Tag Archives: training

Learnt it on the grapevine – Pat Mock, Jenny Kirkwood #open17

Lots of e-resources that need certain amount of skills to use. But don’t have a trainer so implementing training isn’t manageable – fitting into schedules is hard. Training isn’t always motivating – especially hard for the trainer when trainees forget everything they’ve been told – only remember who the expert was “and it wasn’t them”.

Did research and found brain is designed to shed information. 50% of what you hear will be gone on within an hour. Unless you can convince your brain you’re going to need it again – this is the key to their new system, “grapevine training”.

Short 10-15min sessions where person A trains B -> C -> D … -> A. Different topic starting a chain every few weeks. Done for technical issues, work processes, etc.

Staff like the format – get engaged working one-on-one. Often work together longer than session intended and first staff member gets more out than put in. More confident demonstrating to public because they’ve already demo’d to each other.

Not perfect each time. One problem is that once a train sets off it’s hard to track how far it’s progressed – so create a document where staff tick when training is received and passed on.

Usually reference staff are responsible for training so they started kicking off the training but when they got a bit tired of this, other staff got asked to kick off chains. Staff are now using chains when they want to use a skill.

Takes the expert out of the equation so staff are now more empowered. Doing better with familiarity with resources by engaging staff.

Did they check this doesn’t end up like Chinese Whispers? Actually didn’t. Theoretically the last person gives it back to person A but in practice the chains broke first. But didn’t find that it got distorted. Sometimes you get something different but not wrong – they’d just gone off on a tangent.

May not work in big systems – online document to track helped but easier in smaller organisation.

For a short thing, can have one person teach two and spreads faster – pyramid style.

Who initiates? Still mostly the reference team. But very successful when others start. Requires one of the reference team to push it at the start.

Have considered trying it with school classes too – haven’t had a chance to try that yet.

What about capturing notes from people along the chain?

What happens when the chain breaks? You can prod people. But if people really don’t want to learn, so be it. Has worked better and for longer than anything else.

They set a time limit, not always met.

Is there a structured chain? In the start, yes, but really labour-intensive and would break when someone went on leave. More flexible when there’s an online form as staff can find someone available.

University Helpdesk for Digital Research Skills #theta2015

Reimaging the University Helpdesk for the Next Generation of Digital Research Skills (abstract)
Dr. Steven Manos, David F. Flanders and Dr. Fiona Tweedie

Can’t hope to offer one-to-one support to all the researchers they need to support (especially in the context of the “digital native researcher”) so want to reimagine how they offer support.

Asked researchers what tools they use:
eg python, git, chrome, WebGL, OpenGL, Data-Driven Documents
eg ArcGIS, Google Maps, SPSS
eg Terminal, Matlab, Dropbox, Evernote, iPhone camera
eg Anaconda, R, PsychoPy, iPython, Markdown
Often have enormous of array of tools in their toolbox but still want to add more tools, so how can we hope to help them.

“Community: it’s what makes digital research possible”. Instead of supporting researchers with tools, encourage/facilitate users of these tools to support each other. [Ooh so much potential here.] Build community. Researchers already often learn from each other. All training done by researchers. Research networks tend to be self-sustaining and ongoing.

“A helpdesk is reactive. A training community is proactive.”

Sometimes run into “I have books, leave me alone” and “I don’t computer”. But many excited by being able to flash up a paper by adding a customised map. Workshop on this, very popular, researchers coming back, had 3-4 papers come out.

Software carpentry – teaching coding to non-coders. Teaching them enough coding to be able to make use of Python, R, Matlab in their work (eg a for loop) to make their lives easier without trying to turn them into computer scientists. Taught by researchers for researchers. Intensive, hands-on, many helpers. Every 15min stop talking and they do a challenge to put into practice. Code breaks – important for people to see how this works: you google the error message, the answer is on StackOverflow and you patch it up and continue.

Data carpentry assumes no coding experience. Teaching text mining/analysis for humanities.

How do we get people involved in 3D printing? Throw a grant at them. [Ah to be in an organisation where a few thousand dollars is spare change. 🙂 ]

Research Tool Speed Dating: set up tools on workstations around the room and rotate researchers around the room – if they like it they can set up a second ‘date’ ie training.

HackyHour: come to a bar and people can come, have a drink, ask questions.

Research Bazaar: pulled 19 courses together over a 3-day event.

Different people engage in different ways so having all these methods is really important.

Why would a university want to invest/engage in something like this? [Why wouldn’t it?!] Often IT shops are enterprise-focused, not researcher-focused. Take a user-driven approach.

Asked researchers to cite them if skills help produce articles, and 2 articles have been published citing ResBaz (Research Bazaar). Much social media engagement.

ResBaz going international – Mozilla Science taking over the community. 1st week of Feb next year if you want to do it at your university.


  • open and collaborative platforms
  • some fanatical community engagement
  • cost-effective

Introducing the ResBaz Cookbook (in development)