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Closing the IT gap

In professional-degree programs across campus, professors work to impart the theory and the practice of a given profession to their students. And for many professions, skill with information technology is key to successful practice. Nowhere is this truer than in the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) at UW-Madison.

Professor Kristin Eschenfelder and her colleagues at SLIS train students to organize and manage information. Theoretically, the principles learned extend to any setting, whether it is a library, business environment or government agency. In a world of digital information, however, implementing those principles depends on knowledge of certain software.

Getting students up to speed on software can be challenging, says Professor Eschenfelder, a specialist in social impacts of information technology and information policy. Students have different knowledge levels, and the software is always changing, she says. To address this problem, Professor Eschenfelder has used the in-class services of Software Training for Students (STS) offered free of charge through DoIT.

For the past two years, student trainers have taught Microsoft Access to her database design class and Macromedia's Dreamweaver to her information architecture class. Just before the semester begins, Professor Eschenfelder meets with the trainers to review her objectives and customize the training for her students.

"Database design is a theoretical class. Yet the database software is essential for seeing the theory in action," Eschenfelder says. She also sees another benefit of having STS trainers in the class: "It piques students' curiosity," she says. "They become open to learning other new skills outside the classroom, and self-directed learning is so critical in today's academic and business environment."
STS offers classes on request in a number of software programs including Excel, Access, Dreamweaver, Scanning/Photo editing, Illustrator and PowerPoint. A minimum of eight students is usually required for an STS in-class session, and STS needs at least one week's notice to set up a class. Instructors interested in STS services can fill out a preliminary form at or send an email to

Caroline Oldershaw is a writer for "Computing@UW-Madison," This article originally appeared in "Computing@UW-Madison," the Division of Information Technology at the University of Wisconsin and was reprinted with their permission.

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