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Welcome to Skillsoft, a New Option for Online Learning at MIT
February 21, 2014
Robyn Fizz
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Do you find it hard to get away from your desk to take job-related courses or pursue your professional development goals? Welcome to our world. We’re so connected that it’s hard to untangle and make time for off-site training.

As lynda.com has ably demonstrated, online training is an effective alternative, letting you expand the way you learn, what you learn, and when you learn. And now there’s a complementary online resource in the MIT Learning Center: Skillsoft.

Available to MIT staff, faculty, and students, Skillsoft offers an extensive library of business courses – including the interpersonal aspects of leadership, management, and administration. Skillsoft also includes curricula for IT professionals, including a new way to access an old standby, Element K.

While Skillsoft provides over 1500 courses online – most about an hour in length – there’s much more to explore. Skillsoft also offers:

  • Books24x7: the version in the MIT Learning Center offers 9000 ebooks and videos with a focus on business and IT topics.
  • Printable Job Aids and SkillBriefs: Job Aids provide support when learning a new skill, while SkillBriefs provide summaries of key points covered in a course. Both can be printed and used as refreshers after training or as reference material in lieu of taking a course.
  • Videos from thought leaders: topics range from Three Models of Openness in Social Media to The Way We Think Affects Sustainability.
  • Preparation for business certification tests, as well as training that fulfills recertification requirements.

With so much on tap, where to begin? First, with a nod to MIT Human Resources (HR), which has generously funded this new training option for the community.

Getting Started / Taking a Tour
In order to use Skillsoft, you’ll need to enable pop-up menus for the website. The web-based video trainings require an up-to-date Java Runtime Environment, as well as enabling the Java browser plugin. Instructions are available in the Knowledge Base. You can also ask your local IT support provider for assistance or contact the IS&T Help Desk.

An easy way to access Skillsoft is through the Atlas home page (certificates required). From there, select the MIT Learning Center link, then the skillport.mit.edu link on the right-hand side of the page. As an external eLearning resource, Skillsoft will automatically launch in a new browser window.

Once you’ve arrived at the Skillsoft website, taking a virtual tour is strongly recommended. Getting acquainted with the user interface and learning effective ways to search will enhance your Skillsoft experience.

There are several options for learning your way around Skillsoft:

  • Take any of the Skillsoft tours available through the gray menu on the lower left of the Skillsoft home page. The Skillport Course Tour covers basic navigation, while selecting the Take a Virtual Tour menu displays a series of tours that cover the Catalog, Search and Learn, Books24x7, and other topics. The Helpful Icon Descriptions menu item provides a quick visual summary of the icons used in the Skillsoft interface.
  • Select the Help link in the top right-hand corner of the Skillsoft home page. This provides access to quick links about assorted topics, from search tips to adding a learning asset to your personal learning plan. On the left-hand side, you can access the entire Skillsoft user guide through the Contents, Index, and Search tabs.
  • Sign up for HR’s workshop, Learn with Your Fingertips – Skillsoft. Upcoming sessions will be held on February 27 and March 11. You can register through the MIT Learning Center. Additional sessions will be scheduled if these fill up.

As Ronnie Haas, an Organization Development Consultant in HR notes: “When people start to browse the Skillsoft catalog, their first reaction is ‘Whoa, there’s a lot of stuff here!’ You can drill down to different categories and subcategories, like browsing in a big box store. But if you want refined results, be specific when entering key words and choosing categories in the Search&Learn fields.”

Staying Organized
Before starting a course, you may want to take its pretest (most courses have them). If there are five modules and you score well in three of them, you may want to spend time only on the other two. Or for a quick take on a topic, you may choose to simply review a course’s Job Aids and SkillBriefs.

My Plan lets you save any Skillsoft resource – courses, books, videos – in a Personal folder for future reference.

The My Progress feature tracks all the courses you’ve started, when you first accessed them, and when you completed them. You can filter this information and print a report for your own records or to share with your manager.

Since Skillsoft is certificate-based, you’ll be able to find anything you do on the site at a later date. You can simply pick up where you left off. You’re also in charge of managing your records. Aside from a few system managers in HR, no one else has access to what you’re taking or your progress.

More About Books24x7
You can either use Search&Learn to search for books or select the Books24x7 link at the top of the Skillsoft home page. Books24x7 lets you read content online, add bookmarks and notes, and organize your books in folders. When you do a keyword search of the Books24x7 collection, Skillsoft puts the most relevant books first and notes the “Best Section Hits” within each book.

Skillsoft books can only be read online due to copyright, but you can share a book link with anyone in the MIT community who has access to Skillsoft.

Certification
Skillsoft provides training for certification in several areas. If you want to be certified in project management, or Microsoft Word, or the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL), you can take the courses at no expense through Skillsoft, then go to the certifying organization to take the exam. In many cases, if the skill is job-related, staff can be reimbursed for the exam through MIT’s Tuition Assistance Plan.  

Skillsoft also offers courses that support recertification.

Getting Help
For assistance in launching Skillsoft's web-based training videos, see the instructions in the Knowledge Base. You can also contact your local IT support provider or the IS&T Help Desk.

For help navigating the learning resources in Skillsoft, contact Skillsoft Customer Support.

Wrapping Up
Skillsoft has a lot to offer – for individuals and the community. In some areas at MIT, staff are showing segments of Skillsoft courses in team meetings and then discussing the content. In other groups, managers have agreed to allow staff at least one hour of professional development time a month.

MIT’s partnership with Skillsoft is an important step in realizing HR’s strategic vision of offering a variety of development opportunities to the community. This vision includes learning experiences that run the gamut from interpersonal to online; self-directed to fully structured; and one time-one place to wherever and whenever. You can explore these offerings, including Skillsoft and lynda.com, through the MIT Learning Center. Be sure to check back often – and send your feedback to training@mit.edu.