Columns Opinion

We should have more free classes at MD Anderson Library

The MD Anderson Library offers free classes that help students improve their skills in certain software and technologies. The success this program has seen is an indicator that we should have more. | Corbin Ayres/ The Cougar

With rising higher-education costs, every class counts and few electives can be chosen. To account for this trend, the workshops at the MD Anderson Library teach skills in various software. These workshops, however, should expand to hand skills, and because these workshops are a success, we should have more.

The workshops are instructor-led technology courses free to current UH students, staff and faculty. The current technology classes range from Photoshop and Acrobat to 3D printing and resume-writing. Students are required to sign up for courses through their myUH account because classes are limited in seating.

If a workshop is not offered, students can fill out a short class suggestions form for the library to increase the variety of courses available.

Attending the Photoshop 1: The Fundamentals workshop with no previous experience, I learned how to navigate the program and visualized the effect of tools in the toolbar. Each workshop topic, such as Photoshop, is a series of workshops that increase in complexity and difficulty when taken sequentially.

Even though seats are sometimes filled online, many people cancel on the days leading to the workshop, granting spots to those on the waiting list.

During the workshop, the instructor will walk through each step in the handout in more detail and demonstrate how to do it on the screen. Also, the instructor will walk around the class and help each student with their work and answer questions. If students are unable to attend the workshops, there are also handouts online, which are the same handouts given during the class. 

Chris Holthe has managed the UH Libraries’ Technology Training Program since 2015. In addition to teaching as a technology instructor, Holthe believes these workshops bring a more “hands-on design aspect” to the coursework in engineering-type courses.

He notes that the library is always adding new workshops and students get more attention because the class size is only 12 students.

More technology-skill classes can be offered, but hand-skill courses are currently not offered at all. Hand skills can range from painting to crochet to survival skills, such as tying rope. Although a prominent barrier is funding for supplies, each student can bring their own supplies in the beginning. When there is enough demand, perhaps supplies can be donated by a third party or funded by the library.

Hand skills or fine motor skills are an overlooked vital segment of education. It addresses a way to nurture creativity and innovation by physically designing a product. Also, some hand skills, such as coloring, do not require as much thinking. Research has found these activities to release stress and engage the mind in a different way than everyday classroom activities.

Another benefit to these workshops is they target students that identify as kinesthetic learners: those who learn best by example. These types of workshops allow them to understand what is happening and how to do it.

These workshops are about two hours long and in no way replace actual classroom material and experience. However, these workshops are a valuable addition to the classroom for the students to apply the material.

Staff writer Maryam Baldawi is a biology sophomore and can be reached at [email protected].

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