MIRC Opportunities outside MIRC partners

Yesterday I attended a MIRC (Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities) partner meeting. We discussed a lot of the nitty gritty and I won’t go into those details – but within the nitty gritty I noticed two important trends. First, the MIRC partners are working together. This sounds simple – but it was really exciting to hear how partners and communities are working together to meet the need on the street. For example, DEED will be working more closely than ever before with ABE (Adult Basic Education) teachers – because that’s a good place to start digital (and employment) literacy training.

A second, related trend is that the MIRC partners are interested in finding and creating opportunities for folks outside the MIRC communities – both in terms of bringing resources into MIRC and sharing MIRC resources with a wider audience. I have a couple of examples below, since I figured many readers might be interested in upcoming opportunities.

In the spirit of stone soup, we had a vendor who was new to MIRC join us today to offer their ingredient to our mix. Atomic Learning has offered free online training resources to PCs for People for each of the 1000 computers they give out through MIRC. New computer users will now get a free yearlong subscription to Atomic Learning’s resources. This is a boon to the new users – especially since many of the folks who aren’t online say that knowledge about how to use – or why you might use – a computer is a barrier.

We’re looking for more joiners in the form of broadband providers in the MIRC communities. PCs for People offer computers to low income users. They will be providing computers to folks in rural Minnesota through the MIRC project. It would be nice to pair those new (or re-newed) computers with discounted broadband connections. If you are or know a local ISP who might be interested in offering some kind of discount to a group of new user, please contact Bill Coleman (651-491-2551). Currently, 85 percent of PC for People’s new computer recipients sign up for broadband – making the connection more affordable might boost that number.

Then, as I said, there are tools that are being developed for use outside MIRC communities:

Basic Literacy Skills Class

DEED is working on developing a basic digital literacy class. It will be a blended class where the curriculum will be online but the intention is to offer the course in an instructor-led classroom setting. Available in early 2011, the class will first be offered in MIRC communities through the Workforce Centers but will eventually be available to anyone who wants it. It will be designed to be a helpful tool for folks involved with Adult Basic Education (ABE).

Knowledge Worker Course

Minnesota Learning Commons is working on developing a 16-hour course to train knowledge workers. Again it will start as a blended class – with an online and on-site component. It will be a class prepares attendees to take more online classes to get training for a wide range of knowledge worker positions. This class will also be available to the general public as well through the Minnesota Learning Commons. The beta version should also be ready early in 2011. We anticipate that the course will be a good follow-on to the one DEED is developing.

Courses for Renewable Energy Businesses

MNREM (Minnesota Renewable Energy Marketplace) will be assessing training requirements for renewable energy businesses and developing curriculum to meet those needs – both on-site and online.

And that’s after only a few months. As more tools and opportunities develop, we’ll make sure to mention them here.

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