Universities and Colleges Hurt Students by Allowing Them to Graduate without Basic Computer Skills

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Universities and colleges are responsible for graduating students with the skills necessary to thrive and lead in a rapidly changing technological environment. Meanwhile, businesses and organizations are putting more emphasis on recruiting individuals with an understanding of computers and information systems. Despite this development, there an increasingly common predicament found among new college graduates in Liberia wanting to enter the job force. This “predicament” is the lack of basic computer knowledge and skills.

There are many reasons why Liberian college graduates come out of school without the right computer skills. Some of these reasons include but not limited to the lack of fully equipped computer labs at institutions of higher learning, the lack of learning and teaching materials (textbooks, CDs, software), the recurrent use of obsolete materials (pamphlets on the history of computers and nothing relating to what is used in today’s workplace), students’ readiness to buy grades to evade classes that they erroneously believe have no impact on their future professional pursuits, and the lack of qualified instructors.  

At a minimum, students should be graduating college or even high school with reasonable knowledge and skills in using electronic word processors, spreadsheet software, presentation and communication software, etc. The imperativeness of having these skills is the result of the paradigm shift in today’s workplace, which is driven by technology and the need for information.

Many institutions of higher learning around the world require their students to take at least two semesters of computer applications courses. These courses introduce students to the uses of computers and the Internet. In particular, students are introduced to the use of word processors (MS Word or Open Office Writer), electronic spreadsheets (MS Excel or Open Office Calc), presentation software (MS PowerPoint or Open Office Presentation), communication software (email, chat, etc), database (MS Access, or Open Office Base), and desktop publishing (MS Publisher or Scribus). These courses not only help new graduates in the workplace, but they also help them while they are in college as well.

The responsibility for ensuring that students graduate with these skills falls on universities and colleges. That is, these institutions need to ensure that adequate resources (equipped computer labs, textbooks, software, qualified instructors, etc) are made available for students to learn and gain these skills. College instructors should begin integrating technology in their instructional delivery and methods to ensure that students garner the skills needed in the workplace. Instructors should require that students type their assignments, forcing them (students) to garner sufficient word processing and typing skills. Students should be required to include tables, graphs and charts in their assignments to enable them manipulate business productivity tools and applications.  

Basically, what I am trying to say is that every accounting student who graduates from a college or university must be able to use a spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel or Open Office Calc. In addition he/she must know how to use word processors to be able to electronically prepare documents (letters, memos, etc). Management students should be able to use MS Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. They must be required to present their assignments, thesis or projects using presentation software (MS PowerPoint or OpenOffice Presentation). All students’ final assignments must be presented using presentation software that integrates of all business productivity software. This way, we can determine their understanding of the computing applications taught them in previous classes, and whether they are to ready meet the computer literacy requirements of the workplace.

Also, in today’s work environment some level of online collaboration or communications is required. The opportunities for web-enhanced business activities are virtually limitless, hence college graduates will need to be comfortable using computers and the Internet to participate in business activities that make use of virtual spaces. The ability to conduct research online for professional or academic purposes is an important skill to have these days. The internet has made access to databases very easy thus facilitating employees’ tasks in the workplace, and students’ academic pursuits in the academic environment.

Almost every job nowadays requires that employees have access to email since it is often used for communication in the workplace. For this reason, each student must have an email account and know how to use one upon graduation from college. In addition, college graduates must have knowledge of the social media and actively engage them in order to compete in this global environment. Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, have become so popular in the work environment to the extent they have been incorporated as professional tools.

Now, while the bulk of the burden of providing basic computer skills to college students falls on their various institutions, students on the other hand have a responsibility to ensure that they obtain these skills before they graduate college. Students who buy grades and listen to instructors or friends tell them that since they are not going to be computer scientists, they don’t need to focus on computer classes should stop and think and consider the world we live in. We are in a technology-driven world where every job that is posted comes with the clause: “MUST BE COMPUTER LITERATE.” Paying $25 to get out of a computer class will cost you at least $400 to get those computer skills at a computer school post-graduation, or probably several job opportunities.

Finally, for us to achieve the economic development we continue to seek, we must provide the needed capacity for our people. We must prepare them be ready to work and compete not just locally, but globally. Therefore, it is binding upon all stakeholders to utilize our collective genius and resources to provide the learning environment that will provide the skills necessary to empower our future generation. An empowered future generation will be able to meet the demands of changing times and the changing workplace.

That’s all for today! Until next week,

Carpe diem!

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