The Montana BTOP program has assisted 43 libraries in purchasing computers for patron use. If you have not already begun offering computer usage classes it is time to start. Here are some tips for offering computer classes.
1. Choose a topic that will benefit people in your community. Every library community has different needs and patrons with varying levels of computer skills. You will need to assess your community and decide what classes would be of the most benefit. Here is a list of suggestions for possible class offerings.
basic computer skills – navigating the desktop, using the mouse, opening windows, scrolling, saving documents
Microsoft product classes – Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneNote
Online health information
Personal laptop care and safety including virus scans, connecting to Wi-Fi, & travel safety
2. Decide who will present the class.
a. Depending on the class and the skill level of your staff, you may have someone working at the library who can present the class. Some classes may require a guest speaker. You may have a professional in your community who would be willing to teach a class. Your local schools and County Extension Agency are good resources for finding qualified presenters. This creates an opportunity for you to develop partner relationships within your community. Some examples of partnerships would include your local Job Service Center, Medical Centers, Senior Centers, local computer businesses, and local Internet Service providers. Presenter fees can be an issue; however, many people are happy to volunteer if asked. Volunteer work is a great resume builder and helps develop professional networks.
b. Another option is to use class materials that are already developed and just need a presenter. For example, Microsoft has developed a class called My PC Series. Microsoft has developed the lesson plans, the instructor’s guides, the PowerPoint presentations, and the handouts. These are available as a free download from the Internet. Once these have been downloaded they are ready to use. The chosen instructor will need to spend some time learning the information and preparing for the class, but the instructor guide gives step-by-step instructions for how to teach the class including talking points and the amount of time needed for each activity.
3. Plan the lesson and how it will be presented – See lesson plan template.
a. Decide what will be the objectives for the class. In other words, what will the student take away from the class? The objectives are usually a list of three or four concrete skills that will be taught and could be demonstrated at the end of the class.
b. Create any handouts and prepare any materials for the class. Sometimes handouts are not necessary, but if they are needed they should be prepared before the class begins.
c. Create an outline of how the information and materials will be presented.
4. Choose a target audience for the class.
a. Is the class for any adult community member? Is the class for seniors only? Teens?
b. Each age group will have a different set of background knowledge to bring to the class. For example, Teens are pretty tech savvy, as they have had lots of exposure to technology in their short lives. Older adults may have used computers, but may not feel comfortable or happy doing so.
5. Choose a date and time for the class that will work for your target audience.
a. Be mindful of other community activities, especially if you live in a rural area.
b. Realize that no time will be perfect for everyone.
6. Advertise in locations that your target audience frequent, and think beyond your library. Advertising only at your library will limit your reach.
a. If your class is for senior citizens, advertise at your local senior center and retirement communities. If your class is for teens, advertise at the school. If you are offering an adult class, advertise at your local grocery stores, restaurants, banks, and gas stations.
b. Posters and flyers are cheap and easy to create and can effectively reach a wide audience. See Template.
c. Postcards are also easy to create and can be mailed to a target audience, or they can be handed out at your circulation desk. See Template.
d. Ask your local churches to include the class offering in their Sunday announcements.
e. Ask local organizations with affiliations to your target audience to include the class announcement in their next meeting agenda.
f. You can consider putting the message in community newsletters.
g. Your local newspaper is another way to get the word out.
7. Plan for a sign-up system if you have a limited number of computers.
a. Cancellations happen, so have a waiting list too if your class is popular.
b. Think about offering a second class session if you have a large number of people desiring to take the class.
8. Host the class.
a. Plan a practice run through to make sure everything works.
b. Prepare your computers, and make sure they are operational prior to the event. Make sure the necessary programs are loaded and working properly.
c. Set up any additional equipment early. Be ready to go at least 30 minutes before your event. People often arrive early and may want to chat.
9. Evaluate the class.
a. You can ask your students to fill out a class evaluation.
b. But also do a self-evaluation of the experience. What went well? What needs improvement? What changes would you make the next time?
10. Congratulation you did it! Now you are ready to plan your next class.