Libraries help bridge the digital divide
Libraries have a new tool in their belt to help patrons bridge the digital divide; it’s called the Microsoft IT Academy.
Thanks to $1.5 million in funding from the Washington State legislature, a 90% product discount from Microsoft, and strong leadership by visionary staff at the Washington State Library, more than 380 libraries across the state can now offer their patrons self-paced computer instruction courses through Microsoft’s IT Academy – for free. Neill Public Library in Pullman and Whitman County Library District in Colfax are excited to be two of these participating libraries.
Public libraries help people acquire the information and knowledge they need to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Since the recession, Neill Library staff have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people needing assistance to create resumes, search for jobs, and navigate through the ins and outs of submitting an online application. On a regular basis, we hear patrons express a desire to learn new computer skills so they can compete for the family wage jobs [many of which require a strong proficiency in STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)]. However, these patrons do not have the financial means to pay for instruction and, between work and family, their schedules are not compatible enough to attend classes. The widening gap between people who have the means and access to obtain IT skills and those who do not is known as the digital divide.
Enter the IT Academy. Through IT Academy training, participants will achieve industry-leading skills to be competitive in the job market. Participants can select courses from three skill levels – Basic Digital Literacy, Microsoft Office training, and Advanced Skills for IT professionals. More than 250 courses are available for free, and in 30 different languages. These courses are self-paced, making them ideal for people with busy schedules. Microsoft certification is an option.
The Basic Digital Literacy curriculum introduces first-time users to the fundamentals of computing. The function of a mouse, a monitor, a keyboard, and a hard-drive are discussed. Use of the Internet, online privacy, and virtual security are covered. Participants will learn what email is, how it works, and how to set up an email account.
The Microsoft Office curriculum offers coursework for 117 different programs in Office and 10 programs in Office 365. Instruction is available for commonly recognized programs like Word, Excel, Outlook, and Powerpoint, as well as the lesser known ones like Visio, Lync, and OneNote.
The Advanced Skills curriculum includes instruction on System Center, Cloud, a variety of different servers, SQL Server database, Visual Studio, and Windows Azure.
The IT Academy is compatible with most, but not all browsers. Internet Explorer (through IE 10), Firefox, and Google Chrome work well. Safari is not compatible, but iOS users can download an alternative browser to access the content.
The IT Academy can be accessed anywhere, anytime. Participants need to have a library card and a registered email to access to the Office and Advanced Skills Level curriculum. Use the library’s public computer stations or connect to our wi-fi from your own laptop. The Academy is also available from your home or mobile device via our website. Just another way libraries make life-long learning free and easy for you.
Coursework for Basic Digital Literacy is available now through the websites of Whitman County Library District and Neill Public Library. Coursework for Microsoft Office and Advanced Skills will be available by early December. Both libraries offer Book-a-Librarian sessions providing one-on-one assistance to help get you started. Contact us today to schedule your free session. Happy Learning!