Scan any job posting, from entry level to senior management, and it will inevitably list software and hardware programs that the successful applicant must be skilled in using. But a lack of key IT skills, such as creating spreadsheets to calculate and analyze data or being able to do advanced searches on the Internet, leaves many community college graduates at a disadvantage as they enter the workforce.
“Because people often don’t go to community college straight from high school, there may be a gap in their technology skills,” explains EDC’s Joyce Malyn-Smith. “And in many cases, community college faculty are not comfortable in teaching these skills.”
EDC has been working with industry and education partners to develop a curricular framework and resources for teaching and assessing IT core applications in career and academic programs. The Information Technology Across Careers (ITAC) project will help ensure that community college and technical students are proficient in using core IT applications when they graduate and enter the workforce.
The ITAC project developed a set of 11 performance-based rubrics for the core IT applications that are commonly used in the workplace. Each rubric articulates four progressive levels of skill, from novice through above proficiency. For instance, a beginning learner or novice can enter numeric data into an existing spreadsheet, while a more advanced user is able to link data between different worksheets. The ITAC rubrics focus directly on the skills, independent of any particular brands of software.
“Examining what proficiency looks like in each of the core applications has never been done before,” says Malyn-Smith. “The rubrics not only show the skills needed to become competent, but they help students to understand what they are expected to be able to do in the workplace.”
ITAC materials help students prepare for their future careers in several ways. For example, IT in Action statements illustrate how people across different careers use IT in their work. Lesson templates, which can be customized by instructors, guide students, step by step, through the process of using the technology at the proficiency level (as defined by the rubrics).
“Employers don’t want someone to just push a button. They want someone with adaptable skills who can figure out the next thing,” says EDC’s Linda Scott. “The lessons give an authentic workplace experience and really speak to what doing the IT application is like. Given a task, some level of information, and a set of constraints, the student must figure out how to best use the application in the context of the job.”
All materials can be downloaded free of charge from the ITAC website. The project also maintains an extensive indexed list of Web-based resources through its social bookmarking site on Delicious.
ITAC is funded by the National Science Foundation, Advanced Technological Education division.
Originally published on July 16, 2010