Nanaimo Campus

Computer literacy expectations

Why computer literacy is important

VIU provides students with access to a high-speed internet service, wireless networking, and numerous computer labs. Many students will already know how to use this technology; others will need to learn the basics after they get to VIU. These basics—often called “computer literacy”—are essential for success in higher education and the workforce.

VIU offers many opportunities in different programs to learn how to use computers, software, and information technology in sophisticated ways that go well beyond “computer literacy". Students should check with program advisors about specific computer application skills they will need in their programs of study. But “literacy’ is just the starting point. For example, almost all students, no matter what their program, will need to use computers to:

  • access the internet to register for courses, view their grades, and get information or course projects;
  • use a word processing program to complete assignments;
  • use e-mail to communicate with instructors and other students.

Computer literacy is not a requirement for admission to VIU; however, basic computer literacy skills are not taught for University level credit. What this means is that VIU expects students to acquire these skills on their own initiative, either before they come to VIU or soon after they arrive.

VIU primarily uses Windows and Microsoft Office products for basic computing tasks.

What is computer literacy

At its most basic, to be computer literate today is to be able to use a web browser, email and a word processor, and to know enough about the way a computer operates to ensure you don’t lose work. In somewhat more detail, these skills can be described as follows.

Operating systems and file management

Students need operating system and file management skills for everyday operation of campus and home computers. Basic operations would be to be able to open and close software programs and files in a Microsoft Windows environment; save, copy, move and back-up files; create directories and organize files; understand common file formats and protect removable storage media from computer viruses.

Word processing

Students need word processing skills to produce professional-quality documents such as research papers and reports. This means being able to create and save new documents; open saved documents; adjust document attributes such as margins, typeface, font size, and text alignment; insert page numbers, headers and footers, special characters, footnotes and end notes in documents; use editing tools such as spelling and grammar checks and adjust printing and paper lay-out options.


Students need internet skills to communicate with instructors and fellow students, conduct research, and send and receive files over the internet. The internet includes the web and electronic mail. Students should be able to understand the basic structure and breadth of the internet; use a “browser” program such as Chrome or Firefox to access and navigate the web; locate and evaluate information; download and save files; send and receive e-mail messages and file attachments.

How to become more computer literate

People learn computer skills in many different ways—by asking friends for demonstrations, getting a book or video from the library, taking a non-credit course, or using the Help menus associated with most software. The following are some ways students at VIU can assess and develop their computer literacy skills.

Online tutorials and other internet resources

A collection of links to web-based tutorials, courses and student support resources is available on Technology@VIU.

Courses through Professional Development and Training at VIU

VIU offers a wide variety of computer courses held evenings, weekdays and weekends. For course schedules and descriptions, check VIU Professional Development and Training for information or email

Local resources

Check local educational institutions, private colleges and institutes for introductory computer courses—particularly Continuing Education or Professional Training & Development courses. Look in the yellow pages of the phone book under “Computer Training and Instruction.”

Technology resources at VIU

VIU’s Library has many technology resources, including videos and books on various computer applications and skills, computer equipment, and audio-visual equipment for loan. The Library also provides instruction in areas of internet research, evaluating resources, and electronic database searching. Check the VIU Library for details.

There are several student-access computer labs on campus. For lab hours and locations, check the Technology@VIU website.