A new volunteer program through Colorado State University Cooperative Extension is helping residents keep up to pace with the Internet.
The Colorado Internet Masters program promises to help Coloradans catch the wave of surfing the net, and keep them competitive in job markets, in touch with others and in tune with additional resources.
The hands-on program, co-sponsored by Rural Development Councils in Western states, is geared for Web beginners who have little basic computer experience, especially people who live in rural areas. The program teaches surfing strategies; Internet concepts and terminology; protocol; etiquette; copyright provisions; Web page planning and design; how to evaluate sites, sources and information on the Internet; software and other tools to capture, exchange or program data; electronic commerce and security issues; and Internet marketing strategies.
"The digital divide between rural and urban areas is severe, and it is getting worse every day," said Flo Raitano, co-chair of the Internet Masters Program and executive director of the Colorado Rural Development Council. "Look back to the implementation of the interstate highway system. Those communities that are close to an interstate, especially those with access to the interstate via off-ramps, thrive and survive. Those communities that are farther away from an interstate have suffered economically. It is the same phenomenon with the information superhighway. These rural communities and the people in them are getting left behind, because the technology of the Internet--from the wiring to carry it into homes to the knowledge of how to use it--is slower to reach rural communities."
Raitano expects participants in Internet Masters Program to be from all age groups, professions and geographical areas. In addition to people in rural communities, others who may be interested include people in the middle-aged and elderly populations who may not have had as many opportunities to learn about the Internet.
The course will be taught throughout the state by a spiderweb of volunteers who have completed the program and who are specially trained to teach others to become Internet savvy. Everyone who completes the Internet Master's Colorado course is required to volunteer for 30 hours before they are certified as passing the course and becoming an Internet Master. They must volunteer in an Internet-related activity in their community, such as working in their local library to help other citizens access information.
Those who want to become trainers must take the course, an additional trainer workshop and then co-teach Internet Masters courses before they are certified as a master trainer.
The program evolved four years ago, when rural Development Councils in Western states recognized the need for technical education in rural areas. It was designed by the Colorado Rural Development Council, Colorado State Cooperative Extension, Colorado Small Business Development Center and Colorado rural technology programs.
For more information or to find out about local classes, call the Colorado Rural Development Council, at 970-262-2073, or visit its Web site, at soba.fortlewis.edu/sbdc/internet_masters.htm.