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Useful computer skills for freshmen (Released: 8/22/96)

by Ken Ross, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- The most important computer-related skill a freshman can bring to the university is the ability to type, says Katherina Sorrentino, computer manager in the University of Connecticut Computer Center.

Good typing skills -- keyboarding -- allows a student to abandon the old two-finger "hunt and peck" method. That, in turn, will make a computer much easier to use.

"That's one of the best skills a student can have," says Sorrentino. "Schools in general are beginning to recognize that typing is important, and they're starting the program for younger students"

Besides keyboarding, however, students are coming to campus with increasingly sophisticated computer skills, she says.

"Five or six years ago we offered a number of introductory courses on topics such as word processing or spreadsheets," Sorrentino says. "Today many students come into the university already equipped with those skills. We see more and more students who know how to use e-mail and the Internet. Students routinely use computers for correspondence and research."

Most students will be unfamiliar with how to use a university's enterprise server for e-mail or to gain access to the Internet, but that's a skill that students can learn easily.

Computer accounts for e-mail are popular, and increasingly professors are conducting on-line discussion groups. Faculty members also are placing class assignments, notes, syllabus, exams and other material on-line in what universities call the "virtual classroom." In UConn's case, that's at web address http://yoda.ucc.uconn.edu. In addition course reserve materials usually stored on paper in the library are now on-line in what UConn calls the "electronic course reserves" at web address http://www.lib.uconn.edu.

Sorrentino notes that during the first few weeks of the new semester, students line the Computer Center corridors to request a computer account. Students spread the message by word-of-mouth.

"A few students find out about it and tell their friends, and then students come in hordes," she says. "They find out they can talk to their friends (by e-mail) and to Mom and Dad or even create their own Web page."

The accounts are popular. At UConn, for example, nearly half the 23,000 full-time or part-time students at all campuses have a mainframe e-mail account, Sorrentino notes. And that's before the fall rush that will begin Aug. 26.

She cautions students not to be intimidated if they're beginning university life without computer skills. "If you come in with computer experience, that's great, but if not, you can learn it when you get here. We provide computer training at the Computer Center to bring the novice to a comfortable working level. In just three one-hour sessions students can learn to use the enterprise server, e-mail and to surve the world wide web. Students take off with technology."

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