The University Record, November 16, 1998

ITD releases virtual training on the Web

By Kerry Colligan

About one month ago, the Information Technology Division (ITD) released a new Web site to provide beginner- and advanced-level training on more than 200 topics including Microsoft Word, Excel, Access, Outlook, Powerpoint, C++, Java, HTML and many others. There are even courses to become a certified Novell or Microsoft network administrator.

The idea, according to Elaine Cousins, educational services manager at ITD, is to provide access to tips, tricks and techniques anytime, anywhere.

While the training is self-paced, the paradox remains: how does one learn about computers on a computer?

Cousins cautions that the courses, while written for users at any level, are not intended for users uncomfortable with the operation of the computer.

On the surface, the site (accessible from ITD’s education page: www.itd.umich.edu/education/) seems overloaded with information. The design, by the National Educational Training Group (NETg), necessitates that users navigate from within the page, rather than use the browser’s navigational tools. In fact, using the browser’s navigational tools will “bounce” the user out of the site.

Don’t let that deter you. A pre-assessment test, personalized training courses, and step-by-step instructions using both theoretical and practical examples provide access to training that otherwise would cost a fortune.

“It’s nice because it’s free. I need C and C++ programming for my course of study,” says Joe Pleban, a master’s degree student in financial engineering. “It must be saving me $10,000 in training.”

ITD has been looking for a consistent, portable training package to supplement its course offerings for the campus community. Until now, according to Cousins, “the technology was not there to make the courses engaging enough to justify the cost.”

This site may be the answer. ITD plans to fund updates and technical support for the site over the next three years. And, if use of the site reaches the level ITD expects, the distributed cost will be more than affordable. According to Jeffrey Tibbs, chief financial and administrative officer in ITD, the site will cost the same per user as a Friday night movie.

The virtual workshops will not replace ITD’s classroom offerings, Cousins adds. Traditional workshops already are being scheduled through winter term, and information on them will soon be available on the Web at www.itd.umich.edu/education/.


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