College Instructor Computer Skills

Computer skills are vital for virtually every college instructor. What should you do if you lack those skills?

Computer Skills Required to Teach College Courses

As a prospective college adjunct there are two things you should do when it comes to computer skills. First, find out what is expected. Second, upgrade your skills where they are lacking.

Basic computer skills that are required. You should have experience using a personal computer. You should be very comfortable using the basics of the Windows operating system for file management and general program use.The most common system is Windows 7. If your college has upgraded to the new Windows 8 operating system, and you have been using Windows 7 fear not. Your Windows 7 skills should carry your through.

When it comes to specific software skills, most colleges expect a good working knowledge of the Microsoft Office Products, at least MS Word. Though it may not be an expectation, Excel and PowerPoint are programs that can be of benefit to college instructors.

Most colleges also expect proficiency using e-mail. Colleges may not expect proficiency with their own system, but a comfort level using any email carrier will fill the bill.

I have not mentioned knowledge and skills with course software. I assume that you would not apply to teach a CAD course if you are not proficient with the software the college uses. However, you may not be up to speed with the latest version. It is vital that you have teaching level skills with the version of software your college uses.

Are Your Computer Skills Good Enough?

The gap between your personal computer skills and what is required by the college can be daunting. It may seem more of a canyon that a gap. Regardless, the first thing you must do is be honest with yourself. If the gap, or canyon if you will, is extremely large, you may want to take the time to retool. This might not be the right semester for you to begin teaching.

There is a problem for those who have minimal computer skills. Wait! You are reading this on the Internet. You obviously have some computer skills. I must apologize for what insulting you. My readers all have pretty good computer skills.

There may still be a problem even for you. Survival skills may get you by, they may get you the job, but you need to bring yourself up to speed in some areas. For example, while you can create a Microsoft Word document, can you format it to create a professional looking syllabus? That is something that is expected of all college instructors.

There may also be an opportunity to improve. If you are not reasonable skilled at creating a PowerPoint presentations, you may be missing robbing your students of a rich, effective learning environment.

Whether you need to improve your skills or simply want to improve your skills, you have several options. Pick the one that works best for you.

How to Improve Your Computer Skills

Here are several ways you can improve your computer skills.  Hear or the ones that I think can be most helpful:

  1. Buy a Computer if You Don’t Own One – Not just any computer.  You need to get experience working on a reasonably new computer, which means one that is probably no more than three years old.
  2. Get a High Speed Internet Connection – You will be required to communicate over the Internet.  Doing so from home can save a huge amount of time.  Furthermore, it gives you a venue for “practicing” more advanced Internet skills.
  3. Get Training at Your College – Find out what training is available at your college, and take advantage of it.
  4. Find a Mentor – It may be a spouse.  It may be a son or daughter.  It may be a close friend.  Regardless, having someone you can go to for help is invaluable.  (Note:  It is not wise to take driving lessons from your spouse.  That has always  been true for driving a car.  It is often true for driving a computer too.)
  5. Buy a Book or Training Video – Check out the examples below.  These are just a few of the self help instructional books that I would recommend.  By the way, those “For Dummies” books are really good.  And they are not for dummies.
  6. Look to the Internet – There is instructional information readily available on the Internet for every topic I can thing of.  This includes many well-produced YouTube videos.
  7. Pray – Okay, there are many highly successful college instructors who do not believe in the power of prayer.  Prayer is not a requirement for teaching success, certainly not for developing one’s computer skills.  But if you believe in the power of prayer, it will help.  🙂

Computer Training Resources

I have personally used “For Dummies” books and “Sams” books when I wanted to improve my computer skills.  I have not used the “Teach Yourself Visually” series, but I have checked the reviews.  Those who purchased these books gave them high ratings.

Before you purchase a self-training book be sure it is the right one for you.  Be sure that it covers the version of the software you want to learn.  Also, consider the “extras.”  Many books have CD’s or DVD’s that are included.  Many books also include access to online tutorials for those who purchase their books.


About Dr. Paul A. Hummel, Ed.D.

My name is Paul Hummel, and I often introduce myself to others as a recovering engineer. If you are familiar with the Dilbert cartoons, let me simply say that I lived all of that. I started my college saga at Illinois Institute of Technology. Eventually, I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Engineering Management. I worked for many years in industry, and during this time I did some college adjunct teaching. During my career I held several managerial positions in industry, the last as Director of Technology of a division of a Fortune 500 corporation. Then, in 1996, with minimal planning or forethought, I found myself working as a manufacturing consultant on behalf of Elgin Community College (ECC). My career in higher education began to take shape. I fell in love with ECC and with the mission of community colleges in general. I worked fulltime and occasionally taught college courses for my institution and two other colleges. After a couple years I set a goal to move over to the “credit side of the college” and eventually become a college administrator. In 2006, having earned my doctorate in education, I achieved that goal. I was hired by Waubonsee Community College as Dean for Technology, Mathematics and Physical Sciences. I have had the great fortune of working at two excellent colleges. The insights I want to share are drawn from the various college positions I have held. At ECC, in addition to my consulting role, I coordinated non-credit professional development training programs for three years and spent four years advising students in the TRiO Student Support Services program. That position helped me understand college education from the perspective of today’s college students. After seven years at Waubonsee, I retired April 30, 2013. I now devote my knowledge and skills to upgrading and expanding the websites I created beginning with Adjunct Assistance. I have three other websites: College Teaching Tips, Keys for College Success and Lighthouse for Learning. A lot of work lies ahead for me in terms of upgrading and expanding each of these websites, but I could not be more excited about fulfilling the vision I have for helping college instructors and their students succeed.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.