Whether geared towards employees needing specialized training in new software or college students seeking to develop their computer skills for future careers, there's a varied range of online learning opportunities available in office systems.
Prospective distance learners, based on their needs, can pursue free virtual training from companies, take online classes to prepare for professional certification or enroll in an entire college program to earn a certificate or associate's degree. Some professional associations also offer courses, but they may require enrollees to be members. The following highlights some of these options, including their purpose and online learning methods.
Many major commercial software companies offer free training courses, classes and resources for their products. Programs can range from interactive online presentations to taped video demonstrations. Software manufacturers often maintain online databases containing product use information, forums where users can ask questions and live online support.
Government agencies, educational institutions and non-profit agencies also offer free training programs in a variety of office systems. Many of these classes are offered at no charge to the unemployed through state or regional workforce agencies. Universities have free non-credit classes in office systems that mirror credit courses offered on-campus as well.
Free courses are offered in a variety of formats, including webcasts, audio lectures, video tutorials and web pages. Online training can include classes in the following:
- Office software
- Database systems
- Operating systems
- System programming
- Office system foundations
Because these classes do not offer college credit, they generally are delivered in a self-paced format. This allows students to review learning materials at their own speed and at a time that fits their schedules.
Professional organizations for administrative personnel and others who work in an office environment offer online training in a number of system applications for their members. These courses are generally available for a fee or through a subscription and can be instructor-led or self-study courses. Some of these courses may result in professional certification or continuing education credits.
Course format varies by the type of class offered; some classes may be held via webinar, forum-based or through podcasts. Online classes are often manufacturer-specific and may cover the following areas:
- Organizing addresses & emails in a network system
- Networks & internet access
- Fundamentals of intranets & extranets
- How to create virtual teams
- Database features & design
Commercial Software Companies
Most major software companies provide online training opportunities in the use of their products. Manufacturers may offer the training through their own websites or partner with third-party training providers, such as educational institutions or online companies that specialize in training. Courses may be free or fee-based, depending on the product and the company.
Companies might offer assessment tools that allow students to identify their personal skill levels before they begin training. Training typically consists of courses on individual products found in the manufacturer's office or software line. Some companies offer professional certification training for their office products.
Distance learning training courses may consist of downloadable tutorials, online virtual classrooms or web-based courses that are self-paced. Coursework options vary by company but could include the following:
- Migrating to an updated office system
- Introduction to spreadsheets
- Presentation fundamentals
- Server development
- Introduction to file sharing
Colleges and Universities
Many schools offer online training in various office systems in conjunction with product manufacturers, workforce agencies and local employers. These programs can range from general customer service skills and office management to specialized training. Software-specific training can include office applications, such as word processing, presentation and spreadsheets. In addition to accounting and bookkeeping systems training, online courses are also offered in office network systems and network applications, such as calendars, email and virtual meetings.
Distance learning formal, for-credit programs are widely available from many community colleges and some four-year institutions. Some of the most common options include associate's degrees and certificates in office systems technology or office administration. Online certificate programs typically take around a year to complete, while two-year associate's degree programs include general education courses.
Online training courses are usually accessed through the school's course management system. Typically, distance learners can log into their courses anytime and communicate with their instructors, complete their coursework, find new assignments and talk with their classmates through message boards. However, for-credit programs generally have due dates that students must adhere to. Online coursework may include:
- Network security
- Payroll applications
- Creating documents
- Introduction to graphic design software
- Introduction to project management applications
Overall, online office systems training programs vary considerably in terms of content and formality. They may or may not confer credit, and they can cover topics ranging from the use of a specific program to the general implementation of technology in an office setting.