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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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