat 378 MTA exams with a pass rate of 73%, see table below for further details. The school is delighted by such high levels of engagement and achievement, particularly when MTA exams are offered to students as an extra-curricular activity on top of their academic programmes. As a result of this success the school is committed to running MTA exams for current and future students. In the current academic year, MTA exams are scheduled for January 2019 with 250 students currently signed up, with multiple exam sit opportunities planned between February-May 2019. It is envisioned that MTA exams will continue to be offered to SoCS students in the longer term, and we are keen to work with Microsoft to help develop MTA exams and share best practice as we continuously evolve and reflect on enhancing the student experience at Lincoln.

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Number of MTA exam sits @ University of Lincoln between November 2017 – May 2018

Graduate Success with MTA

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"Getting MTA Qualifications really helped me stand out from the crowd when applying for graduate jobs, allowing me to demonstrate industry-standard knowledge and experience. Having a recognised and trusted name like Microsoft on my CV shows not only that I have desirable skills, but also that I had the discipline, desire, and time management to spend time outside of my degree studies doing additional learning."

- Jemma Thwaytes, Junior Marketing Executive at 3SDL Ltd

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“I must tell you that having sat both MTA examinations on Database and Cloud Fundamentals, the recruiting manager was very impressed with my achievements. I had a call this morning to say that I've been offered the position.”

- Qudus Tiamiyu, Junior Database Consultant at N4 Stack

[1] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmsctech/270/270.pdf

[2] https://beisgovuk.citizenspace.com/strategy/industrial-strategy/supporting_documents/buildingourindustrialstrategygreenpaper.pdf

[3]https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20180319121039/http://www.hefce.ac.uk/funding/catalyst/futureskills/

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