June 3, 2010

IT tutorials at your fingertips

by Diana Pounds

  • The Iowa State student who needs to use Dreamweaver for a class assignment
  • The presenter who wants to make Excel pivot tables
  • The instructor who can't figure out how to doublespace in the latest version of Word
  • The IT staffer who must get up to speed on Drupal

Immediate help is available for these people and for the rest of us who occasionally find ourselves stymied by software. A university contract with Lynda.com allows ISU students, faculty and staff to tap into the massive online video tutorial service, at no charge, to learn new technical skills.

800-plus tutorials

There are more than 800 online tutorials currently available on the site. They range from basic lessons, like to how use Word 2010 or get started in Google calendar, to advanced IT training on such topics as Drupal and JavaScript. In between are sessions on Blogger, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Microsoft Office, Outlook and much more.

"It's an amazing library of stuff," said Jim Twetten, director in information technology services. "If you touch a computer, there's something there for you."

The tutorials are taught by professionals and follow a self-paced, modular format. For example, a 3-hour tutorial on Excel pivot tables consists of seven chapters which in turn are broken into clips, just a few minutes long, on specific tasks.

"You can take the whole course, or just scroll down to specific clips that interest you," Twetten said.

How to access Lynda.com

To access the Lynda.com tutorials free of charge, go to www.iastate.edu/lynda. Type in your net-ID and password to gain entry to the site and the list of available courses. Don't enter the site at Lynda.com; that's the public window to the site and requires fee payment.

Free access through August 2012

Iowa State's three-year contract with Lynda.com runs through August 2012. Funding for the service comes from the Computation Advisory Committee, which is providing $50,000 in student computer fees, and several colleges and units which are contributing another $30,000. Those contributors are the colleges of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences and Veterinary Medicine as well as information technology services, university library, ISU Extension and the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching.