ccDaily > For Plus 50 students, it's about computer skills

For Plus 50 students, it's about computer skills


Plus 50 students in the Digital International Connections Experience class at San Jacinto College in Texas.

Photo: SJC

​Eliminating technological barriers through building computer skills removes a common hurdle for many students age 50 and older as they try to return to college.

To nip the problem, many community colleges participating in the Plus 50 Encore Completion program — which is administered by the American Association of Community Colleges and supported by Deerbrook Charitable Trust — often provide basic computer boot camps at no cost to older learners. This outreach effort introduces the transition back to college and is a vehicle to recruit students into workforce training programs focused on healthcare, education or social service fields. 

Kaye Moon Winters, Plus 50 Encore Completion coordinator at San Jacinto College (SJC) in Texas, says the college’s computer skills-building classes are popular and successful because its computer center — dubbed Never2Late, or N2L — provides resources and convenience for students, including accommodating hours, tutors and a certification of completion. It has successfully served students such as 52-year-old Randy, who recalls his first failed attempt at SJC in 1982.

“When I came back this time, I was so nervous because every classroom had computers in them. I’d been in the workforce so long but needed the computer skills, so I knew I had to face this fear,” he said.

Overcoming back-to-school fear to make a new start

Randy took five classes when he enrolled at SJC, but his fear of the computer class is what almost prompted him to drop out of college again.

“If I hadn’t had the good luck to have a gentleman named Leander Nash for a counselor, I really would have walked. I told him I didn’t think I’d be able to pass BCIS [a business computer course] and he said, ‘I know what you need to do. Walk down with me to N2L,’” Randy recalled.

The center was what Randy needed to gain confidence in his computer skills and stay in college. 

Plus 50 Initiative leads to good jobs for older workers

Other colleges have similar approaches in offering free computer classes, but they are unique in their own way. South Arkansas Community College provides an eight-hour basic computer course that is open to all students, and it is free to those over age 50. The course also serves as a good way to collect responses to the college’s Plus 50 Needs Assessment survey. 

In California, El Camino College’s free computer basics boot camp is for adults age 50 and over who have enrolled in the two health care programs (pharmacy technician and medical coding and billing) that are part of its Plus 50 Encore Completion Program.

Such services are invaluable to help older learners transition back into college.

“The most successful aspect of our program is the mere fact that we have a program for people plus 50,” said SJC's Moon Winters.