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Learn your way around MIT through online courses

Thanks to a series of online training courses, it’s now easier to find the answers you need when you need them.

MIT is a complex place; knowing the right way to get things done isn't always obvious, especially for newcomers. Thanks to a series of online training courses, it's now easier to find the answers you need when you need them.

Information Services and Technology (IS&T) has partnered with the Campus Activities Complex (CAC), Environment, Health and Safety (EHS), Facilities, Human Resources (HR), and the Office of the Vice President for Finance (VPF), among other areas, to create effective how-to tutorials about administration and compliance at MIT.

Many courses — including those that require a record of successful completion — reside in the MIT Learning Center (certificates required). Others are available through links on relevant MIT web pages.

You can find a list of online courses created by IS&T's Training Team in the IS&T Computer Training Course Catalog. Here's a quick look at three courses that many members of the MIT community may find of interest.

Procurement Overview Online Training

This introductory course, available in the Learning Center, can also be accessed through a link on the VPF's Sourcing & Procurement page. IS&T trainer Jeff Pankin worked closely with Sara Malconian, the Assistant Director for Sourcing and Procurement in the VPF, and her team: they developed this course through a series of systematic iterations.

The course starts with Malconian describing the role of Procurement at MIT. Next you'll meet your buddy for the course, avatar Sue Hanson. She's a recent MIT hire who could use your help in making purchases for her department. Together, you'll learn when to use ECAT, an MIT Procurement Card (ProCard), or a requisition. And then you'll get to test your knowledge. (Between you and me, Sue Hanson already knows all the right answers!)

If you prefer, you can review basics about MIT purchasing options through a set of bulleted cards.

Throughout the course, there's a Resources tab available at the top right. Here you'll find a Purchasing Options Summary (PDF) and several relevant web links, from a VPF Glossary page to the SmartBuy tool (certificates required).

At the end of the course, there's a summary page and a "Who to Contact" roster of MIT's procurement specialists.

Performance Event Safety Training

Performance events on campus often include lighting, audio equipment, and constructed scenery. With power tools, electricity, and heights as part of the equation, a safe environment is essential for both participants and patrons.

The Campus Activities Complex, under the MIT Division of Student Life, approached the Training Team to create a course on Performance Group Safety Training. IS&T trainer Sara Davies worked with Christopher Nayler, Assistant Manager of the CAC, to create the course. It covers these areas:
  • Basic Personal Safety and Protective Equipment
  • Lighting, Electrical and Fire Safety
  • Working at Heights
  • Scenery and Special Effects
  • Front of House Safety Procedures
The course is image- and text-based, in a read-only format. There's minimal narration; you can work through each section's slides at your own pace. Some of the slides provide interactive activities through clickable photos or elements marked with pulsing "i"s. For example, under the Scenery and Special Effects section, you can click on photos of an elephant on a spool, fireworks, a knife and dagger, and up-in-the-air actors to find out guidelines for handling animals, pyrotechnics, weapons, and flying.

After you've reviewed all the topics, you can take the Knowledge Check. Not sure about something? You can go through the course again in any order; for more in-depth coverage, you can download the 40-page Performance Events Safety Handbook, available under the Resources link at the top right.

Once you pass the Knowledge Check, Nayler gets an email. He can then set you up with hands-on training on heavy equipment.

Managing Your IAP Activities

The Independent Activities Period (IAP) during January offers community members a range of inspiring activities, from recitals to contests to how-to sessions.

The IAP 2014 posting system will go live in early October. If you plan to offer a non-credit IAP activity and haven't set one up before (or need a refresher), there's an online tutorial to show you the way: Managing Your IAP Activities.

This course guides you through creating an activity, from entering a title and description and choosing a category, to providing date, time, location, and enrollment information. The course also walks you through using "rollover" options to find past activities, if you want to repeat a session from a previous year.

Madge Lewis, a senior project manager in IS&T, served as the liaison for this effort, working with Michael Bergren and Elizabeth Young from the Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP) and IS&T's Pankin, who created the course.

Tool of Choice: Articulate Storyline

All three courses described here were developed using Articulate Storyline. Over time, this authoring software has become the IS&T Training Team's tool of choice for creating online courses.

With Storyline, you can create a course, interactive content, quizzes, or a software simulation. It lets you build complex interactions using an intuitive set of features. Its interface aligns closely with that of PowerPoint, but Storyline offers added elearning-oriented functionality, including the ability to do screen capture and create closed captions.

According to Pankin, "Storyline gives you powerful programming capabilities, all done through drop-down menus. There's no programming language involved." For example, a course creator can use a drop-down menu to add a trigger, so that when a user selects the right answer to a question, some other action occurs on the screen.

Learn More

If you'd like to enhance your administrative expertise at MIT, check out courses in the MIT Learning Center (certificates required) and the IS&T Computer Training Course Catalog.

Curious about Articulate Storyline? You can take an "Up and Running" course on how to use it through

If your office or department would like help in developing its own online courses, contact Mark Wiklund, IS&T Training Manager, at 617.253.0686 or

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