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FDLTCC offers free computer skills testing

Written by FDLTCC's Tom Urbanski For the Pine Journal

Adults who are unsure about their basic computer skills now have an opportunity through Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College to easily assess what they know, pinpoint what new computer skills they need to learn, and earn a certificate that shows potential employers what they know about basic computer skills.

The Northstar Basic Computer Skills Certificate program, offered free through FDLTCC, is aimed at helping adults acquire the skills they need in today’s workplace. The college has been using the program with current students this past semester in several business courses and career preparation courses and seminars.

“People lacking basic computer skills are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a job because employers expect computer skills for most jobs, including many entry-level positions,” said Ragan Balzer, eLearning Specialist at FDLTCC. “We are participating in the Northstar program because it will help our students and adults in the communities we serve have a better chance at getting jobs and getting ahead.”

Using a computer at work and for other tasks is increasingly a part of everyday life. But not everyone has had the opportunity to learn the basics of computer use. Any adult with limited computer experience and displaced workers without computer skills are welcome to participate in the digital literacy program. The end result for completing the program is earning a credential to prove their proficiency.

“We are offering this as a service to all community members for use as an assessment to demonstrate basic computer skills that an individual can then present to an employer,” said Balzer. “Employers can also use it as an educational training with employees to enhance computer skills. The program includes entry-level skills, including using Microsoft Word, email, operating systems, and internet searching. It is also great for helping learners who need to gain confidence.”

The program is a free, online, self-guided set of five assessment modules.

“The modules are based on a set of basic computer competency benchmarks developed by schools and colleges, business representatives, and non-profit agencies,” said Balzer. “These standards help ensure that area computer classes are teaching adult learners the exact skills they need to succeed in the workplace.”

To earn a certificate in one or more of the modules, adults must take the tests in a supervised setting at an approved sponsoring site. FDLTCC is among the community organizations using the standards as part of its programming and offering the certificates.

“Learners can work on the modules at home, at work, or at the public library anytime, but to earn the certificate they must come to campus to

complete the assessments in our approved setting,” said Balzer. “We’re doing this as part of our community outreach and as another way to deliver learning opportunities for technical literacy.”

Anyone can access the modules and take the assessments by going to At the end of each assessment, the user receives a page of results, which lists the skills that have been mastered and the areas that need improvement. To earn a certificate for each or all of the modules, individuals must take the assessments at an approved sponsoring site and receive a passing score of 85 percent or higher on each test. FDLTCC is one of only a few organizations offering the Northstar certificates in northeastern Minnesota. The next closest site is the Duluth Workforce Center.

The Certificate program is based on the Northstar Digital Literacy Standards, released in 2010. The Standards spell out the specific skills adults need to know and master to become computer literate. 

Sponsors of the Standards and Certificate program include the Saint Paul Public Library, St. Paul Community Literacy Consortium, the Minnesota Literacy Council, the Otto Bremer Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“Earning a certificate not only shows employers that the applicant knows the basic skills in a particular area, but it can also boost the confidence of the job-seeker and enhance his or her resume,” said Balzer. “With it, students and job seekers will often find greater opportunities for better jobs with higher pay while the business community benefits from a prepared workforce.”

For more information, contact Ragan Balzer at 218-879-0797.