Microsoft Office Certifications Add Valuable Benefits to CCPA Course

Piyawan (Pui) Charoensap-Kelly, PhD
Dr. Piyawan (Pui) Charoensap-Kelly

Last summer, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr.  Piyawan Charoensap-Kelly, also known as Dr. Kelly, assistant professor of organizational communication for Meadows’ Corporate Communication and Public Affairs division.

We met to discuss onboarding Dr. Kelly’s students of CCPA 3360: Business and Professional Communication to the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) certification program. Dr. Kelly explained that this course examines both written and oral communications and also focuses on professional development. In our discussion, she mentioned that she was interested in having her students pursue both the Microsoft Word and PowerPoint certifications, which would complement designated learning outcomes.

This semester, Dr. Kelly reached out to me to earn her own certifications alongside her students. I took a moment to follow up and see how things went both for her and her class.

Laurene Klassen: Hi, Dr. Kelly. It looks like you had a good semester! I see your class earned a combined total of 40 certifications in all. Can you explain how these exams benefited your class?

Dr. Kelly: I’m definitely happy for my students and proud of their achievements! These certifications make the students’ resumes more impressive which is part of their professional development and a major learning outcome of this course. Students can now say they are “certified,” not just “knowledgeable” or “proficient” in a Microsoft application which enhances their credibility. Also, I could observe their immediate benefit through their assignments. For example, the quality of their slide presentation clearly increased after they completed their PowerPoint certification.

Laurene Klassen: What type of feedback have your students provided now that they are certified? Is this something they can use to market themselves?

Dr. Kelly: The feedback has been amazing! Jake Payne, a student in this course, shared with me that his creativity has been enhanced immensely after becoming certified and he is now able to make an aesthetically pleasing presentation or document that catches everyone’s eye in his job. Another student, Keely McNeme, said she enjoyed learning about the reference section in Word and wrote to me: “I no longer have to use janky, inaccurate citation generators from the web. Now, I’m confident in my sources and can keep them organized!” In fact, some students like Chloe Chatham enjoyed the satisfaction of practicing, learning, and passing the exams so much they would like to take them all beyond what I require of them.

All in all, students were glad to discover what the programs are capable of and felt the certifications have enhanced their schoolwork as well as prepared them for their internship or full-time job.

Laurene Klassen: You mentioned that you wanted to earn your certifications as well, what made you want to do this?

Dr. Kelly: I thought if I was going to require the students to complete the certifications, I should have been certified as well. It’s about leading by example, you know. I wanted to earn my certifications since last semester (Fall 2020) when I first incorporated these certifications into this course, but I didn’t get a chance to do it. So last semester, I got quite a few questions or learned about problems that students encountered but I couldn’t answer them. I wanted to understand their experiences and help them better, so this semester (Spring 2021) I made time to complete three certifications: Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Besides, it’s fantastic that SMU has this program available free of charge for everyone on campus. So, why wouldn’t I take advantage of this opportunity?!

Laurene Klassen: We offer GMetrix practice exams for all students to use before taking their certification exams. Do you think that GMetrix materials prepared you sufficiently for your exam? Did you use any additional study materials?

Dr. Kelly: The GMetrix practice exams were very helpful! You mainly need to use the right resources and I recommend Practice Tests 1 and 2 for each application (rather than just the Concept Review resources). I found the Practice Tests to be very similar to the actual tests and they prepared me really well without using any additional study materials. I felt I had been proficient in these MS Office programs, to begin with, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn A LOT of new tricks and tips through these Practice Tests that I didn’t know before!

Laurene Klassen: What was your test-taking experience like? Now that you are certified in these applications, how do you think this will aid your class?

Dr. Kelly: It was a bit nerve-racking at first, mostly because I had to first get used to the virtual testing environment. (I took all my exams remotely). That lasted just the first few minutes and then I became more comfortable and was able to use what I learned from my practice sessions to complete the tasks in the actual exams. I now see that I can do so much more with these MS Office programs and the knowledge and skills I have gained are helpful for my own work when I write research papers, develop presentations, or manage spreadsheets. These certifications do help with my own professional development and now I feel I can help my future students so much more. I appreciate you all in OIT so much for developing this wonderful program and for helping us earn these certifications.

In total, 445 students were certified this semester from 14 class sections. Congratulations to Dr. Kelly and all these students for earning their certifications!

For more information on incorporating Microsoft Certification into the classroom, please contact IT Training at The Microsoft Office Certification is made available to all faculty, staff, and students free of charge by the Office of Information Technology. You can find information on this professional development opportunity at

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Laurene Klassen

Laurene is the Assistant Director of SMU’s IT Training & Communications Team. She enjoys reading, writing, and enjoying outdoor activities with her family in her spare time.