Inexpensive & Free Recourses for Training and Capacity Building

Curriculum Resources for CTCs and Other Organizations

link to original article: http://www.techsoup.org/learningcenter/ctc/archives/page10046.cfm?cg=searchterms&sg=microsoft

Inexpensive and free resources for training

By: Martina Seremetis

We at TechSoup know that all the technology in the world won't do your organization much good if you don't know what to do with it. This is why Training should be part of every technology plan session.

Although there is a huge array of online training and training materials available to teach computer skills, Microsoft Office, and Internet skills, it is often expensive and organizations are charged on a per-use basis. Consequently, many small organizations cannot afford to properly train their staff, and organizations such as computer technology centers ( CTCs) are often forced to limit their program offerings.

The list below provides resources where you can find inexpensive or free curriculum, including self-paced learning and instructor-led classes. Browse the list based on the subject and your preferred delivery method and look at the material online -- different courses will appeal to various learning styles and specific learning objectives.

Self-paced courses allow individuals to learn at their own pace and to tailor the course to meet their individual goals. Some people like to take online courses to reinforce what they are learning in a class. Online courses are easy way to allow an organization to expand its training options when it is not possible to host an instructor-led class.

Many of the instructor-led courses in this list provide an instructor guide that can be used to teach a course. Even if the course does not meet your exact needs, most of the curriculum can easily be modified to meet your organizational goals. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel -- it's a lot easier to modify a course than to write one from scratch.

Let us know if you have discovered other resources so that we can add them to our list.

Computer/MS Office Skills

GCF Global Learning

GCF Global Learning is a free Web-based computer and career training program for beginning computer users. Its goal is to provide free training to help people reach their employment potential.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced) and instructor-led
Courses:
Windows, MS Office, Internet Basics, Computer Basics, E-mail Basics, Math Basics, Career Development, Money Basics, Workplace Development
Comments:
Courses are available in both English and Spanish. I only tried a self-paced course. The course seemed like it would be a bit intimidating for people with no computer experience, but it could be a nice supplement to other instruction. The courses are text-based and do require a minimum reading level. The interface is easy to use.

SmarterOrg and Isoph

These two companies recently merged. Their goal is to develop affordable high-impact online learning programs for the nonprofit community. They also provide Web conferencing and nonprofit learning resources.

Cost:
$30 to $60 per course per user for one year
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
General Business Project Management and Negotiation Skills, Accounting and Finance, Computer Skills, Advanced Technical Skills, Web Development Skills, Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer
Comments:
Although there is a fee, the qualities of the courses are good and the interface is easy to use. I think it's a great resource for staff training or for someone who is trying to achieve a specific goal.

Land-Grant Training Alliance Lessons

This page hosts numerous free online classes that teach a variety of software programs.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Microsoft Office Suite, Corel, WordPerfect
Comments:
This site will be retired sometime in 2005, but in the meantime it's the only site where I have seen Corel and WordPerfect offered. The classes are text-based and would be difficult for a novice user.

Typing and Mouse Skills

Learn 2 Type

This free Web site helps you master touch-typing.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Typing
Comments:
The interface is confusing because the ads are distracting. Navigation is also difficult. You don't have much control moving around the course. But the exercises are good, and one does receive instant feedback. The course does require some reading skill.

Mousercise

This mousing exercise helps people learn how to use the mouse more effectively. It is available in English and Spanish.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Learning the Mouse
Comments:
This helpful exercise helps people get the hang of using the mouse. The site also suggested using games such as checkers or solitaire to help people feel comfortable using the mouse.

Multimedia

Training Cafe

Find interactive training to learn Macromedia products at this site.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Macromedia products such as Flash, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Director
Comments:
These courses are great for someone who wants to learn more about multimedia using Macromedia products.

Macromedia Professional Development

This site provides free interactive online training from Macromedia to learn about Macromedia products.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Macromedia products
Comments:
The site provides an extensive amount of material.

Workforce Development

Technology For All

Through the Workforce Development Initiative, Technology For All ( TFA) developed a sponsor relationship with SkillSoft. SkillSoft has provided TFA complete access to its online e-learning platform that includes more than 2,000 online courses in business skills, introductory and advanced computer skills, and soft skills. The cost also includes a local administator to manage the program in the CTC.

Cost:
$50 per person per year for unlimited use
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Extensive technology and soft skill curriculum (check online for details)
Comments:

TFA has an extensive list of courses including some certification programs. Each course is approximately four to six hours long and is at an eighth-grade reading level. I think these courses are a good opportunity for someone who is serious about acquiring a new skill.

The courses are accessible through the Web through using SkillSoft's learning engine. The CTC would need an administrator to add people to the program and a learning coach to help students with the interface.

Many of the new courses include audio that reads the text on the screen. Most courses provide assessments.

Learning Solutions

This series of courses were created to teach specific workplace skills -- especially in the retail, health care, and hospitality industries -- as well as job-seeking skills. The courses enhance reading, writing, listening, ESL, and communication skills while teaching course content. The retail courses prepare students for the National Retail Federation's Certification exam.

Cost:
$500 set-up plus $60 per person
Format:
Self-Paced CD-ROM/Online
Courses:
Customer Service and Communication Skills, Customer Service for Retail Industry, Customer Service for Health Care Industry, Job Seeking Skills
Comments:

Overall the demo content was good. I especially liked the role playing activities. The program provides an audio lecture and an opportunity for students to read the key points. I'm not sure if the lecturer would relate to a CTC audience. I also think the content would be challenging for someone with weak English skills.

The interface was a bit confusing, especially for an independent self-paced student. However, I liked features such as the Notebook, which allows a student to write personal notes or copy text from the course.

Other features like the bulletin board, chat rooms, assignments, and grading would only be helpful if there were an instructor assigned to the course and there were a group of students going through the content at the same time.

Curriculum Development

TrainingPoint

TrainingPoint is a free online service for nonprofit organizations and trainers that offers users the ability to post and retrieve freely distributable technology training materials and resources.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Self-Paced and Instructor-Led
Courses:
Basic Computer, Internet, E-mail, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Database, Presentation , Operating System, Web Design
Comments:
The courses are created by different providers so it is difficult to evaluate the overall curriculum. The site does provide user evaluation, which can help in your selection process.

Most of the courses were created by CompassPoint and are very good.

Many of the CompassPoint courses are hands-on one-day courses led by an instructor, but they could easily be divided into smaller units. They come with a teacher instruction book and a student manual. The student manuals are lengthy, so your organization would need to develop a process for reproducing or sharing them. This curriculum would be easy to adapt to different audiences.

Most of the other content was not quite as strong. The material from One/Northwest was thorough but designed for more advanced users.

Microsoft Education

Microsoft provides tutorials, lesson plans, and how-to articles on its Web site.

Cost:
free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Microsoft Products
Comments:
While this site does not provide simple, basic knowledge of how to use the company's tools, it could be a useful resource for an instructional designer creating curriculum or for an instructor looking for ideas on how to incorporate the tools in a project. The interface is a bit confusing, and there is a lot of information on the pages.

AC4

The Association of Christian Community Computer Centers provides general lesson plans for computer classes and class outlines with exercises.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Curriculum development for instructor-led training
Courses:
Intro to Computers, Intro to the Internet, Typing, Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), Entrepreneurship, Databases, Graphic Design, Photoshop, Web Page Design, Java Programming, Job Training
Comments:
This site could give someone a really good start in developing curriculum.

Getting Around on a Computer

This class is aimed at teaching adults who have never used a computer.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Curriculum development for instructor-led training
Courses:
Getting Around on a Computer
Comments:
This is another class that could give someone a good start in developing curriculum.

Staff Training

WebJunction

This online community of libraries and other agencies is dedicated to sharing knowledge and experience to provide the broadest public access to information technology. It is funded by the Gates Foundation.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Basic Computer skills, Microsoft Office, Macromedia Flash, Resume Writing
Comments:
WebJunction exists to support the staff that sustains public access to information and technology. The site encourages feedback about how they can help you roll out programs to your clients. For now, WebJunction training is intended for your staff.

WebTeacher

Find a series of tutorials for educators covering basic Internet usage to more complex topics

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online/instructor-led
Courses:
Internet Usage, Creating Web sites
Comments:
This site includes a set of training script modules that can be used to conduct an instructor-led course on Web-related subjects.

There are also online courses on the same subjects. They are text-based but easy to understand for someone who has an interest in the topic.

Various Subjects

Free-Ed

The Free-Ed site provides an online virtual university where users from around the world can study, take courses, and participate in community activities at no cost. Complete courses and tutorials for more than 120 different vocational and academic disciplines are available.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
GED Prep Program, Business, Math, Sciences, Arts, Social Studies, and other academic disciplines, IT/computer courses in many subjects
Comments:
Since advertisers pay for this site, ads are constantly popping up. This can be very annoying and makes the interface a bit harder to use.

Different providers create courses so it's hard to evaluate the curriculum. The site does provide a wide variety of topics so it would be a good place for users to learn more about a subject or see if it is something they are interested in. The site offers only a few basic IT courses and not much for Microsoft Office. I would not recommend the computer courses.

Firstfind.info

This is a collection of Web sites that provide basic information about a wide range of topics. All sites are reviewed by librarians and are accurate, up-to-date, and easy to use.

Cost:
free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Education, Family, Government, Health, History, Housing, Immigration, Jobs and Job Training, Legal Issues, Magazines Online, Money Matters, Transportation and Travel
Comments:
The local information is only for New York since this is where the site is based, but the rest of the info is relevant and useful. It is a good site for people who are new to the Internet and do not feel comfortable searching on their own.

Mapping Your Future: Counselor Section

Help the students you work with explore higher education and career opportunities.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Games, resources, files directed at those who work with students grades 6-12
Comments:
The site includes resources, games, and other information to help students plan for college. It includes useful information about paying for college and finding scholarships.

Seniors

SeniorNet

SeniorNet's mission is to provide older adults with access to education and computer technologies in order to enhance their lives and enable them to share their knowledge and wisdom.

Cost:
$12,000
Format:
Instructor-Led Training and Self-Paced
Courses:
Courses range from Introduction to Computers and the Internet to topics such as Quicken, Scanning Graphics, and Researching your Family Tree.
Comments:
SeniorNet provides curriculum tailored to seniors, on-site training and ongoing support, hosting of your center's Web site on the SeniorNet site, and more.

AARP

The site is a Web portal for the AARP community (by the organization's definition, this includes anyone over age 50). The "Computers and Technology" section has some good ideas for teaching and learning.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Basic Internet skills
Comments:
The portal is a bit busy, but the online courses are good. Courses include short audio along with text on very specific subjects such as how to add a Web site to your list of favorites.

GED

Amby's GED Prep

This site helps users prepare for the GED by learning how to take tests, and learning more about the specific subjects that will be tested.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Test-Taking Skills, GED Test Prep, Grammar, Writing Timed Essays, Basic Math, Science, Vocabulary, and many others
Comments:
This is one of the best Web sites to begin sussing out the GED. Find many resources for more information.

Gedpractice.com

This service provides practice on the kind of reading, thinking, and problem-solving skills students will need to pass the GED test. The site also sells preparation materials for a fee.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Language Arts, Writing, Social Studies, Science, Math, Reading
Comments:
Once you register for the service, you can view the practice questions. The site includes answers and explanations.

About.com's GED page

Find strategy for taking the GED test, as well as resources, on this site.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Test-Taking Tips, Math, other resources
Comments:
The site may be a bit difficult to navigate, but there are some useful resources there.

4Tests.com

Take free online tests on this site.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Practice tests in Reading, Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies
Comments:
While there isn't much here in the way of instruction, the practice tests will be useful for anyone planning to take the GED.

GED Resource Center

The site includes news and information about the tests and teaching tips.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Teaching tips in the form of PDF downloads include "Understanding and Evaluating Organization in Writing," "Calculator Instruction Offers Active Learning Experience," and others.
Comments:
The site is useful for learning about changes in the test and other facts about the test.

Learning Objective/Assessment

CIOF Compilation of Centers' Learning Objectives Standards Matrix

Both these sites provide standards to measure a student's skill level and to ensure that the curriculum is meeting the learning objectives.

Cost:
Free
Format:
Online (self-paced)
Courses:
Basic Computer Courses, Word Processing, Internet, Spreadsheets
Comments:
These sites could be helpful as a tool when developing curriculum.

MAPP: Motivational Appraisal for Personal Potential

Using the MAPP tools, educators can help students identify career goals, learning style, and motivations that will facilitate the career planning process.

Cost:
$19.95 or free for students at a participating school
Format:
Online assessment
Courses:
Assessments are for Kindergarten and Grades 1-12.
Comments:
By assessing students, the site says it can help students pick classes and identify the best way for them to learn.