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Learning to Use Business Software

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By Clay Hougland

When we purchase new computers, they come loaded with software and goodies galore. It is wonderful to own sophisticated desktop publishing or database software, but a real pity when it is not fully used because of the time commitment and steep learning curve required to master anything but a basic use. As parents we may never find the time to spend learning how to use WordPerfect 11 or Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004 in depth. That should not stop us from finding ways to help our children explore these programs and become expert users. Expert knowledge of a variety of software packages could give a teen the edge in getting a summer internship or in finding a good paying job after they graduate.

The first place to look for software instruction is within the software itself. For example Macromedia Flash MX comes with step by step lessons and tutorials. Macromedia Dreamweaver software comes with a tutorial project that allows the user to actually complete the lesson steps in an actual website. Most software comes with support links that lead to areas online that the manufacturer has placed a knowledge base or other resources to help their customers get the most from their software. Macromedia has an exchange where users can get additional software add-ins that often make using the software easier on the novice.

A second place to look for help in learning to use software is the bookstore. Most people are now familiar with the yellow and black covers of the " . . . for Dummies" books. These books work from the understanding that you know less than nothing about the book's topic and want to have everything described in terms you can understand. These are great introductory books, but you also will want to consider buying books that go more in depth. Look for publishers like Que Corporation, Sams Net, Ventana, and ZD Press. Computer books are expensive, but remember if you are using them to help in your child's education you can use teacher discounts at stores like Borders or Barnes and Noble. Once they have released a new version of the software, books about previous versions drop way down in price. Take a quick look through the $9.99 computer book bin and see if any treasures are waiting for you there.

Most major computer software companies have a system of training courses for each of their products. Those who complete instructor certification programs and fulfill other guidelines can offer classes using company materials. These classes are often the best alternative for those that need a lot of verbal explanation and hands on help while learning. In your phone book you will find computer training companies offering classes in various software packages. Look for those who offer certified instructors. Most of the major computer retailers offer classes. You will even find individuals willing to come into your home to train you one-on-one in using a particular software package. Do not forget to check your local community or technical college for classes. Most of these classes cover a lot of material in just a few short hours. It pays to have some familiarity with the software before taking one of these classes. You also need to know how long you can spend in intense instruction before reaching your overload point. Once you reach that point it doesn't matter how carefully the instructor explains something, you just will not be able to grasp it.

If you live in a fairly large metropolitan area you may have access to traveling seminars offered by the software publisher. These conferences or seminars often offer incentives of free software to soften the enormous cost of attending. If you want to schmooze with the folks that really know the ins and outs, this is where you want to go, but you will pay for the opportunity.

You will also find many companies offering computer software training on the Internet. These range from online courses that can be quite expensive to companies selling video or CD instruction. I have listed a sample of companies that specialize in this type of video or CD computer training. You can find many more by using a search engine like Google and the terms "computer" and "training." You will also want to check your local library. Many libraries are including computer training videos and CDs in their collections.

True facility in using any software comes from repeated use. Publishing a family newsletter or creating a statistical database for the homeschool basketball team can be fun ways to use new computer skills. Desktop publishing is in high demand in the business world. Your teen could develop his own business publishing newsletters for the local veterinarian or dentist. These are great additions to a portfolio.

List of Resources:

  • Corel WordPerfect Office Learning Resources
    Corel offers links to third party vendors they recommend for training in Corel software use.
  • Microsoft Training
    The training section of the Microsoft websites offers a variety of resources including training partner links and the Microsoft eLearning Library.
  • Macromedia Exchange
    Flash, Dreamweaver, and ColdFusion exchanges are just three of the Macromedia exchanges available to Macromedia software owners.
  • New Horizons
    This company offers several ways to obtain instruction including classroom instruction, online live, and online anytime.
  • The Software Video Company
    This company offers CD sets costing $99.95 to $149.95 each. They are designed as work at your own pace tutorials. Example: Macromedia Dreamweaver MX is a 3 CD set that takes your through all the Dreamweaver functionality. Demos of each course are available on the site.
  • Atomic Learning
    Online narrated QuickTime screen movie software training for school, home, and business. Over 5000 tutorial movies. A one year subscription to the site is $79.99.

Product and brand names used in this article are the property of their respective owners. The absence of a service mark or trademark symbol in connection with the marks identifying products or services does not indicate the absence of registration of those marks.

Copyright ©  2004  Eclectic Homeschool Association

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