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Athena Minicourses Get Freshmen Up to Speed

By Eva Moy
Staff Reporter

Ask a professor to prepare a lecture that almost all of the students will understand. Then tell him to deliver it in 26-100, the largest lecture hall on campus without a microphone.

Sound impossible? That's whatAthena Minicourses instructors strive to do every time they teach one of the Information Systems-sponsored classes.

These classes close the gap between people's computer abilities and pull out the important information from the details, said Gary L. Dryfoos, a consultant with IS Training and Publication Services.

The goal is to "make people into autonomous learners," Dryfoos said. "Without a background knowledge, whatever you want to do is going to be complicated."

The first four classes of the series are "pretty much required for anyone who wants to use Athena," Dryfoos said. The basic classes are: Introduction to Athena, Basic Word Processing, Working on Athena, and Advanced Word Processing: EZ.

The Athena Minicourses are taught in lecture format with overhead transparencies. Students receive a paper copy of the transparencies, so they can focus on what the instructor is doing instead of taking notes, Dryfoos said.

The notes do not stand alone however, Dryfoos said. And although Graphic Arts offers information on many Athena applications, those are more like manuals than a course, he added.

Dryfoos said he hopes that at least half of the freshman attend the introductory minicourses during Residence and Orientation Week.

Then "any time you sit down in a cluster there's a chance that the person next to you has a clue, even if you don't," Dryfoos said.

Working on Athena and Advanced Word Processing are offered today and tomorrow in 10-250 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The classes are free, and there is no pre-registration.

The fall schedule, with 14 classes total, starts on Sept. 11. The listing can be accessed online through Techinfo.

The instructors, both undergraduate and graduate students, train for two full weeks in August, Dryfoos said.

Not only are the teachers required to learn all the software, they are specially taught by a voice instructor.

"This helps us speak clearly in 26-100 or 10-250 without a microphone, thereby saving the cost of a sound technician's time and improving the quality of the presentation," said Michael L. Jacknis '97, one of the instructors.

"Public speaking, explaining ideas clearly, and related skills are useful in general," Jacknis added.

"When you show up to teach, there's nobody next to you. That's it," Dryfoos said.