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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

New Students Required to Take Computer Class

Degree-seeking students whose first semester of enrollment at WCC is Fall 2010 Semester or later will be required to take a computer class that aims to equip them with skills for school, home, and work.

“We’re teaching them the software and computer skills that employers will expect of them and that will help them through other courses they might take at the College,” said Neil Gudsen, program manager for computer information systems and business office systems. “These are the skills that will open doors for them and create opportunities.”

Gudsen said some students are very proficient in a subset of computer skills, but most don’t have the broad knowledge that the class will provide. “Very frequently, students use online messaging and may do some email,” he said. “But this course goes much deeper into computer skills.”

The newly required class, CIS 100: Introduction to Computers and Software Applications, isn’t new itself, but faculty members have totally revamped its content. As in the past, it will cover how to use Microsoft Office programs like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. However, it will go much further to include everything from social networking to cloud computing to how to judge the credibility of information found online.

“We’re totally redefining what computer literacy means,” said Mike Galea, a faculty member with 30 years of experience in the information technology industry. “We’re going to introduce the students to the tools that are available to them, and make them comfortable finding and using them.”

For one assignment, students will create a PowerPoint animation that includes entrance, motion, and exit for two objects that move simultaneously. But the class will go far beyond teaching how to use individual programs. Its primary focus will be teaching students how to go out on the Internet, find tools, and learn how to use them on their own, Galea said.

“We’ll be teaching how to use tools to help you problem solve,” Galea said. One example he cited involves buying a car. Galea wants students to be able to determine what their monthly payment would be if they’re buying a $22,000 car at 6.25 percent interest and putting down $3,000. Students who know Excel can determine the answer within two minutes without any math skills, he said.

Students use computers in many WCC classes. For example, Gudsen said that chemistry students use Excel spreadsheets to calculate titrations. Because students will learn skills in CIS 100 that they’ll need for other classes, Gudsen recommends taking it as early as possible. “We’re really tailoring it to help students with subsequent classes,” he said.

Students who have questions outside class will have lots of help available:

  • Tutoring will be provided in the Computer Commons.
  • Videos that Galea created will be available on Blackboard, the online class management system that students will use.
  • Extensive help will be available in MyITLab, an online Microsoft Office simulation environment that students also will use.

To help students succeed, the first class session will include a skills assessment so that students who might have trouble with the class can get help before they take it. For example, students who can’t type might be referred to a keyboarding class. And students who lack computer experience may be urged to first take CIS 099: Computer Literacy, which teaches basic skills.

Students who believe they already possess the skills taught in CIS 100 have a “credit by exam” option. The option costs $75, which financial aid does not cover. Students who pass will receive three credits that will apply to their WCC degree, but generally the credits will not transfer to other schools.

CIS 100 will be available on campus, online, and in a blended format that combines online and classroom instruction. Galea cautioned that students should not take the class online or in a blended format just because they’re convenient. To succeed with either class, students must be able to work independently, he said. “If they are self-directed problem solvers, they can take the online class,” Galea said.

The new requirement to take CIS 100 represents an updating of WCC’s computer literacy graduation requirement. Students whose first semester of enrollment at WCC was before Fall Semester 2010 will still be able to fulfill the requirement by taking CIS 099, CIS 100, CIS 110, or the Computer Literacy Test at the Testing Center.

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