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A Mixed Bag of Trainees

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You know what they say about assuming things. I’ve learned that it is never a good idea to assume that just because someone wants to learn some particular kind of software does not mean that they in fact are proficient with basic computer skills. It is difficult to train a group of people with a wide spectrum of computer skills. I think I may have mentioned before that our university is in the midst of a migration from one learning management system to another. Part of my job is to train faculty and staff on the new system. These workshops are always interesting and sometimes frustrating due to the mix of levels that faculty has.

On one side of the room is the Computer Science professor. This individual understands everything quickly, finishes the work lickety-split and forges ahead. On the other side of the room are the folks that have trouble browsing to a file, minimizing screens and even typing a URL. I always wonder how they managed to get their work done and teach in an online environment.

Our center’s strategy that works fairly well so far is to have roving assistants. That way, the “trainer” can keep the flow going, demonstrate and answer general questions. Those that have trouble minimizing windows and opening folders can raise their hand and get some help from the roving assistants. Usually this works, but Friday’s workshop seemed to have a lot of folks that struggled with basic computer skills. We were lucky to finish only a few minutes over. This was further compounded by the fact that several of the folks who struggled also seem to want to sit in the back and some of them were quite late.

As a trainer, I think it is important to demonstrate even the most basic of techniques. I try to remember to not just demonstrate something, but also say what it is that I’m doing. “Now, I’m going to go back to my home page. I’m going to click on the tool. I want to upload a document, so I’m going to click “upload” and browse to my folder on the desktop.” The other strategy is to provide supporting documents and tutorials. Then, hopefully, the less skilled participants can review the material later at a more leisurely pace. That is the hope anyway. In the end, you can only do the best that you can.
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Sakai Training

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Sakai Training

Today I conducted a short training on setting up WebDAV for Sakai today. This is part of a great number of courses that we are conducting for the migration from our current LMS (Learning Management System) to the Sakai CLE.  We did not have a large turn out unfortunately, but I think the people that came to the training left with some useful knowledge.  The participants actually work at our university’s computing center so there is a good chance that they would have a chance to pass this knowledge on to others as well.

Like everyone who does training, you want it to count for something. You want to feel like people are gaining information that is useful to them.  I asked the participants why they thought that the turn out was low and one of them had a very good answer. Essentially, she said that people attend events based on what value they think they will get out of it but they are also considering what they could be doing if they did not attend.  Will the gains offset what they could have been doing if they weren’t attending?  So the best thing to do is always make sure you offer quality events that, most of all, are relevant to the needs of your audience.

I think what she said is very true.  It is important to always consider what is important to your audience.  For this seminar, I think the value and relevance is there, but the new LMS is still unfamiliar.  Our audience hasn’t had a chance to even know if something is relevant.  We have a group of early adopters and part of their role is to lead the way and show people that learning how to use Sakai is relevant and important to their jobs.  Time will tell!

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