The Basic Computer Skills Course, a free and interactive Massive Open Online Course, is now available worldwide.
Created as part of the INTERFACE grant, a $23.1 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant project from the U.S. Department of Labor, this course is designed to provide hands-on training to Trade Adjustment Act-eligible dislocated workers, Veterans and other adult learners looking to improve their information technology (IT) and computer skills.
The course was created in modules, making it easy to customize for varied participants and settings. Instructors and students have the ability to complete one, some or all modules, depending on the needs of the student. The basic computer operations and IT skills gained through this course will help learners successfully navigate Wisconsin Technical Colleges, complete electronic employment applications and more.
The Basic Computer Skills Course is available to Wisconsin Technical College System colleges, learning centers, job centers and virtually anyone anywhere with internet access. By January 18, 2016, it had already received over 17,266 total page views.
Robert Keown, Executive Director of Georgia Virtual Technical Connection at the Technical College System of Georgia, saw the course at www.wisc-online.org. Wisc-online is a repository of high-quality educational learning materials developed by subject matter experts from the Wisconsin Technical College System and Fox Valley Technical College’s Learning Innovations team, and available at no cost to learners and educators.
“We are interested in reviewing this course to see if it would be a fit for our basic skills training,” Keown said. “It addresses universal or standard competencies, and, as a peer reviewed product, we expect the quality to be high. Why reinvent the wheel if there is already something created that we can adapt for use within our college system?”
Heather Nilsen is an Employment and Training Specialist with the Department of Workforce Development, Bureau of Job Service – Milwaukee. She works collaboratively on the TAACCCT INTERFACE Grant with the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board. Nilsen and other staff have worked with many job seekers in Job Service Resource Rooms across Wisconsin. The majority of these job seekers have limited computer skills, so staff focus on providing basic instruction to help them with their job search or other employment-related tasks. This can include creating an email address, registering on job sites, performing a job search, submitting online job applications or word processing and emailing resumes.
“After previewing the INTERFACE Basic Skills Computer Course, I found the lessons and course material to be right on the mark and at a pace that would not overwhelm a new or inexperienced computer user,” Nilsen said. “This program helps solve a significant, long-term workforce training need by helping job seekers increase their computer skills.”
Each course module addresses at least one IT competency. Digital learning objects, including videos and activities, are specifically designed to promote learning through hands-on interaction. Topics include how to operate computing devices, navigate operating systems, input data, create documents, use email, manage files, use the internet and social media, access learning management systems, navigate college information systems and safely manage personal data.
The Basic Computer Skills Course is available at no charge via WWW.WISC-ONLINE.COM, where students can track their progress and earn educational badges for lesson completion. If students are not taking the course online they can still email their progress and results to their instructor. The course – in full or in part – can also be downloaded from WWW.SKILLSCOMMONS.ORG and Wisc-Online.com, and delivered through any college learning management system. An “unplugged” version of the course is also available at SkillsCommons.org for use where there is limited internet access.
Lance Matysik was in good, close company when he was laid off from his job at Hutchinson Technology Incorporated (HTI) in Eau Claire. His mother, Anita, was laid off at the same time, and his sister, Lindsey, was involved in a 2013 layoff.
All three were eligible for help through the Trade Adjustment Act and found their way to Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC). Lindsey is finishing her degree in Human Resources and Anita is studying in the Executive Assistant program. Lance found a home in the Information Technology-Software Developer program and the new IT-Mobile Developer program.
CVTC has offered an IT-Software Developer program at their Eau Claire campus for some time. In September of 2013, they were able to expand the program to their River Falls campus, add a Mobile Software Development program to their IT offerings and equip computer labs at the Eau Claire and River Falls campuses, all thanks to a $1.15 million U.S. Department of Labor grant. The grant money came from the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant program and is part of a $23.1 million grant award shared by all 16 colleges in the Wisconsin Technical College System.
For Matysik, the grant provided the opportunity to pursue an education he always wanted.
“I was going to go to CVTC in 2008, but I ended up going to work instead,” said Lance. “The layoff in 2014 gave me the perfect opportunity. IT-Software Developer is one of the programs with the grant program, and I had some hobby background in it. I figured, why not turn a hobby into a career?”
Lance is taking some extra classes for certification in both the Software Developer and Mobile Developer tracks. He plans to graduate in the summer of 2016.
IT-Software Developer Program at River Falls Campus
Students in the River Falls area are happy to have the IT-Software Developer program available close to home.
At the River Falls campus this semester, Instructor Eric Wackwitz is teaching students Programming Fundamentals and sometimes has them working on code by writing on a whiteboard. That may seem like a low-tech way to study a high-tech subject, but going old school gives Wackwitz a chance to glance around the room and see how everyone is doing.
“Learning the language of computers is a first step,” said Wackwitz. “It’s a different way to communicate and learning the computer’s language can be a challenge.”
But it’s a challenge the students in Wackwitz’s class at CVTC’s River Falls Campus are anxious to take up.
“You want the students to have a whole toolbox of basic skills,” said Julie McFadden, grant administrator and CVTC IT-Software Developer instructor. “We’re giving them skills that are common to all software, and we build on that in the Mobile Developer program.”
It’s working for Bryce Fuchs and Alex Bye, 2015 graduates of River Falls High.
“I’ve always been into computers and games and stuff like that,” Fuchs said. “When I heard about the software developer program, I looked into it.”
Fuchs wants to complete his certifications in both the software developer and mobile developer tracks.
“I took a college class here (at CVTC) in the summer, and I found I really liked it,” said Bye. “I liked the coding, and I like the programming.”
Bye said he did a little programming in high school and some on his own at home, but now he’s getting into it at deeper and more exciting levels.
“We’re learning more than coding,” Bye said. “We’re learning the components of computers, each layer of it, like what each specific part of the hard drive will do. I’ve learned so much about my own computer.”
McFadden said many of the students at both Eau Claire and River Falls pursue both the software developer and mobile developer tracks. The programs are structured so a student can achieve an associate degree with technical diplomas in each of the tracks, or they can just complete the technical diplomas in one or both tracks.