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It’s Free And Dennis Makes It Easy

News Release

24 January 2013
It’s Free And Dennis Makes It Easy

Dennis Argyle rediscovers the magic of a computer every day of his working life and never gets sick of the ‘wow’ moment. As facilitator for UCOL’s Free and Easy programme, he’s helped thousands of Manawatu people use computers effectively.

The Government-funded programme is available only at UCOL and has been running for more than 12 years. It was the brainchild of UCOL Chief Executive Paul McElroy who observed a similar free programme in Scotland and thought there was a need for it in Palmerston North.

The programme always attracts a wide range of people, young and old (92 is the record). Students include grandparents who realise the best way to keep in touch with their grandchildren is via email, or even Facebook. Younger people often come seeking computer skills for a new job or for a study programme. “We’ve even had a few senior managers who want to upskill and quite a number of immigrants who want to equip themselves for jobs in a new country,” says Dennis.

The Free and Easy programme gives students the basic principles of computing and teaches them to use email effectively. It also shows how to prepare a CV, a Power Point presentation and a newsletter, and create digital images.

“But the best moments come at the beginning, with people who haven’t used a computer before,” says Dennis. “It’s always exciting to watch them discover what’s possible. They go, ‘Wow!’

“Some of our older students didn’t have to use a computer in the workforce or had just one computer-based task, for example, at the point of sale. It didn’t bother them then but in retirement they realise computers offer big advantages. It’s not just talking to family and exchanging photos. It’s also being able to access useful information online, like gardening advice. Or producing a newsletter for your local club or church.”

During classes, Dennis spends plenty of time one-on-one with each student and lets them learn at their own pace. He sits beside a senior student who has just sent her first email. “You mean my daughter already has that message from me!” she says. “Welcome to the world of the computer,” says Dennis with a big grin.

And he does make it easy: “This is quite complicated,” he says. “But I’m breaking it down into little bits which are easy.”

Free and Easy sessions are open to all. They run Monday to Friday from 8.3 am to 1pm and from 5 to 7pm on Monday and Tuesday evenings at the UCOL campus in Princess Street.


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