I taught another computer class in Reno yesterday. I teach a beginning computer class at the Reno Job Connect office in the Reno Town Mall for unemployed adults. These are people who are finding out that many employers will only accept online job applications, and that you need to have an email address to apply. This is a class that introduces people to the computer that have never actually used a computer. We teach the basics of mouse movement, the computer desktop, Microsoft Word (2003) and setting up and using an email account with Hotmail (at least that’s our latest free email try).
I thought the class went well, but I think some of the students were less than thrilled. I went over almost all of the pitfalls that have bedeviled my students in the past. I had two helpers instead of three. It was a full class and I started out with 11 students. One of my students got a call on his cell phone about 10 minutes into the class and he never returned. I hope it wasn’t anything serious. We got through the “mouse training” part of the class OK, and the MS Word part seemed to be alright too. When we got to the email set up, I ran into problems.
First, they have to find a user name that no one else has used. I told them that when they found a user name they could use, write it down on the handout, and then write down their choice of a password. Most of them wrote their first choice for a user name down before they found out if it was available, and then didn’t write their password down at all. I don’t know what I can do to get people to pay attention.
Maybe if I dressed up like Ronald McDonald people would take me more seriously (or maybe pay attention at least).
The biggest hurdle seemed to be the messed up text at the end of the email setup process. This is where the computer displays a nonsense word with all the letters distorted for the user to type in. With Hotmail, it is sometimes very difficult to read the letters in the nonsense word. It’s supposed to be impossible for a computer program to read, not a person.
Something else about Hotmail that I found out was that if you try three times to set up the email address and fail, Hotmail makes you wait a day to make another attempt. This really messes things up for my students who are taking a two hour class in order to come out of it with an email address they can use to apply for a job.
Next week maybe I’ll go back to Gmail. The problem I was having with Gmail was that about half the computers in the class locked up just as the students were completing the set up process. I think Yahoo was having similar problems.
Maybe someone can suggest to me a free email site that doesn’t have the drawbacks of Yahoo, Gmail, and Hotmail. The class is supposed to last two hours, but I’ve never finished in less than two hours and fifteen minutes and some of my students don’t end up with a usable email address (drat!). You can leave a comment at the end of this post with any suggestions you might have for me…