Recently, I attended the IWMW(Institutional Web Management Workshop) 2018, a UK-wide conference for anyone working in digital in higher education. Roughly 150 delegates attended from all over the UK and Ireland.
Every university’s digital team provides training for their internal staff to some extent. While St Andrews is a front-runner in terms of the training we provide (I even delivered a masterclass in digital training for staff at IWMW this year), I learned that we need to go further.
Changing the writing culture
Sarah Fisher from the University of Kent delivered a fantastic workshop called ‘Content strategy / A user journey’. In her workshop, she discussed how her team’s training is focused on changing the writing culture of their university. They don’t want to just give tips and tricks for writing for the web, but in writing better, period.
They offer a training session in using plain English. Many of the topics in this session are currently covered by our ‘Writing for the web’ training, but I want to re-examine the way we approach the topic of writing. It may be time to expand into a mini-suite of writing courses that would work for other mediums, in addition to the web.
Managing the fear
Another great idea came from a session entitled ‘Understanding invisible labour’, which was delivered by Gareth Edwards from the University of Greenwich. In this talk, Gareth discussed the problem of content management system (CMS) users who make a lot of support requests because they fear making a mistake or feel they aren’t trained well enough.
One of the ways he suggested tackling this problem was by providing easily accessible tutorials for the most common problems. Documenting how to do everything is unachievable, but creating quick and easy guides for the things people struggle with most will help build confidence and drastically reduce the number of support calls. For this reason, I want to start analysing the most common problems our CMS users face and create easy online guidance for them.
Providing extra support
Cardiff University are taking training to a whole new level. In her talk, ‘Resurrecting the Content King’, Jenni Taylor discussed how her team supports internal staff with content creation. Besides offering their own writing for the web training, they run workshop sessions to work through the writing process, topic sessions/drop-in sessions to train people in niche subjects (like editing images), and pop-up sessions delivered in Schools. The pop-up sessions allow staff who typically do not engage with the digital team to talk to them and tell them their problems, building better relationships.
Sometimes the writing for the web training session is not enough. In order to change the writing culture, we need to offer more support where needed. I want to start conducting more paired writing sessions (which have been successful in the past), and look into whether there is a demand for drop-in or pop-up sessions around the University.
Have your say!
If you’re an employee at St Andrews and have any suggestions for how we can improve our training, please let us know by emailing email@example.com or calling our digital trainer (me) at 1334 46 2222 (ext 14029).