How do you make a Horse Drink?

As a part of my new managerial role I will be collaborating with the School’s Digital Literacy Managers to plan, develop and deliver 2 new staff development curricula.  One of these will be for admin staff, and will concentrate on improving their Office skills.  The other is for academic staff, so will look at boosting their general digital literacy skills with a view to making them more technologically savvy.

There is no doubt that these programmes need to be developed as soon as possible.  There is though the eternal problem of how to get this target audience engaged.  Once again, staff are being asked to squeeze something else into their already painfully packed schedules.  And let’s be honest here: learning how to use technology isn’t the top of everyone’s must do list.  Usually, it ranks in popularity about as much as cleaning a septic tank

So on Wednesday, when I went to a Digital Practices Speed Networking / Knowledge Cafe session, I grabbed the ubiquitous piece of flip chart paper* that had been put on my table and, with the help of 2 other technical-minded attendees, we looked at how we could build curricula that would be attractive to staff at a variety of levels.  Importantly we discussed at length the knotty problem of getting staff to engage with this.  This is what we came up with:


  • Give staff dedicated time to work through and complete their training. If the courses are merely something you’re supposed to work through in your own time,it runs the risk of being seen as being ‘just another thing I have to do’, with no real value.  If time is set aside in which to complete it, then from a psychological viewpoint if nothing else, it appears to be important.
  • Linked to this, make them aware that by investing time in training now, they will save countless hours in the future.  Going back to the admin staff again (because there are some good black and white examples of what they can and can’t do and what would help them), it will be a lot easier to keep placement records in one database than 35 separate spreadsheets!
  • Allow staff to ‘jump on and jump off’ at points that suit their needs and levels.  One size does not fit all, and forcing all admin staff to learn how to set up a simple SUM function in a spreadsheet (for example) when many of them are already at a level above this is unhelpful and reeks of sloppy and apathetic planning.

It’s a start, and though it doesn’t even begin to look at the content of both curricula (that’s for another meeting with the Digital Literacy Managers and a whole pad of flip chart paper) it does start to look at an issue that is often ignored or awkwardly pushed to one side, and one of my favourite hoary old sayings: build it and they will NOT come. Carrots and sticks are fine.  Telling staff that ‘they have to do this course’ is fine.  But that isn’t going to win anyone over.  Make staff feel nurtured – and get hem to realise that this is something that will actually properly benefit them.  Maybe do sessions before work with free breakfast.  Stuff like that…

* There is a small piece of me that finds that giving a group of people who work in digital practice / technology enhanced learning sheets of flip chart paper on which to record their thoughts is a bit…well..ironic?