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Online Tutorials to the Rescue

If you're not using online tutorials to streamline professional development and help desk management, you should be!

AT HENDERSON Community College (KY), CIO Kim Conley recently turned to online training from Atomic Learning to efficiently streamline professional development and help desk management. In a nutshell, this service provides a library of individual videos that resolve "How do I do that?" questions about everything from Word and Acrobat, to blogging and wikis. During a heavily attended webinar on April 10, 2008, entitled "Web 2.0 Tutorials: Mastering Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and More," Conley spoke with Campus Technology's Matt Villano about her school's experiences with the new technology. The following transcript is excerpted from that presentation. (View the complete archived webinar on demand here.)

Online Tutorials to the RescueCT: First, Kim, tell us a little about your school.
Henderson Community College has been around since 1960. We were a part of the University of Kentucky and the community college system until 1997, when the Kentucky Community and Technical College System was founded. That college system has 16 college districts. Across those districts, we have about 90,000 students this fall in forcredit classes, and we represent one of the largest bodies of higher education in Kentucky. Enrollment here at HCC is about 2,000. We have 900 or so full-time equivalent students, about 80 full-time faculty and mid-management staff on campus here, and another 50 to 60 part-time faculty in any given semester. We have probably 125 people who serve as part-time faculty throughout the year, and we consider them a part of our family, as well. All told, we are the smallest of the Kentucky community and technical colleges, and we pride ourselves on often being on the leading edge of technology: We get to do some cool things because we are the smallest.

Historically speaking, what challenges have you faced in training new users and integrating technology?
We had faculty members who wanted to start using PowerPoint more in-depth. They wanted to start integrating technology into their classrooms, but they didn't want to come to classes and sit through them to learn the technology. Instead, they wanted to plod through it independently and call the learning specialist every 15 minutes when they hit a bump in the road. The bottom line is that we really didn't have a formal training method for our user base. When new software rolled out, we would distribute handouts, and maybe have a couple of sessions and try to get people to come. We also tried to run boot camps over the summer. But mostly what we did was answer the phone a lot and do a lot of hand-holding and helping people through things. We really needed to have a method to train faculty, and students, as well.

How many people handled those calls?
We are a four-person department. We had no training specialist; just a network manager, an academic computing person, a technician, and me.

I understand everything changed in 2004, Kim. What happened?
We got a big Title III grant. Those are federal grants that can be used for a variety of things, and in our case, the money enabled us to hire a learning specialist who could focus on training and giving support to users, and get some information out there for them so that faculty members could start to integrate technology into their classrooms. This person came in and started investigating ways to improve our system. He was the person who discovered Atomic Learning's online training, and we liked it as a way to reach more people with fewer resources.

Specifically, what did you like about this technology?
With one specialist who couldn't be everywhere at once, we saw that this technology could provide individualized tutorials. The service was all about get-what-youneed- when-you-need-it, and that's what we were looking for.

How did the implementation process work?
We purchased the technology in the early part of the summer of 2007, but the faculty didn't come back until August. At that point, we did a week of training sessions, but the goal was to introduce these new tutorials. We had three of those sessions, and maybe 10 or 15 faculty members attended each one. Word-of-mouth went from there: Those who liked it told their friends, and those people told their friends, and so on. Then, in September, we sent out a formal e-mail to all faculty and staff. We introduced them to the technology, told them how they could access it, and gave them user IDs and passwords.

At what point did you involve students?
Immediately after involving faculty and staff. Once we got all of our employees up-to-speed on this technology, we made it available to students in the same fashion. The great thing about it all was that Atomic Learning provided us with the formal announcements. I just sent the e-mail.

"We're using a tutorial about podcasting for the president's leadership team, all very busy people. At our July retreat we handed out iPods preloaded with podcasts. Then we told everyone to go to the tutorial."

Fast-forward to today and give us a sense of how you're using the tutorials.
The first semester we had a couple of faculty members who wanted to implement wikis in their classrooms, and it would have been a pretty big challenge for my staff to support them in the way they've needed to be supported. Instead, we opted to go with PBwiki as our wiki provider; then we told faculty members to go through the workshop about the tutorials.

What other faculty or staff applications can you tell us about?
We're using a tutorial about podcasting for the president's leadership team. The team is composed of everyone who reports to the president, as well as division chairs for our faculty. There are about 15 of us, and we're all very busy people. I needed to find a way to let these very busy people learn things at their own pace, when they had the time to learn them. So at our July retreat we handed out iPods preloaded with podcasts. The first thing we told everyone to do was to go to the tutorial about podcasting.

How are students using the technology?
We have a lot of online students, and these students need assistance with creating PowerPoint and Photo Story presentations, so the tools help them with that. We also rolled out the PBwiki system for students: We put the link to the tutorial right on the wiki, so the first thing the students see is the link to the tutorials and the resource for the wiki workshop.

And how has Henderson Community College incorporated this tutorial technology into the help desk?
We use the Track-It program from Numara Software, and it has a knowledgebase. We've just recently started to populate that knowledgebase so that users can log in and do a search instead of just submitting a help desk ticket. It's very simple for us to link the knowledgebase article to a tutorial, and that's what we're starting to do. I've got my staff working on creating additional links as they create help desk tickets, so that when they find a tutorial that might apply, they embed it for next time.

Do users have to be on campus to access the tutorials?
Not at all. Users-- faculty members, staff members, or students-- can log on from wherever they like. They can log on whenever they like. That's the beauty of it; it's on their own time. We also haven't mandated our general user base to embrace this technology and use it. For the leadership team, though, there has been a little bit more of a mandate. We told them that before our next meeting they would need to go through the tutorial. But the "anywhere, anyone" nature of this is what's so appealing: Everyone likes the flexibility of doing it either at work during the day, at home at night, on the weekend, or at 2 in the morning.

Can you summarize the key benefits of this online tutorial technology?
The tutorials definitely save time for the end user. People don't want extra information; I have heard over and over again from users that they love the fact that these tutorials are 90 seconds or two minutes long. They go in, the tutorial explains the exact thing that they want to do, and they're done. On a big-picture basis, the technology gives us the specialists that we need. There's no way that we could do this kind of training in-house.

How have you dealt with users who have resisted the new tool?
We had a few resisters, but then again we have the same problem with users resisting changes to learning in a classroom situation. Our solution is to diversify our offerings. This is not the only way we provide training. Fridays are our training days here, and we have in-person training sessions on specific software packages that are conducted by our learning specialist. We still have workshops, too. For the most part, though, everyone has been on board.

"We rolled out the PBwiki system and put the link to the tutorial right on the wiki, so the first thing students see is the link to the tutorials and the resource for the wiki workshop."

Have you encountered any student resistance?
As far as I know, we haven't. Most students feel like they know it all anyway, so having a place to locate one specific little nugget of information they need is great! If they need to know exactly how to do something in Word, they can go and find just that one thing and they can find it quickly. The tutorials work for nontraditional students, as well. These students maybe aren't as comfortable with the new technologies. This gives them an opportunity-- on their own time and at their own pace-- to watch and listen to the tutorials and the workshops and learn about these new things that everybody seems to be talking about when they're in the classroom. The nontraditional students can get caught up without coming out and being embarrassed by saying, "I don't understand; I don't know." In general, students also can forget these resources are there. My daughter is a student here on campus and she asked me the other day about how to use a Mac with a photo story she wanted to do. I looked at her and said, "Go to the tutorial! I'm not going to sit here and show you how to do this!" She said, "Oh right..." So once students start to remember the tutorials are there, they remember that they can use them for help with a lot of things.

Can you help them remember a little more easily?
We can and we do. What we've been doing is sending out a monthly e-mail, just as a reminder, that these tutorials are a resource we have available. I can see when I look at my reports that usage certainly goes up in those two days after I send the e-mail. I think that as the culture is more developed, students will start to see that we do have this tool, and they'll be more likely to use it.

How have your Henderson educators used these tutorials instructively?
I can give you a couple of examples, one involving the PBwiki process: Before the students-- or faculty members, for that matter-- can really start adding their content, they need to know how to use the PBwiki environment. From an instructor's standpoint, she could waste a couple of class periods going through how to maneuver through the wiki. Instead, she is able to say to the student that, as a homework assignment, "You need to work through the PBwiki workshop, and once you've done that, you'll be able to contribute your content." Another example is our online photography class. We use Photoshop in that class and the students can use whatever version of Photoshop they have. So the instructor-- instead of having to be Johnny-on-the-spot and know every answer for every version of Photoshop that happens to be out-- is able to say to them, "Here is the tutorial; it has the different versions of Photoshop that you can look at." Then she can say, "Please go through the tutorials so that you can know how to use Photoshop to work on our photography projects."

What's next for Henderson Community College and these tutorials?
We'll continue to expand our offerings, and continue to tell our users all about them. Ultimately, the goal is to have tutorials up there for just about every technology use possible. Will we ever do away completely with human help desk interaction? I doubt it. But this can help us go a long way to minimizing our reliance on that, and maximizing efficiency down the road.

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