Interview with Chris Lucas, director ITS Training Services, who talks about the importance of training in an ever-changing technology environment, the variety of training formats available, and what opportunities will be offered at Summer-Fest on May 9-13.

How important is it to ensure faculty and staff are properly trained in technology, especially in light of the budget concerns Penn State faces?

I think it’s definitely important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that professional development is going to continue to be vital for faculty and staff. Especially if they take on more responsibilities and duties. Ultimately, we need to ensure faculty and staff have the technology skills needed to be successful in their
positions.

What are some of the training options that ITS Training Services offers to help ensure faculty and staff get the most out of technology?

We offer face-to-face training as well as online training via Adobe Connect. A lot of our face-to-face sessions are streamed via Adobe Connect to make them available to all Penn State campuses.

We have scheduled sessions which focus on topics like Microsoft Office, Adobe CS5, different operating systems, and different technologies used for teaching such as Blogs at Penn State, wikispaces, and ANGEL. We also have a lot of training on Penn State’s administrative computing systems and some security topics.

All of those sessions are available via our Training on Demand service, so basically we can provide that same training for a specific group of faculty, staff, or students. We are also able to offer Training on Demand to the campuses. One thing that is great about the on demand service is we can make some customizations to the training to meet the needs of those requesting it.

Another way we provide technology training is through our e-learning initiatives. One is the e-learning development we do internally which focus on Penn State specific systems and are posted to our website. We also have recordings of many of the sessions we offer via Adobe Connect.

The big e-learning initiative is our contract with lynda.com that provides faculty, staff, and students with a wide range of free technology training. That’s been a very popular service and continues to grow.

Then there is the Technology Learning Assistants, or TLA, program. It’s designed to provide technology training support for faculty. A faculty member can request to have a student come in and work with them one-on-one. Usually a lot of that focuses around different technologies that are used for instruction like ANGEL, e-portfolios, or Blogs at Penn State.

Another big initiative that we have is our vendor training program which provides training support for IT professionals. It’s something that we are definitely proud of. Since July 1 of last year we saved the University around $110,000 in professional development costs. We have discounted trainings that we run through Learning Tree.

We also have voucher programs so if there isn’t enough demand to bring a Learning Tree topic here to Penn State, staff can go to a Learning Tree training center and still get that training at the discounted rate that we’ve negotiated. We’ve also work with TechQuest which is a group that provides grant funds for technology training. Penn State staff can participate in our trainings and then apply to have some of the training costs reimbursed.

What are the costs of these options?

Something we are working very hard to accomplish, especially given the budget situation, is to try to make as much of our training free as possible. So basically any training that we have dealing with Penn State tools, such as our administrative tools, teaching technology tools, etc. all of those seminars, are free. For topics like Microsoft Office and Adobe CS5 we charge $30 a session. As expected, the costs of our vendor training sessions are our most expensive. The costs of these can vary depending on the topic, length of the class, and the number of people that register.

What are some of the subjects covered in this year’s Summer-Fest?

We have a nice amount of offerings around using different technologies used for teaching. We have several classes on ANGEL, a couple that focus on subjects like the course gradebook, using ANGEL in your courses right away, and teaching strategies for creating an effective syllabus. We have several collaboration/communications sessions, including Adobe Connect and videoconferencing.

There are what we call “topics for teaching.” These really focus on how to use these tools from a pedagogical standpoint so it goes beyond just how to use a certain feature or function and really gets into how do I use it for teaching purposes. We have sessions on Adobe Connect, Blogs at Penn State, Google Apps, videoconferencing, Penn State Wikispaces, and one on NBC Learn, the new service TLT began to offer this year.

We also have a session on SPSS basics, a topic that has proven to be popular in the past with faculty. And, there are a few Microsoft classes that are mostly focused on PowerPoint, in particular customizing a presentation and customizing and packaging a presentation.

There is also an overview session of our TLA program so faculty can learn more about that program and how it can assist them. We also have a session on how to increase student involvement in the classroom through the use of serious games.

We have a wide range of topics for Summer-Fest this year.

What are some of the lynda.com offerings for this year?

This is interesting because it is constantly growing, as they are releasing new courses nearly every week. Their main categories include 3-D, animation, audio, business applications like Microsoft Office, and design topics such as Illustrator, Flash, PhotoShop, etc. They are also developer topics on web development and programming languages. They also have multimedia courses on video editing and production, among others.

Where can people find out more and also register for these training opportunities, such as Summer-Fest?

If they just go out to our website, http://its.psu.edu/training, they can access our registration system where they can sign up for our classes. There are also links to access lynda.com, the e-learning materials we have developed, and recordings of some of our classes.

We have a listserv, a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter identity where they can get more info.

If people have any feedback or suggestions for what they would like the unit to do, like topics they would want, free free to contact us. We are always looking to identify new training and meet the needs of the University.

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