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College Offers Free Microsoft IT Training

By Emily Rogan

Vermont college offers free basic and advanced computer skills training for both academic and workforce success.

Regardless of industry or sector, most job seekers need some level of computer proficiency. And for those with an aptitude, an IT career can offer many opportunities.

Recognizing this, the Community College of Vermont (CCV) is now offering the Microsoft IT Academy (ITA) program to students, faculty and staff. Available online and at CCV’s 12 academic centers, Microsoft ITA offers a broad range of computer skills training, from the basics to high-level programming.

The best part about this? CCV is offering ITA for free.

What is ITA?

The program, partially funded by economic development grants, provides online, self-paced tutorials and exams. Some students can use ITA to familiarize themselves with Microsoft Office programs such as Excel or PowerPoint, while others can achieve industry-recognized certification through the program, says Eric Sakai, dean of academic technology at CCV.

Students work on their own time and at their own pace to learn the skills needed to pass the online exams indicating proficiency in the various Microsoft products; they do not receive CCV credits for ITA. CCV administrators are now working to provide the opportunity for motivated students to sit for certification exams to achieve “specialist” or “expert” status.

“Office is ubiquitous; it’s a widely known workforce credential. If I say I’m a Microsoft Office Specialist in Word and Excel, while not a degree, it’s a solid and documented expertise,” says Sakai.

From an instructional standpoint, CCV educators had noticed that students often enroll in classes with weak basic computer knowledge. Having ITA available can help.  “In many of our business courses, especially the advanced ones, students need to have certain skills with application software,” says Sakai. “ITA makes it possible for the business instructors to incorporate that learning into their coursework while teaching the advanced knowledge at the same time.”

The ITA program also offers students and faculty digital access to more than 600 technology books — also for free. Some of these textbooks would normally cost $150 to $180.

CCV’s IT staff members are benefiting, too. They can use specialized software, such as Access or SharePoint, through ITA. And as CCV makes the switch from Office 2010 to 2013, staff can become comfortable with the new version through ITA before the actual change occurs.

The ITA program was piloted in 2012-2013 with about 75 students and community members at CCV’s Rutland academic center. “We had some instructors using these courses in addition to CCV courses as a way to enhance student skills,”  Sakai says. The feedback from students was positive.

Filling a workforce need

Workforce technology skills are important regardless of students’ area of study, says Sakai. “Whether it’s STEM, business or liberal arts, students will need to have some skill with basic computer applications, and ITA really helps with that.”

Sakai says that it is not expensive for a college to license ITA, and he hopes to keep the program free for the CCV community. “If this contributes to students getting jobs, then that’s a good thing,” he says.

His long-term goal for this program? “I’d love to hear back from students that the specialist certification documented on their resumes was the reason they got hired for a job.”

Is your college using the Microsoft ITA program? Tell us how it’s going in the Comments.

Emily Rogan

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.

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