Addressing Gaps in Technological Literacy submitted by Megan Fowler, Assistant Professor/Librarian

Cuyahoga Community College (CCC) is a multi-campus community college located across Northeast Ohio.  When COVID-19 forced the college to move exclusively online in Spring 2020, one of the many challenges that came to light was that students struggled with navigating the world of online instruction.  Some students didn’t have the requisite hardware needed for learning online, others lacked basic internet access.  While measures were put into place by the college to address these problems (opening up on-campus computer labs, encouraging students to access WIFI from the parking lot, teaming up with PCs for People), issues related to students’ lack of technological literacy arose. Instructors reported that students were struggling with many of the skills needed for online learning, including navigating the College’s LMS, email platform, and web conferencing software, and a general lack of computer fluency.  These issues were particularly evident at the Metro Campus of CCC, located in the city of Cleveland.  The Metro Campus Learning Commons was asked to help bridge this knowledge gap.

While the idea of helping to actively solve a problem so steeped in systemic inequality was daunting, one potential idea surfaced: could we offer a credit bearing class to vulnerable students, teaching them computer basics and the requisite technological skills needed for success in an online learning environment?  A proposal for a course was drafted by CCC Metro Campus librarians.  Collaboration occurred amongst the campus librarians, the Learning Commons staff, the Counseling department, the Liberal Arts department, and the Campus President’s office to finalize the curriculum, identify students for the new class, and ensure funding.  This proposal led to a two credit hour Technology Basics class offered in the Fall.  The Campus President was able to fully fund two sections of the course at no cost to the students.

The class is taught by a faculty librarian with the assistance of a Learning Commons staff member.  It is a hybrid course that starts in-person and gradually moves to a fully online class.  The goal of the class is for students to become more familiar with using the computer and Internet for learning, hopefully better preparing them for success in their other online classes.  While we are currently unable to assess the success of the class, as it is in the midst of its first semester, it is slated to be offered again in the Spring.  Once the first iteration of the class is complete, we will evaluate the course and make adjustments where needed.

While this class was conceived in response to the situation COVID-19 created for many of our students, it did highlight issues in technological literacy that existed long before the pandemic.  It is our hope that the Technology Basics class will become a fixed offering for students and will ensure that they can succeed in any environment.