By VIVIAN CARROLL
While challenges such as financial difficulties, being a caregiver, and finding time to study are concerns for the nontraditional college student aged 40 and above, a new challenge is becoming familiar: learning to navigate the computer.
Ron Johnson, a third-year student, has taken technology basics for college, but finds it confusing. “I’m barely able to use Blackboard to get assignments for homework,” he said. “I can’t comprehend how to send e-mails.”
Johnson prefers writing on paper to using a computer. “It’s alien to me,” he said. “I’m lost.”
Terrifying But Necessary
Transfer student and studio arts major, Linda Smock, has written papers on a personal computer and uses e-mails and Facebook to communicate with family in Venezuela. Learning Microsoft Word on a Mac, however, has been a challenge. “The thought of coming to grips with this new technology was terrifying,” she said.
To keep on top of her Tech 101 homework, Smock takes copious notes in class and reviews them at home. She also keeps a weekly appointment with a tech tutor in the Learning Lab.
Although Rachelle P., a double-major transfer student, taught herself to use a PC, she finds using the Adobe Illustration in digital arts a challenge. “The Mac is a beast,” she said, “but learning the new technology is necessary for success.”
Navigating the Beast
When asked why the Mac is featured in IAIA’s computer classroom instead of another operating system such as Windows, Jeminie Shell, retention director at IAIA, said the Mac’s features are useful for the creative artist. Smock agrees with her assessment.
Shell acknowledges that most of the staff at IAIA use a PC. The technology basics class, she said, is there to help increase a student’s computer skills.
Nami Okuzono, one of five tech tutors in the Learning Lab, began as a tutor when the program started late in the spring semester of 2015. So far, including those from the previous semester, she has assisted a total number of nine tutees who were 50 or above.
Tech Tutors in Demand
Shell points out that from the final weeks of the spring semester to this fall semester (as of September 18), the five tech tutors have been scheduled for 105 sessions by students seeking help.
“Most students,” Okuzono said, “come in with specific questions. What is a flash drive? What is Cloud? What is a PDF?”
“They drop by for help to submit their homework online,” Okuzono continues. “Often, the students are lost. They find ideas hard to grasp. They are afraid of making mistakes.”
Keys to Surviving
Okuzono encourages her nontraditional tutees by giving them tips to understand concepts of how technical things work. She has even drawn pictures to explain the OneDrive system. Although Johnson hasn’t made use of the Learning Lab, he knew Okuzono in art class. He said he learned new techniques to approach the computer from her.
Sixteen percent of the students enrolled in the fall semester are aged 40 and above. Keys for these students to survive the new technology, Shell said, is persistence, determination and curiosity. She encourages older students to be resourceful and self-advocating. “Any transition requires a new way of thinking.”
As proof of a nontraditional student’s success over technology, Tech 101 instructor Steve Fadden said the oldest computer student to come through his class was 76 years old. ”˜[He] did finish the class with a high grade,” Fadden said. “It took six or seven weeks for [him] to become comfortable on a Mac.”
“[He] was dealing with layers of shock,” Fadden continued. “One was being in a classroom with people young enough to be [his] grandchildren.”
(Featured Photo: Transfer student, Linda Smock, in Tech 101 class. Photo by Vivian Carroll)