(5/4/11) – The Vermont State Colleges (VSC) are offering a variety of tools to help residents of e-Vermont communities learn basic computer skills. This year, they are expanding their workshop on the basics to include sessions for a new audience – anyone who works with people new to the Internet. If there is one important thing for us all to learn from VSC work, it is that the online world is not beginner friendly! But there are things we can do to make it easier to learn.
One of the first basic skills workshops took place in West Rutland in January, 2011. There, instructor Lauren Olewnik used the case of looking for health information online to introduce basic skills for navigating the worldwide web. She gave a free pass on the first confusing step in navigation – finding the site with the information you want – by sending everyone to the National Institute on Aging [http://www.nia.nih.gov/] page.
For people who are familiar with web pages, it’s a pretty straightforward site. Now, take a second look and tally all the different ways you might find information on this page: menus across the top, menus in the body of the page, highlights along the side, drop down menus, hyperlinks, an on-page search box, a browser search box, a browser address bar, and (at the bottom) a site map. Think about all the forms the information you’re looking for might take: text on the webpage, downloadable PDF, Word document or Excel file, link to another page, videos, audio recordings, even interactive discussion sites where you have to evaluate the credibility of each answer.
And of course finding all of this information assumes you understand what it means to roll over a link and have it change color, or how to scroll down through a menu, or what a PDF icon represents.