Designing digital preservation training – it’s more than just talking

Sarah, Oxford’s Outreach and Training Fellow, writes about the ‘training cycle’ and concludes that delivering useful training is more than just talking at learners.


We have all been there before: trying to keep our eyes open as someone drones on in the front of the room, while the PowerPoint slides seem to contain a novella that hurts your eyes to squint to read. That’s not how training is supposed to go.

Rather, engaging your learner in a variety activities will help them retain knowledge. And in a field like digital preservation, the more hands-on the training, the better. So often we talk about concepts or technical tools, but we very rarely provide examples, demonstrate them, or (better yet) have staff experiment with them.

And training is just one small part of the training process. I’ve learned there are many steps involved in developing a course that will be of use to staff. Most of your time will not be spent in the training room.

Identifying Learner’s Needs

Often easier said than done. It’s better to prepare for all types of learners and pitch the material to a wide audience. With hands-on tasks, it’s possible to have additional work prepared for advanced learners, so they don’t get bored while other learners are still working through the task.

Part of the DPOC project has been about finding the gaps in digital preservation skills and knowledge, so that our training programmes can better meet staff’s needs. What I am learning is that I need to cast my net wide to reach everyone!

Planning and Preparation

The hard bit. Start with what your outcomes are going to be and try not to put too many into a session. It’s too easy to be extra ambitious. Once you have them, then you pick your activities, gather your materials (create that PowerPoint) and practise! Never underestimate the value of practising your session on your peers beforehand.

Teaching and Learning

The main event. It’s important to be confident, open and friendly as a trainer. I admit, I stand in the bathroom and do a “Power Pose” for a few minutes to psyche myself up. You are allowed nerves as a trainer! It’s important to be flexible during the course

Assessment

Because training isn’t just about Teaching and Learning. That only accounts for 1/5th of the training cycle. Assessment is another 1/5th and if that’s going to happen during the course, then it needs to be planned. Using a variety of the activities mentioned above will help with that. Be aware though: activities almost always take longer than you plan! 

Activities to facilitate learning:

  • questioning
  • group activities such as, case studies, card sorting, mindmapping, etc.
  • hands-on tasks with software
  • group discussions
  • quizzes and games
  • modelling and demonstrations followed by an opportunity to practise the skill

Evaluation

Your evaluation is crucial to this. Make notes after your session on what you liked and what you need to fix. Peer evaluation is also important and sending out surveys immediately after will help with response rates. However, if you can do a paper evaluation at the end of the course, your response rates will be higher. Use that feedback to improve the course, tweak activities and content, so that you can start all over again.

(Mis)Adventures in guest blogging

Sarah shares her recent DPC guest blogging experience. The post is available to read at: http://www.dpconline.org/blog/beware-of-the-leopard-oxford-s-adventures-in-the-bottom-drawer 


As members of the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC), we have the opportunity to contribute to their blog on issues in digital preservation. As the Outreach & Training Fellow at Oxford, that tasks falls upon me when its our turn to contribute.

You would think that because I contribute to this blog regularly,  I’d be an old hat at blogging. It turns out that writer’s block can hit at precisely the worst possible time. But, I forced out what I could and then turned to the other Fellows at Oxford for support. Edith and James both added their own work to the post.

With a final draft ready, the day approached when we could submit it to the blog. Even the technically-minded struggled with technology now and again. First, it was the challenge of uploading images—it only took about 2 or 3 tries and then I deleted the evidence mistakes. Finally, I clicked ‘submit’ and waited for confirmation.

And I waited…

And got sent back to the homepage. Then I got a ‘failure notice’ email that said “I’m afraid I wasn’t able to deliver your message to the following addresses. This is a permanent error; I’ve given up. Sorry it didn’t work out.” What just happened? Did it work or not?

So I tried again….

And again…

And again.  I think I submitted 6 more times before I emailed to the DPC to ask what I had done wrong. I had done NOTHING wrong, except press ‘submit’ too much. There were as many copies waiting for approval as there were times when I had hit ‘submit’. There was no way to delete the evidence, so I couldn’t avoid that embarrassment.

Minus those technological snafus, everything worked and the DPOC team’s first guest blog post is live! You can read the post here for an Oxford DPOC project update.

Now that I’ve got my technological mistakes out of the way, I think I’m ready to continue contributing to the wider digital preservation community through guest blogging. We are a growing (but still relatively small) community and sharing our knowledge, ideas and experiences freely through blogs is important. We rely on each other to navigate the field where things can be complex and ever-changing. Journals and project websites date quickly, but community-driven and non-profit blogs remain a good source of relevant and immediate information. They are valuable part of my digital preservation work and I am happy to be giving back.

 

Save Comic Sans

Happy April Fools’ Day! This was the joke post put out by the DPOC team. Though none of the following post is true (Comic Sans is going nowhere so far as we know), it is important to think about the preservation of font files. Ever notice that if a certain font file is not installed in your computer, the certain files can look completely different? Suddenly specialised font files become an important part of the digital file (maintaining its original look and feel) and preserving it becomes important. Just something to think about.


Save Comic Sans!

We were deeply saddened by today’s news that Microsoft Office products will in the future stop supporting the iconic Comic Sans font. The decision comes as a direct reaction to the slow decline in popularity and uptake from the Microsoft user community. The font became a staple in the mid 1990’s, but has seen a back-lash, particularly from the media industry, over the last few years. Repeated ridicule from leading public relation agencies and graphic designers has inevitably led to the drastic response from Microsoft.

‘Ban Comic Sans’, a fanatic society of typographic purists, have after an extensive smear campaign fought over a 15-year period finally won their case. “Clearly, Comic Sans as a voice conveys silliness, childish naiveté, irreverence, and is far too casual[…]”, they comment gleefully following the news from Microsoft Head Office.

(Above: Propaganda spread by the “group” Ban Comic Sans http://bancomicsans.com/propaganda/)

As preservation professionals and historians, we feel that it is our duty to speak up for all the other lovers of the font. Fans who have for years been shamed into silence by the widespread acceptance of these fanatical views. The digital preservation of Comic Sans is not only about safeguarding 20 years of cultural history, but it is also about doing the right thing for our children and grandchildren. As a small tribute, and as a show of our appreciation www.dpoc.ac.uk, will from now on only blog in Comic Sans. We refuse to say RIP to the font – we say it is time to fight the good fight.

If you have an anecdote about a time you enjoyed Comic Sans – please comment below and show your support. Perhaps we can make a difference together.