GROTON — Mount Wachusett Community College plans to introduce an accelerated computer literacy program using a new method, beginning next semester.

The blended methodology used in the new program, combining human and computer teaching, was proven successful last year when Boston based IDL Systems Inc. (Intelligent Distance Learning) achieved a 91 percent completion rate when it was first introduced at 11 sites over the summer of 2007.

Mount Wachusett was one of three community colleges that participated in the survey that included over 400 students statewide.

“What we have done at Wachusett specifically is introduce a basic computer literacy program that provides an overview of hardware and other physical elements, such as the computer monitor and keyboard, as well as applications like Word,” said Catalina Serrano, IDL vice president of marketing and sales. “A third part of the program involves ‘living with the Internet’ and that’s where students learn about e-mail, how to chat, and how to search the Internet.”

Those who successfully complete the program will earn Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC3), the first certification based on “validated, standards-based” exams for basic computing and Internet knowledge.

Serrano said that the typical student taking the course will be an adult who is either trying to retrain himself for the workforce or a younger student seeking to brush up on his computer skills.

“Our target group is working adults; it’s really a workforce development program that IDL has tested with 400 students last summer,” Serrano said. “That test resulted in an average 87 percent passing grade. So the program actually targets a wide range of individuals, among them those interested in professional development, continued education, or even high school students. The program can benefit anyone seeking to gain a working knowledge of computers or the Internet.”

The unique blended nature of the accelerated computer literacy program, in which students are taught part of the time by a live teacher and the rest of the time in an online classroom, was developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“What IDL does is based on the pedagogical research conducted by founder Dr. Nishikant Sonwalkar,” said Serrano. “He basically conducted an interdisciplinary research project at MIT, concentrating on the cognitive sciences. He looked at the best cognitive practices of online learning and pulled them together to create something called adaptive individualization. Spinning off from MIT, IDL was founded to provide it’s own adaptive learning system. The company took the research that Dr. Sonwalkar conducted and has been able to supply higher education markets with on-line courses and programs based on his research. What IDL has done is to offer different delivery models but with the most successful being the blended methodology approach where we combine face to face instruction with on-line learning.”

According to Serrano, the company has had a 91 percent success rate among students in both the certificate and degree components of its programs.

“By blending an online component with face-to-face instruction, we have had not only an extremely high retention rate among students, but also extremely high engagement by them,” said Serrano.

Further insuring a high success rate among students and being able to connect with as many as possible, the program can be adapted to a number of different cognitive abilities, thus enabling students with different learning skills the opportunity to succeed.

“Our learning programs involve five different learning styles that may vary from program to program,” said Serrano. “Typically there is the apprenticeship style, where a student takes a building-block approach or the incidental learning style, that allows students to learn on a case-study basis. Then there is the inductive learning style, where students learn by example and the deductive style, involving application-based learning. Finally, there’s discovery, where students learn by experimenting and analyzing the results.”

Student progress is measured with the aid of 10 “embedded assessment diagnostic quizzes.”

With the initial program’s successful adoption by Wachusett and other schools, Serrano said that IDL is now looking for new partnerships on a national scale, offering blended programs covering subjects from MBA instruction “all the way to developmental programs.”

Students who pass the new computer literacy program will receive a certificate of completion from Wachusett’s Division of Lifelong Learning & Workforce Development.

Those interested in signing up for the new program that begins in February, can register at the Gardner campus or call the school’s enrollment center at 978-630-9284.

As for the future, Serrano expressed confidence in IDL’s fortunes.

“Right now we have the exact same kind of program being offered in Bristol as at Wachusett,” Serrano said. “So we’re hoping to work in the same way with other community colleges in the future.”

For more information about IDL, check out their Web site at