Microsoft Corporation is one of VCRD’s partners in the Vermont Digital Economy Project. Through a generous in-kind donation of three discounted three-year licenses of their extensive catalog of online courses called the Microsoft IT Academy Program ® (ITA), Microsoft has enabled the project to expand free online digital workforce education in three regions of Vermont. Microsoft’s donation also helps us to fulfill a significant portion of our matching funds commitment to our federal funding entity, the Economic Development Administration. Over the past year, we’ve described the scope of Microsoft ITA, launched the free training at Rutland’s CCV facility, and explained why we think everyone should consider taking these courses. Presently, we’re working to implement additional licenses at the Vermont Technical College in Randolph and the Fletcher Free Library in Burlington.

Eric Sakai, Community College of Vermont’s Dean of Academic Technology, has been so impressed with the online classes in Rutland, that CCV will be implementing the IT Academy at all 12 CCV locations this coming fall. Below is an article that Eric submitted with more information about that decision.  

In July 2013, the Community College of Vermont’s (CCV) academic center in Rutland began offering Microsoft IT Academy (ITA) to the public and to its students and faculty. ITA provides self-paced, online tutorials on many Microsoft products, such as Office, Windows, SQL server, and SharePoint. It also provides a wealth of materials for classroom instruction on these products. Through its partnership with the Vermont Digital Economy Project, CCV was provided with a free, three-year site license for ITA, in order to provide crucial workforce skills to Rutland-area residents.

The availability of ITA at CCV Rutland has generated an enthusiastic response. Since July, 55 participants, including 39 CCV students, faculty, and staff and 16 area residents, have spent nearly 450 hours on ITA and completed 13 courses. CCV Rutland Academic Coordinator Mike Keogh, who himself has spent over 50 hours on ITA courses, observed that, “IT Academy allows participants to learn at their own pace through easy-to-use online courses in essential computer programs like Microsoft Word and Excel.” Some ITA users have pursued more advanced learning in areas like database management and server administration.

In addition to self-paced online tutorials on basic software applications and more advanced platforms like SharePoint and SQL Server, ITA provides free instructional materials for faculty and free e-textbooks for students. ITA also offers professional development opportunities for CCV faculty and staff, such as becoming a Microsoft Certified Trainer or Microsoft Technology Associate. For those who aren’t ready to undertake online courses on software applications, ITA offers easy-to-use tutorials on basic computer skills to develop competence and confidence in using computers and the internet.

The successful deployment of ITA in Rutland has prompted CCV to make this resource available at all of its twelve academic centers throughout Vermont, beginning this fall. Vermont residents who are not already CCV students can go to a CCV center and enroll in a free noncredit course that gives them online access to ITA from CCV or from home, if they have a broadband internet connection. CCV students can enroll in ITA to build their computer skills independently or supplement their learning in computer, business, and other CCV studies.

As a complement to the extensive array of learning resources provided by ITA, CCV will designate its Rutland center as a Microsoft testing center for Microsoft Office Specialist certification. Beginning this fall, CCV students enrolled in ITA or other CCV courses may sit for exams on one or more of the several applications in the Microsoft Office suite, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access. Exams for the more advanced Expert and Master certifications in Office applications will also be available.

Certifications like those available from Microsoft are becoming more important as workforce credentials. College degrees significantly increase a person’s earning potential, but employers increasingly recognize certifications that document specific workplace skills. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 50% of today’s jobs require some degree of technology skills, and experts say that percentage will increase to 77% in the next decade.

CCV expects that offering ITA statewide will benefit Vermonters in other ways besides building crucial employment skills. Students, for example, may be adept at using social media like Facebook and Twitter, but they don’t necessarily have the computer skills required for their courses, including those in non-technical areas. And many people who aren’t students, job seekers, or employees in need of skill upgrades look for opportunities to learn how to use computers to communicate with family and friends, keep track of their finances, and enhance their creative endeavors. Computers have become such an important part of our daily lives that almost anyone has a good reason to learn how to use them better. IT Academy can help build the computer skills people need.