Ready-Made Computer Courses for Library Patrons (and Staff!)

Carousel of LearningExpress Library modules with Computer Skills at the fore

Anytime you’re providing the public service of free and open access to internet-connected computers, it’s important to also provide training on their use. This can be particularly challenging for small and rural libraries, where extra staff may not be available to provide tutelage to patrons, or in circumstances where the library staff members or volunteers aren’t comfortable enough with the technology to feel they can provide meaningful assistance. In this post, I’ll provide an overview of LearningExpress Library’s Computer Skills Center, a resource that both patrons and staff can use to develop their computer skills.

Access to LearningExpress is funded for all libraries in North Dakota by the North Dakota State Library. Patrons can also access it from home, though probably not until they’ve mastered the basics at one of your public access computers. You can find LearningExpress on our databases page or use this direct link to connect to it from your library’s website.

While the LearningExpress courses are thorough and wonderful, there are a few little details you’ll need to be aware of before we get started…

The first is that the video courses included run on Flash, so you’ll have to make sure that’s installed on all your public access computers (if you haven’t previously installed it, be sure to opt out of any offers they make you for software like McAfee Security Scan Plus).

The second is that when you launch them, they open a popup window containing the chosen video course–so if you’re using a popup blocker, you’ll have to add an exception (your browser will guide you through this simple process when you attempt to launch a course if it’s needed–be sure to do this on all your public access computers).

The final one, which is in all honestly a bit silly, is that any user of LearningExpress Library’s Computer Skills Center will need to create an account (if you already have a LearningExpress 3.0 account from another collection of courses, it will work). Ordinarily this wouldn’t be problematic, but in the case of someone needing basic computer skills training, it is a bit of a bother as it requires an email address. This is mitigated somewhat by the “Get an Email” link from the registration form that contains helpful instructions and will guide users to one of several popular, free, and reputable email services. There is also an instructional video on how to use LearningExpress to further ease folks into it.

Now that that bit of nastiness is out of the way, let’s explore how this otherwise brilliant resource works… When you first connect to LearningExpress Library, you will see the lovely carousel of course modules depicted at the head of this post. Select Computer Skills to open up this friendly course center:

Home screen of the Computer Skills CenterOnce you’re here, you’ll see another carousel of the broad course categories, mid-screen. There’s a log-in and registration box in the lower right and tabs at the top that can helpfully take you to the User Guides, where the video on how to use LearningExpress lives.

When you select a category, such as Get Started with Your Computer, you will be taken to a collection of courses grouped under different tabs (comprehensive listing below).

To launch a course, simply click on the Launch button next to the class of interest: Picture of the course launch interface

If you’re not already signed in, you will be prompted to do so now. If you don’t already have an account, here’s what their short registration screen looks like:

LearningExpress's account registration screen

Having an account is not only necessary to take courses, it’s also quite helpful as it allows you to manage all the LearningExpress Courses you’ve taken, view the progress you’ve made within each one, and easily continue any given course.

Okay, so now that you’re signed in and you’ve clicked a course Launch button, a new window will magically appear, and your video course will automatically commence:

Image of a video course framed by the LearningExpress navigation interface

You’ll notice that there’s a table of contents on the left, so you can jump ahead if there’s a specific sub-topic that you need assistance with. There are standard play, pause, skip backwards, skip forwards, and volume tools below the video.

Easy peasy, right? So what sorts of videos will you find? Here’s a list:

Get Started With Your Computer

Getting to Know Your Computer

  • Roles of Computers
  • Personal Computer Fundamentals

Using Your Desktop Applications

  • The Basics of Windows 7
  • Customizing Windows 7
  • Application Basics
  • Organizing Data
  • Web Browsing
  • Printing

Computer Safety and Maintenance

  • Maintenance and Security

Get Started with the Internet

Discover the Internet

  • What is the Internet?
  • Surfing the Internet
  • The Internet as a Search Tool
  • Using One-on-One Communications

Using Your Email

  • Email Etiquette

Social Media Tools

  • Branching Out Using the Internet
  • Understanding Social Networking
  • Using Web Tools

Internet Safety

  • Protecting Yourself Online

Wowzers! That covers the core introductory ground, but that’s not all that’s in the Computer Skills Center. Additionally, there are basic through advanced courses for all recent versions of the following popular software applications:

  • Microsoft Access
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Outlook
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Microsoft Project
  • Microsoft Publisher
  • Microsoft SharePoint Designer
  • Microsoft Visio
  • Microsoft Word
  • Adobe Dreamweaver
  • Adobe Flash
  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Adobe Photoshop

The center also includes video courses on the following computer operating systems:

  • Windows XP
  • Windows Vista
  • Windows 7
  • Windows 8
  • Mac OS X Leopard

That’s all for now–happy learning!

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