Friday, 25 November 2016

Engaging with others

My training sessions are usually well received, and in part that is due to the size of the classes that run. I am never over subscribed, and classes are small enough to almost be individual one to one sessions (and some are).

Recently I have had a visiting scholar attend my sessions, who was almost mortified that I was running a session to just her. She felt she was wasting my time.

When I started my training sessions 5 years ago, I tried running them less frequently to increase engagement. All that happened was that I would only have 2 people attending and 25 complaining they could never get on the session they wanted. So now we run it very frequently for smaller groups but I am able to engage with each individuals needs and problems.

It may not be the most efficient of training plans, I understand this, but actually I think I am providing a service to academics that they appreciate more for the individual nature that it brings.

Engaging with people is what we do at the university, we may not be a typical customer facing service like a shop but we provide a service that benefits our customer, the student. I occasionally have student facing sessions, but my customer is the academic and at times academics are reticent to engage with the technology that is at their finger tips.

I like the fact I can engage with them on a smaller scale as it makes the transition for them easier. They are not so overwhelmed, and are able to get me to adjust the speed of the training according to their level of understanding.

Engaging with the academics who are reticent is something that I feel is a growing part of my training life as many realise (although not always agree with) is that student expectation as a customer is much higher. They are after more for their money and want to feel that the service they are receiving is valuable.

Engagement is always a goal we try to achieve, and every year we find some students that do and some that don't. It's refining our ideas and processes each year to increase the service we provide and never thinking we have it perfectly worked out because as soon as you do, that's when it goes wrong again.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

The world is changing

Today sees Donald Trump named as the President of the United States.

I'll just leave that there.

I am not a political genius or academic. I do however consider myself political. My wife would just call me opinionated, so it's two sides of the same square right?

I was very afraid of Brexit both personally and from a working perspective and while things are looking uncertain and I am sure in the next few years will unveil themselves. Today I am still here.

The same at the moment can be said for Donald Trump.

I was convinced all along that he never wanted to win, but was trying to lose, in style while putting the political elite to their own sword and being the business man he is, making money on the way. The trouble is he has now won. America voted and it appears to be as close as Brexit was.

I can't say what will happen, I am not the right person to ask. This is not really relevant to a technology skewed blog, but it is a big event in world history and blows anything else I might write out of the water.

All I will say is if he follows and succeeds with his rhetoric the world could be a little darker than it was yesterday. 4 Years is a long time in politics especially if things are going wrong. All I can say is that we are a more connected people today and technology and education to me are always going to be strong drivers in helping people to change their own future and that of others.

We are split on many things but we can agree that going forward technology can help deliver interactive and intelligent learning. All we can try to do is work together and look at what the real problems are within our own knowledge and try to fix what we are lacking.

Education is important and I hope that post Brexit and Trump people don't lose sight of that fact.

Maybe it's the fact we don't have the same monumental things like space travel to aspire to. We need to look for our next big endeavour and give everyone something to aspire to.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Preparing a new session

Tomorrow I am running a new training session to help academics look at the technology behind running a Distance Learning Course.

The main problem here is that there is such an extensive list of what you should or could use, I have to try to help narrow it down so that you buy what's best for you scenario.

A little back story to me, and that is I have "fallen" into my training role as a career. I love it. The thing is I started working in radio and through my university years and had a short time working in real radio stations. You soon find as an 18 year old though there are few positions and even less money. I then worked my way into a sixth form college (actually during the radio work) and developed my self as a media technician at college level to where I am today as a technologist at a university (there's ten years of in between but that is pretty much irrelevant).

The reason I give the back story is that I came to training through my love of talking (some would say of hearing my own voice but that is overly simplistic, I am sure other people like hearing it too!) So when I come to develop a training session, I find that I am not always doing it traditionally, but personally.  What would I like to know, what would I like to get from this session and I try to develop it from there. I guess this a natural evolution of any learning and I find that each time I do a session it evolves and adapts to each audience and as things change.

The session tomorrow will focus on the tech, but also I want to investigate how individuals may approach their own ideas and feelings about distance learning. I hope to learn from them as well and apply that to the next session. Arguably the first few sessions will be the weakest, but then confidence is a big part of any "performance" as confident people will bring the crowd along with them.

A good academic knows their material, of course, but that does not mean the lecture is engaging. A lecture is engaging because of the person doing the session and I expect the frequency they have done a session. Granted, some people are better at faking this confidence and not letting the nerves show through but when you have a full grasp of the subject it becomes easier to ride the real confidence to a good session.

As you can tell I have diverged from the title, and I am pretty good at that in person. It's how my brain makes random connections that just flow from one point to another and again that keeps a session (and this blog) spontaneous. That's fine in person, less so for a blog I should self edit on. However I like the idea of entertaining through this as well and not just having it a dry and factual blog, although I hope some of the posts do also inform about certain subjects.

To conclude, I will take tomorrows session and adapt and find what works to be useful to everyone. I will keep learning myself about what the requirements of each audience are and find the best way to structure it  to be a slick and interesting session. For tomorrow however, I have an idea of where to go, we shall see if it the correct way.