Google Launches a MOOC to Train Entry-Level IT Support Staffers

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interact with operating systems such as Linux via virtual machines created by Qwiklabs, a Carlisle, MA startup that Google acquired in 2016. Qwiklabs had developed training courses that helped people learn how to use cloud infrastructures including Amazon Web Services (AWS), according to VentureBeat. Google is now deploying Qwiklabs to help its IT Support students carry out their lab assignments within the Google Cloud. Qwiklabs can also grade those assignments, Mills says. Coursera will assist with its own assessment tools to grade other student work.

All told, the learners will be expected to tackle 176 assignments—with 31 coding assignments—and 26 interactive labs. Google plans to use course mentors, motivational videos, and other means to support students and boost completion rates, Conley says.

Mills says he thinks Google chose to partner with Coursera because it can handle online education at a large scale. The Mountain View, CA edtech company not only can cope with 10,000 students, but could manage ten times that many, he says.

“Essentially, there’s no limit. Course mentors can be added as needed,” Mills says.

While Google hopes to meet some of its hiring needs from the pool of students who earn its IT support certificate, Conley says the more important goal is to bridge the digital divide for people who might otherwise be shut out of the tech economy.

Students in major U.S. cities may have an easier time taking advantage of the Google certificate program than applicants in rural areas such as Kennett, MO, where online access could be hampered by what Microsoft’s president Brad Smith calls the “rural broadband gap.” Smith named the lack of high-speed Internet access for 23.4 million Americans in rural counties one of the top 10 tech issues of 2018 in his recent Today in Technology report.

“It’s hard to believe the United States can rebuild a broader foundation for economic growth or any long-term political cohesion unless it can make technology and digital skills more accessible to rural communities,” Smith wrote.

For those who can pursue the Google IT support certificate, the opportunities are substantial, Conley says. The number of openings for IT support specialists is expected to grow by 10 percent in the period between 2016 and 2026, she says. And people who enter the tech industry in that role have significant opportunities to work their way up to higher positions in systems administration and other job classifications.

“There is really demand out there,” Conley says.

Photo credit: Depositphotos

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Bernadette Tansey is Xconomy's San Francisco Editor. You can reach her at btansey@xconomy.com. Follow @Tansey_Xconomy

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