Having run workshops and courses for women returners and administrative staff over the past 8 years Jackie Sherman is very much in touch with the concerns women have about working with computers. She is well aware of the fears female learners and work returners have of being out of date. If you are one of these, there is no other book that specifically covers the issues that concern you.
Having looked through this book, you may feel that you would like to attend an IT class where you would have the support of a tutor and could gain a qualification recognised by employers.
At the present time, there are three types of computing course that are ideal for women returning to work or anyone hoping to develop their career. All are accepted by employers as an indication of computer literacy, and they are usually available on a part-time basis or are built into longer courses that also include networking, careers guidance and job search techniques.
Organisations running these courses include Colleges of Further Education, University Continuing Education Departments and Adult Education/Lifelong Learning Departments within local authorities. The courses last from a few weeks to a whole year, depending on the number of modules you decide to take and the level of the course; they are available as daytime or evening classes and are usually free or fairly inexpensive. There is also the option to take some of the courses online in your own home where you will have tutor support via the telephone or e-mail.
The examining body OCR offers a 3-tier qualification: Level 1 (New CLAIT), Level 2 (CLAIT Plus) and Level 3 (Advanced CLAIT). All the syllabus details can be found at www.ocr.org.uk.
CLAIT stands for Computer Literacy and Information Technology, and the Level 1 qualification, New CLAIT, requires a pass in 4 units chosen from word processing, spreadsheets, charts, presentations, desktop publishing, e-mail and the Internet (or Becoming Webwise – provided by the BBC and taken online), computer art, presentations and databases. There is also a mandatory unit on using a computer.
Gaining the certificate involves working though 2-hour assignments that test your basic understanding of the chosen software e.g. the word processing unit asks you to type out a short article accurately, format the text, replace words, move a block of text to a new position and print hard copies of your work.
The European Computer Driving Licence is a longer course as you must pass all 7 units to gain the full certificate and each unit is broader in scope than the equivalent in New CLAIT. It is therefore seen as nearer to the OCR Level 2 course, CLAIT Plus. The units are: word processing, spreadsheets, file management, databases, presentations, e-mail and the Internet and basic concepts of IT. Full details of the latest ECDL syllabus can be found at www.ecdl.com.
In theory, you can simply register to take the test when you feel you have mastered any unit, but most people attend training centres where they work through self-study modules or are taught normally before sitting the test. Each test is often taken and marked on-line so that you receive the results immediately after you finish. You will have a ‘logbook’ and this is stamped each time you complete a unit so that you can build up to the final qualification over time.
OPEN COLLEGE NETWORK
A third organisation that accredits computing courses is the National Open College Network found at www.nocn.org.uk. Many colleges or community education centres offer courses that are locally assessed by OCN and you may like the idea of gaining the qualification by building up a portfolio of work during your studies.
It is difficult to say which courses will be available as they can cover anything from very basic word processing to advanced desktop publishing or web page de-sign: provision will depend on demand in your area and the expertise of the teaching staff.
To find out about computing courses in your area or those that may be available over the Internet, a good place to start is Learn Direct which can be contacted on Tel: 0800 100 900 or found at www.learndirect.co.uk.
This organisation offers a searchable database of many hundreds of UK courses available through taught classes or via the Internet, and has centres where you can study in person.
LearnDirect also provides courses of its own but these do not lead to recognised qualifications. However, they are tied in with those already mentioned such as the ECDL, New CLAIT and CLAIT Plus so that, having finished a LearnDirect course you may feel ready to attempt one of these widely recognised qualifications.