Free technical tutorials

By Shardae Smith

In October, Columbia announced the offer of free access to the Museum of Contemporary Art for the college. Now, the college is presenting free access to,

an online learning website that offers video tutorials on a wide range of computer software.

As a joint effort between the college’s Center for Instructional Technology and the Information Technology Department, Columbia students, faculty and staff have full access to the courses the website offers at no additional cost.

“[ is for] anyone who wants to engage in online learning but might not have the chance to attend classroom sessions on how to learn a particular software or hardware process,” said Ashley Kennedy, adjunct faculty in the Television Department and digital media technologist for the CIT. “They can go to and learn at their own pace and learn the software they want to target and feel comfortable choosing the classes they want to attend.” is set up for beginners who want to learn the fundamentals of certain programs and users who want to build on prior knowledge, according to Kennedy.

“We’re trying to supplement what’s happening [in the curricula] for students and provide opportunities for training and enhancement,” said Rebecca Courington, director of the CIT and assistant vice president of Academic Technology in the Academic Affairs Department. “A lot of departments are teaching this software in their classes, and this way students have extra resources they can use. It can free up some class time.”

A premium package for the tutorial classes the website offers costs $375 per year for individual subscription. The college purchased a yearlong corporate license for $30,000, according to Bernadette McMahon, associate vice president and chief information officer for the Information Technology Department.

The Television and Art and Design departments asked if it would be possible to explore purchasing a collegewide license so individual departments and students would not have to pay for the service, according to Courington.

“This is an initiative for the entire college because a lot of academic departments and some administrative departments have already been using,” McMahon said.

Kennedy is also an author for She and a full-time producer for the website created an online training course on how to use Media Composure video editing software.

“It’s really wide-reaching,” Kennedy said. “I’ve gotten e-mails from students and faculty [at other institutions] who need to teach this stuff, thanking me for putting out this course.”

Kennedy said she currently offers the website and her course as supplemental education for her students if they need extra help, but it will be mandatory for them to use in the future.

McMahon said she has already noticed visitors to the site, and the license will be renewed if the college continues to take advantage of the offer.

“People are using the website to brush up on special features,” McMahon said. “So maybe it’s a special feature inside of Photoshop or a special feature inside of Excel for our administration staff [if] they don’t know how to do some type of calculation.”

As of now, free access to is available only for students, faculty and staff to use while on campus, but a second phase of the offer is being arranged for off-campus access through Oasis by spring 2011 or sooner, according to McMahon.