Computer Training Materials Bring Consistency to Curriculum

In the past, instructors in the continuing education department of Bellevue Community College, located in Bellevue, Wash., were responsible for preparing their own teaching materials. Mostly part-time and teaching at other locations, these faculty led computer-content courses on popular software programs such as word processors, spreadsheets, databases, Windows and DOS. New teachers had to spend several months developing their own courseware before they could start teaching classes. Bellevue's problem was that there was very little consistency in the curriculum from one teacher to the next and from one level of instruction to another. Students could not be sure that they had learned all the topics in Excel Level I, for example, necessary for competency in Level II. The director of Computer Programs, Continuing Education Department, Sharon Carpenter, sums the situation up as this: "Good teachers are not necessarily good courseware developers." Making the Switch Carpenter explains that she had used training materials from ComputerPREP of Ph'enix, Ariz., previously. Around a year and a half ago, Carpenter made the decision to implement their products across the board. "They offer a wealth of choices, their products are easy to follow and are well put together, they are consistent in format throughout the levels, and they are a solid company," she comments. Every ten weeks Bellevue's Continuing Education department runs 70 non-credit workshops plus classes. Comprised of mostly older students, these workshops are held during the day or for two evenings per week, and on average 11 students attend. "Last quarter we had 2,600 students through our classes and workshops," Carpenter states. Topics range from Computers for the Fearful, to C++ and Visual Basic instruction. ComputerPREP products used include those for Word, Excel, WordPerfect, Paradox, Lotus, DOS, Windows, Ami Pro and more. Included in each set are training manuals that students can keep after the class is completed and a diskette filled with practice files for the application covered. Positive Remarks Students apparently love using the materials. "Students fill out evaluation forms at the end of the course," Carpenter says, "and many offer positive remarks." In fact, several students have expressed an interest in purchasing ComputerPREP manuals for other classes as resource materials. Another indicator of the standardization program's success is that more corporations are now sending their employees for workshop instruction. "Companies have more confidence in what training is taking place because of the consistency in the materials," Carpenter adds. Although some teachers initially felt threatened by the new materials, especially those who felt they were good at developing their own, even the hardest to bring over have now accepted the ComputerPREP products and are pleased with them compared to materials they have to use at other institutions. "If our program was to expand," Carpenter insists, "we needed to be consistent. We had two classes, now we have five. Plus we've increased our staff by 12 or 13 part-time [teachers]." The school will also expand its offerings to include a seven-course networking program that provides Novel CNE certification. Students will use Novel's networking materials, distributed by ComputerPREP. Yes We Can Carpenter feels that changing over to the new training products has been quite empowering for all involved. "It has totally changed our ability to market our program. We can say 'Yes we can teach that' [to companies and students]. It has also helped foster partnerships with large corporations in the area. ComputerPREP has made it easier for teachers to teach and students to learn."

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.