October 3, 2008

PEI Marks 20 Years; Computing Course Has Hands-on Focus

HE used to make his way round supermarkets - now Richard Waiwiri does the rounds of computer terminals.

Twenty years in the retail trade was enough. These days he's a computer technology tutor at PEI, a post he talks about with gusto and a ready smile.

It all began several years ago when he left his job with Progressive Enterprises, the owner of Pak n Save and New World supermarkets.

First he completed a certificate in computer technology at PEI, followed by a diploma course in ICT at New Plymouth's Western Institute at Technology. He took time out from his degree due to sickness, but in the meantime began tutoring at PEI. Initially he tutored distance learners, but after six months moved into face-to- face teaching. Tutoring was something Richard liked despite being new to the profession. "I like to share my knowledge. The thing about PEI is you share it with different people from different ethnic groups and cultures." Studying and teaching at PEI is different from other classrooms he's encountered.

"It's not like a school where you're the teacher who knows it all. We bond with our students and we involve them in their learning." Some students are mature people keen to upskill or retrain but there's also a strong core of youngsters undertaking tertiary study for the first time.

The entry requirements for the Level Three course, the Certificate in Computer Technology, are simple but sound. Students must be highly motivated; no previous academic qualification is necessary, although NCEA Level One or equivalent is preferred.

The course begins with a building component but hammer and nails aren't involved. Instead, students build the computer that they then go on to keep when they've completed the programme.

"It's a very hands-on course," explains Richard. "This way students get to know their machine - they know what fits where, how it all interacts and how to fix it."

As well as constructing a machine, the course encompasses everything from creating web pages and spreadsheets to producing a flatfile database and using a macro facility.

IT used to be a stand-alone subject, points out Richard. It was seen as the sole domain of the IT guys you called upon when your machine wouldn't work.

Now everyone uses computers, technology is firmly integrated into workplaces and it updates itself at an alarming rate.

The Level Three course is suitable for people considering an IT career as well as being relevant for both beginners and those wanting to update existing computer skills. "It's a good career start for anything ranging from a database engineer and web designer to an accountant or self-employed businessperson," he says.

Classes run in two ten-week blocks with a two-week break in- between. Students progress through a workbook as well as learning in a classroom situation. They complete unit standards and are assessed at the end of each standard. Those with incomplete or incorrect work are able to attempt the unit again.

A new Level Three course started on September 29 but there are intakes next year in January, April, July and September.

The National Certificate in Computing Level Four is the next step. Students must have completed a Level Three course or equivalent qualification. It's a 20-week programme and includes a one-week study break. Students learn to troubleshoot hardware, software and networking problems, they design an interactive website, produce an electronic training package, learn about project management in an IT environment and receive coaching on an internationally recognised technician's qualification CompTIA.

Next year's intakes for the course are on January 19 and July 6.


(c) 2008 Daily News; New Plymouth, New Zealand. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.