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Becoming a Webmaster-
Lifelong Learning Center offers certificate program

This article appeared on the front of the Employment section of the print edition of the Missoulian newspaper on 4/3/11. Thanks to the Missoulian for permission to reprint this article.
It can be viewed on the Missoulian Jobs blog.

By Breeana Laughlin

As the world becomes increasingly tech-savvy, Web development skills continue to rise in demand. Local business owners who want to take control of their Web site, or those who want to develop their skills for entry level positions in Web development can earn a Webmaster certificate at the Dickinson Lifelong Learning Center.

Nora McDougall-Collins has been teaching computer and Web-related courses at the school for more than a decade. The skilled teacher and business owner has degrees in business and computer-science.

She strives to make her classes accessible by teaching Web skills in a way that everyone can understand.

“I try to put things in everyday language, and that makes it a lot more comfortable for my students when it comes to learning the more complicated skills,” McDougall-Collins said. “I know that Web development sounds like a scary topic, but I think that anyone who wants to learn and is willing to keep up when it gets hard can do it.”

The tech-savvy teacher enjoys the mix of students who come into the Lifelong Learner Center.

“My students are the coolest. They are from all walks of life. I’ve had physicians, architects and stay at home moms. I’ve had engineers and a guy that did garage door openers,” she said. “The whole thing is -  it doesn’t matter where you’re at, it’s where you can be.”

The Webmaster certificate offered at the Lifelong Learning Center includes classes such as Website marketing and design, Website construction, imaging and programming. The certificate is comprised of about 140-150 hours of classes. Students enroll in the required classes separately and are awarded the certificate when they complete the class series. Participants can complete the certificate at their own pace, and most are able to do it within a year and a half to two years.

McDougall-Collins said she looks at Website skills holistically, and this is reflected through her classes. Students are taught to look at Websites from a business angle, a graphic design angle and a technical angle. They are also taught as a practical, user-friendly approach to Web design.

Those who complete the certificate are qualified for entry-level job positions as Webmasters. Most employees in these positions aren’t expected to build sites from start to finish, but to maintain existing sites. Contracting positions are also popular for those skilled in Website maintenance. Many students also continue to improve their skills after obtaining the certificate, and some have moved on to open their own Web development businesses.

“There is so much work out there for good site maintenance, so if someone wanted to start their own business, there is a huge market out there,” McDougall-Collins said.

Students entering the certificate series should have basic computer knowledge, be skilled in file management and have Web browsing skills.

“Beyond that, I don’t expect them to be programmers, or super-geeks, or graphic artists,” McDougall-Collins said.

Most students who join the certificate program don’t have prior experience with Websites. Many are small business owners who want to learn about maintaining their own sites.

A business owner who is clueless about their Website is comparable to a business owner who doesn’t understand their bookkeeping, McDougall-Collins said.

“It’s a bad place for a business owner to be in, and can set them up for all kinds of issues later on. So I always recommend to my students, whether they decide to go further with Web development or not, to at least have some control over their Website. They should be calling the shots.”

To find out more about the Lifelong Learning centers Webmaster certificate, visit http://thelifelonglearningcenter.com or call 549-8765.

Nora McDougall | Missoula, Montana 59801 | 406.253.4045 | Contact Nora
© 2011, Nora McDougall-Collins