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How I plan and record my CPD activity

At the end of January Maren Deepwell invited #CMALT people on twitter to participate in a conversation to think about how we all record and plan our ongoing Continued Professional Development (CPD) activity for the CMALT portfolio reviews which take place every three years.

In February I took part in a really interesting Google Hangout with  Maren Deepwell, Lorna Campbell and David Hopkins, which started with a discussion around how we currently track our CPD activity.  It occurred to me that I’ve never designed what I do, it’s happened organically, so in writing this post will describe what I do, reflect on why I do it and see if this gives me any ideas for improvements.

My approach to recording CPD:

I’m very much a recorder of events. I enjoy taking notes (it helps me focus), photos and making diagrams and use these later when I go to make sense of what the experience has meant for me.

A screen shot of tabs in OneNote - Events Attended, Aurora, How To Do, Intern 2018, Writing, Marketing, Career Ready

At work I use OneNote – I’ve set up a CPD notebook with tabs for each activity, looking at these I see they can be activities I’m currently doing, so under ‘Career Ready‘ I’m making notes of all the activities and training for this activity,  or aspiration, ‘Marketing‘ is something I’m looking to find out more about, so here I’m collecting opportunities and noting articles.

If I need to know how to do something, either by going to Google or asking someone, I make time to record the answer – so I can easily get back to it – that is all in the ‘How To Do‘ tab. 

Over the last couple of years  I’ve moved to digital note taking, before that I had loads of paper notebooks. I take my laptop or a device to use for note taking. (I might at some point write a whole post about digital note taking so I’ll leave this here for now).

Since completing my CMALT and recent review – I’m now much better at collecting evidence of what I do. I take the time to write blog posts because I know I will get the benefit of them later. I collect as I go.

Screen shot of the Outlook to OneNote buttonOne thing I have discovered is that you can copy emails (complete with attachments) from Outlook into OneNote which  is a really easy way to keep stuff together.

 

At work, I am asked to compile a list of training courses for my Annual Development Review (ADR), which can be interesting to look back on, I usually compile this at the last minute by looking back at my diary, notes taken at events, and add in links to anything I blogged about.  At my annual review I take suggestions with me so I can talk through with my line manager what I want to do and opportunities that might help me to get there.  Its worth bearing in mind it can often take a while to actually get accepted on the course you want to go on. I was able to participate in the Leadership Foundation for Higher Educations Aurora programme on the third year I applied – but it was worth the wait.

My approach to planning CPD

In approaching CPD I try to balance what I need to work on with what I’m interested in and the needs of my employer and my current job role. I’m also lucky to have a mentor at work (through the Aurora scheme) who is a great listener and wise advisor and it has been really useful to talk through my development with her.

What do I need?

I try to identify where there are skill or knowledge I need, for example as part of participating in the Aurora programme I identified that I needed to better understand assertiveness – and then went on to find that knowledge and experience. 

What’s out there?

I make a note of opportunities I’m interested in when I see or hear about  them, (usually on Twitter or mailing lists, or by word-of-mouth) even if the time is not right for me:

For example:

BYOD4L BRING YOUR OWN DEVICES FOR LEARNING: AN OPEN LEARNING EVENT FOR STUDENTS & TEACHERS (FACILITATED, STAND-ALONE) – this was on my radar for a couple of years before I managed to take part is some of it earlier this year.

Jisc Digital Leaders Programme – I saw an interesting panel discussion about this at Digifest, so I’ve kept a note of this to look at further.

Senior Fellow of the HEA – I’ve been on a waiting list to take part in our institutional scheme for HEA accreditation for the last year.

My institution has a Lynda.com subscription, I must admit I got very excited about this when I first had access, but have neglected it somewhat lately. There are good courses in there, but there is no social interaction around them and I miss that aspect. They are great if you just need to know about something, then and there. I finished the Learning Path to Become a Manager a while back and I am part way through the Learning Paths to  Become a Content Strategist

Moocs – I’ve completed a few but am always seeing more that look interesting.  Recently I completed an Introduction to Personal Branding on Coursera which was created by the University of Virginia. As a learning technology advisor, I always enjoy these from two angles, both the content and the approaches taken to learning design, content creation and delivery. 

I try to think beyond training courses at other development opportunities to gain skills or experience I need.  Last year to get mentoring experience I became a Career Ready mentor – which has proved to be both a challenging and rewarding learning experience. I’ve also taken on managing a student intern to gain management and recruitment experience. 

What I consider to be CPD:

A photograph of clouds at sunrise
Looking at the possibilities and reflecting

So CPD for me is everything I do to try to develop myself. It is training courses and conferences I attend, as well as those I plan and deliver. It’s the questions I ask myself and then try to seek answers too. It’s the stretch opportunities I take on at work.

I also read a lot of books, I love getting a book recommendation and will often be ploughing through a book months after the reasons for the original recommendations have faded. I did for a while try to take notes of what I thought of books, but that just doesn’t fit with the context of when I read, which is mainly listening to audiobooks while I walk or reading in bed. Part of this is my belief that you don’t always have to actively listen, if something is important or relevant to you, you won’t miss it. I occasionally take a photo of the front cover just as a reminder!

The stuff I want to think about but not to share…

I’ve also found it very useful to use writing to help me to think through something. In our conversation we discussed the ‘personal’ aspect of CPD – not every problem you are working through can be shared in public, or can be fixed by gaining particular knowledge.  I have use google docs as a space for my private reflection.  I’ve got a folder I call ‘Work Pondering’ where I write down things I want to think about, and I find that writing about them and revisiting them on several occasions can really help this process.  

Writing to share…..

I started with private writing but over the years I have built up my confidence to share some of my writing.  I write blog posts for my team blog and participated in an online course run at the University of Edinburgh  called 23Things for Digital Knowledge and now have set up a personal blog on my own domain.

Blogging is teaching me different skills including: writing for an audience, writing with a message, writing to remember, or to connect with other people, or to promote an activity.

What’s for me and what’s for my role?

My work ADR is for here and know opportunities that are clearly role related. There are other things I want to develop that are aspirational, tangential and I can’t really link to work and these I decide to do in my own time. When I wrote my original CMALT portfolio, looking at what I did in relation to the core areas made me think about my own experience at that point and identify where I wanted to gain more – it wasn’t always immediately obvious how that related to my current job, seeing things within the CMALT guidelines gave me more confidence to pursue further development in these related ares. 

Like everyone, sometimes I have to do CPD I’m told to do! For example I’ve completed compulsory training in, Engaging with Change, Understanding Recruitment, Selection and the law and Information Security Essentials some in face to face sessions and others online.

I try to approach this with an open mind. As a trainer myself, I am respectful of the person who is delivering the training (I’ve stood in their shoes, I don’t want to be the tough crowd!). I try to think about what is the underlying  strategic reason why I’ve been sent on this? I try to get something out of every session even if it is ideas on the style or process of delivery.

I have come to accept that life is a work in progress and accept that I need to keep learning and that I often revisit the same subject for several years from several angles…. for example I don’t think I’m every going to be done with, presentation skills, time management, project management or people skills. Not that I’m particularly uninformed about any of these – just  there is always more to learn!

Questions?

Writing this post has been a useful exercise that has left me with these questions:

Am I being efficient in the way I approach planning and recording my CPD? Could I streamline and plan better?

How do other people record their CPD?

What do we all understand to be CPD activity?

I look forward to continuing this conversation.

ALT C 17, Building #CMALT Community – Empowerment in Learning Technology

A photo of my ALT C delegate badgeLast month I was privileged to attend the 24th Annual Conference of the Association for Learning Technology (#ALTC) from the 5 – 7 September 2017 at the University of Liverpool. The conference title was “Beyond islands of innovation – how Learning Technology became the new norm(al)” and I was particularly keen to go when I realised there was a theme on:

“Empowerment in Learning Technology: supporting students through staff/student partnerships, students as influencers, developing skills and supporting staff at all levels.”

As I’m currently running a scheme at the University of Edinburgh to support staff through their Certified Membership of the Association for Learning Technology (CMALT) I was particularly excited about this theme and was keen to connect with others involved in professional development for staff involved with learning technology.

I’m a slow burner when it comes to reflection, it takes me a while to assimilate an experience and make connections with my existing practice – (I’ve not yet mastered pithy live tweeting) – instead producing an essay a month after the event! But in my defense, ALT C does takes some time to process, it is a very large conference, with 450 participants and multiple streams of activity and it takes place over three packed days. Last year I attended the conference virtually, and blogged about this afterwards. This year I feel lucky that I can compare this to the experience of attending in person.

Planning – a peak behind the scenes

In hindsight my ALT C 17 had actually begun back in Nov 16, as I volunteered to be part of the conference committee. I’d highly recommend volunteering for this role, it didn’t take up too much time and I really enjoyed watching the conference come together through the online planning meetings, promoting the conference, reviewing submissions and chairing a session at the conference. It’s a great way to meet people, and knowing a few more people (even virtually) before you arrive, does make 450 sound a little less daunting! Maren Deepwell wrote a great post recently about putting together the conference, which is the largest event that ALT run each year, and about how she and her team works with the ALT community to make it happen.

Collaborating

In March 2017, I submitted a proposal, with my co-presenter Sarah Sherman, for a talk entitled The CMALT “Zumba Class”: managing a cohort scheme for CMALT applicants to build institutional capacity for learning technology. Sarah had advised me when I was planning the University of Edinburgh CMALT scheme that I run, which is now in its second year. She kindly answered all my questions about how her scheme was set up and shared her planning documents with me. I asked if she had already presented about the scheme anywhere and when Sarah said she hadn’t, we decided to present together when a suitable opportunity came up. When we saw the themes for ALT 17, we both emailed each other saying this looked like the right place. We made good use of google tools to collaborate – meeting in hangouts using docs to write the proposal together (and were very pleased when this was accepted) and later putting a presentation together in Slides.

Presenting the CMALT “Zumba Class”

I was really excited to be presenting at ALT C for the first time, not least because my institution looks much more favourably on applications to attend conferences that you are presenting at, and I was really pleased that I was approved to attend. It altered my experience attending the conference as a presenter, I found it much less abstract watching other people present when you know you’ll be up there doing the same thing at some point during the conference! Regardless of my nerves, I really enjoyed giving the presentation and I think despite having not met until the day before, that Sarah & I did a great double act. It was valuable to devote time to really thinking about a piece of work that I was very close to, drawing out the key things I had learned and working with Sarah to distil them into an engaging 20 minute presentation. Sarah was also very organised and wrote this great blog about our presentation before we gave it. The audience was great, most of them were already involved in supporting CMALT or planning similar schemes and they asked excellent questions. Sarah and I started lots of interesting conversations which I am still following up. How often do you get the chance to tell a room full of people about a piece of work you are really excited about and that they are also really excited about too?

Sarah Sherman presenting at ALT C 2017Susan Greig presenting at ALT C

Beyond islands – meeting my people

Attending the conference in person was really valuable, I finally got to meet people whose work I had read and several people I’d worked with on the CMALT project, but never met in person, such as the wonderfully efficient Thomas Palmer of ALT who I have so many correspondences with over email. After so much online communication, it was a pleasure to finally meet my co-presenter Sarah Sherman and Julie Voce who runs a CMALT scheme at City University of London and who also advised me when I was getting started.

A surprising extra insight for me was the experience of staying in student halls, these were clean with good facilities and not unlike a hotel, though I found navigating round the various parts of the building (and the University Campus) somewhat disorienting. The conference took place the week before the start of semester so I found myself wondering what the next year would be like for the students soon to be resident in these rooms, many from the other side of the world as Liverpool like the University of Edinburgh has a high number of International students. As a member of professional services staff, I am somewhat removed from our students, and anything that gives me a little more insight into ‘the student experience’ can only be a good thing!

When attending a large conference, you need to be selective and decide in advance what areas of interest you are planning on following up. This was where being part of the conference committee was a good influence, because it encouraged me to read the programme in advance, so I could decide which session to volunteer to chair, and as the same time I also planned out my own days of activity. I had meant to be gentle with myself and plan in some down time, but found myself running from session to session as there were so many interesting and relevant sessions, and the three days suddenly felt too short. Across the conference I attended 18 sessions and one Special Interest Group (SIG) – ALT Scotland, co-presented one paper, chaired a session and attended the awards ceremony (always inspiring) and very enjoyable conference meal. I arrived back at work with a copious collection of notes, bundle of leaflets and fist full of business cards. A head buzzing with ideas for our CMALT cohort and a fresh burst of energy for my work.

Updated Confirmation and date for CMALT Portfolio Review June 2016

I declare that, to the best of my knowledge, the statements and evidence included in this application accurately describe my practice and are drawn from my own work, with the input and support of others duly and clearly recognised.
 
Signed: Susan Greig Date: 26 May 2016
 
(Note that forms submitted electronically will be treated as if they were signed so long as the applicant’s name and date of completion are typed above.)

Updated future plans for CMALT Portfolio Review June 2016

The Future Next Exit by Buck CC BY-SA 2.0

I was surprised to see that my future plans still looks so similar to those I submitted in my CMALT portfolio at the end of 2008. I did complete the ITIL certification in 2008 and this is still relevant as there is a strong push for service improvement in ISG.

I have not taken any formal management training but have had some management and recruitment experience within my role. This has been enough to make me realise that I don’t want to move into a management role, I would prefer to move towards a lecturing post as I want to do research and teaching.  I am currently putting together a PhD application for a project in the digital education field and plan to do this part time over the next 6 years (I hope I have made progress in this by my next review!). I am also looking for opportunities for scholarly and research activity within my role – opportunities, to review, write and present.
My current work is concerned with supporting learning technology staff development – I now have 15 years of experience as a learning technologist and I feel that I can now contribute to supporting the wider community of learning technologists and to support development of people coming into the field. I have recently started to work on a project that I am really excited about, to support a cohort of Learning Technologists at U of E through CMALT accreditation. Also I have joined the elearning@ed committee – this is a group at the University of Edinburgh that is for all staff who want to find out more about technology-enhanced learning, it brings together an interesting mix of academic, support and administrative staff and puts on events throughout the year – including an annual conference which I will help to organise.

Overview of CPD activities over the past 3 years. For CMALT Review June 2016

Attached are the CPD lists from my previous 3 annual development reviews(ADRs):
In this section I will  focus on three CPD examples:

1) Writing for the EDE Team Blog

This is not a specific CPD activity but rather a reflective tool that carries across all my CPD activities. Just after I rejoined the team a team blog was set up in WordPress and I began slowly adding posts to this. My first posts are written after attending conferences and events, and this has been useful as I can link back to them later – as you can see in the training forms I have used for my annual development reviews. I find this a really useful addition to the CPD process as it encourages me to reflect on the events I attend, why am I attending these and on how do they relate to my current work. I now schedule in time after an event to look over my notes, follow up any links and to write a post.
The blog is also a great way to make my work more visible and as a  tool for professional networking, I always send out the link to new posts on LinkedIn and Twitter. Contributing to a team blog is great because there is not too much pressure on any one person to keep writing posts and reading colleagues posts it helps me see how our work interrelates. As my confidence in writing posts developed I also added posts about projects I have been involved in, such as this one on TREE,  and and events I organised, such as this one on Geolocation and Learning and Teaching.
I hope this activity shows a commitment to communicate and disseminate effective practice. The blog posts give the staff I support a wider view of my activities and interests and I hope showcase some of my skills and knowledge in learning technology.

2) Conference committee member for #OER16 Open Culture 19th & 20th April 2016

Earlier this year I volunteered for the Conference committee member for #OER16 Open Culture. The Conference was held in University of Edinburgh this year so it offered a great opportunity to be part of something close to home whilst looking beyond my own institution to be part of the learning technology community. U of E has recently started to offer an Open Educational Resources Service from within my team, though I was not directly involved I wanted to find out more.
Because of my involvement in OER16 I did my IDEL assessment (discussed below) on Open Educational Resources (OERs) in HE and created this website which was designed as an OER and licensed for reuse.
I found it really interesting to be part of the conference committee, and later discussed what this entailed in a blog post.
I could have volunteered for more aspects but I did gain enough experience so that I would be much more confident to take on more roles in the future.
Because I took part in the OER16 committee I am more confident and better informed about Open Educational Resources, I got to meet and work with a great group of people and I was able to attend an really interesting conference. All of this has broadened my knowledge to I can provide better support and advice about OER to our staff.

3) PG Cert in Digital Education

In 2015 I applied for a staff bursary to do the Introduction to Digital Environments for Learning (IDEL) course which is the foundation course for the MSC in Digital Education.
I wanted to do this in part to see if I could fit studying back into my life as I was still thinking about applying for a PhD. This course gave me the chance to get back up to date with the literature in digital education. Also I wanted to experiencing online learning as a student –  this course is part of a fully online distance programme.It was a great opportunity to keep up to date with new technologies as IDEL is all about trying new things for example I had the chance to experience new types of assessed work, the first part of the assessment is a private blog between you and your blog tutor and for the second assessment I made a website rather than submitting a conventional essay. I blogged about the IDEL course afterwards.
IDEL challenging me to move out of my comfort zone. I found it a great CPD experience and it has re-invigorated my passion for my area of work. This has in turn influenced the level of energy and passion I bring to the staff and students I support and has increased my understanding and empathy for the experiences of ODL students who are very reliant on technology to mediate their experience of ‘being’ at university.
I then applied for a further bursary for a 20 credit course to make up the PG Cert in Digital Education and this semester took the course Digital Education in Global Context (DEGC).
This course, like IDEL, had two assessments, the first part was based on participation in a group blog. Each week had readings around a particular topic and each week two or three people were asked to lead by posting twice and following up conversation in the comments.  I chose to be part of the group who led the blogs on weeks about the economics of digital education and on gender and technologies .
The blog format was challenging, there was a great deal to read and I got interesting insights from the other students who were also educational professionals but working in a range of different contexts. It was interesting to see the different approaches and writing styles.
Like OER,  MOOC development  is supported within my team but it is not something I am directly involved in so I wanted to take the opportunity to get some experience as a MOOC participant and to reflect on this, to give me some insight into how MOOCs are for participants and on what we are doing with them at my institution.
These two courses complete the PG Cert in Digital Education and I am looking forward to graduating from this programme in November.

Summary of recent work/practice. CMALT Portfolio Review June 2016

A Photo of Susan GreigI have found it really interesting reviewing my CMALT portfolio seven and a half years after I submitted it. You can see the original portfolio here – sorry some of the links have degenerated over time.  My feedback on this was positive but did mention that the “the volume submitted was excessive” so I will try to be less verbose this time!
My LinkedIn Profile gives an overview of my recent employment.
I still work in the University of Edinburgh for the central Information Services Group. I was a eLearning Advisor in eLearning and IS Skills Development until 2009 when I left to have my first child. During the year I was away my department was restructured, so I knew I would not be returning to the post I left. On return I was offered a secondment to the newly formed Institute for Academic Development (IAD) undertaking a scoping project to link learning technology more broadly to staff development for academic staff. At U of E there is a current focus on developing Online Distance Learning  and a five year well funded project called the Digital Education Initiative which supported new online PGT courses was just getting underway when I was in IAD and in the later part of my secondment I was asked to set up the Online Distance Learning (ODL) network, which I’m pleased to see is now well established. I finished this secondment in 2012 when I left to have my second daughter, returning after 9 months in March 2013. My department was again going through a period of change and restructuring and my post is now Learning Technology Advisor in the Educational Design and Engagement Team within the newly formed Learning Teaching and Web Division.
Since I returned to my team as a Learning Technology Advisor  three years ago key projects and services I have worked on:
TREE Project – this was a project to deliver an interactive educational resource discovery tool. This was developed to a beta version but was not given any resource to promote it or to develop it further, so it is actually in the process of being closed. Disappointing as this is I do think I learned a lot from something that didn’t succeed!
I currently lead on the Question Mark Perception assessment service so am involved in upgrade projects, training and service support for this. I am service second on Top Hat and Collaborate.

Celebrating the first year of CMALT

A photograph of the CMALT guideline documents and a cake with the CMALT logo
Celebrating with CMALT Cake

On the 20th of June we held a Celebration Event to celebrate our first year of supporting a cohort of staff from across the University to put together their CMALT portfolios.

As I wrote my speech for this event I realised that this project has been such a pleasure to work on thanks to to the enthusiasm and good will of a great many people, and for those who weren’t able to join us on the day and hear said speech, I’d like to share my thanks in this blog post.

Firstly, thanks to everyone (all 23 of you) who took part in this year’s cohort, who between you came to the 12 meetings, 6 writing retreats and 4 open events. Members of the cohort are at different stages of their CMALT journey but I’m really pleased to say that everyone who started with us, is still planning on completing their portfolio – so at the very least I haven’t put anyone off!

Congratulations to the 12 people who have submitted portfolios and are patiently awaiting their results – I’m planning another event like this later in the year to celebrate these results and I hope that these celebrations will be an ongoing part of the annual CMALT calendar. [Update: Further congratulations are now due to the 5 people, so far, who have passed their CMALT accreditation]

Thank you to all of the line mangers who supported their CMALT applicants and encouraged them through the process.

Thank you to Melissa Highton, Director of the Learning, Teaching and Web services division (LTW) for instigating this project and for her ongoing support.

Thank you to Jenni Houston for supporting the scheme from Digital Skills and Training Team and to Stuart Nicol, my line manager in Educational Design and Engagement Team, for their continued support.

Thank you to the people from other institutions who were already running cohort schemes and were kind enough to advise me in setting up this scheme:

  • Sarah Sherman from the Bloomsbury Group
  • Stefanie Anyadi from University College London
  • Julie Voce at Imperial College London

Thank you to Daphne Loads from the Institute for Academic Development (IAD) for her advice on setting up the scheme, facilitation of writing retreats and for speaking to the cohort about reflective portfolios.

And thank you to Rosie Bree for setting up the Writing Retreats and to the Institute for Academic Development for providing the room and supporting the Writing retreats

Thank you to Rachael Mfoafo for her excellent organisation of rooms and catering.

Thanks to all of our guest speakers:

  • Professor Lesley Diack who shared her insights as an experienced CMALT assessor
  • Toni Fisher, E-learning Advisor at Robert Gordon University who joined us for a webinar to share her recent experience of successfully completing her CMALT accreditation.
  • Eugen Stoica from the Scholarly Communications Team who spoke to use about Copyright and Open Access
  • Stuart Nicol who spoke about Open Educational Resources
  • Ruby Rennie who shared her insights on Accessibility as School Coordinator of Accessibility
  • Stephanie (Charlie) Farley Board Game Jam (Make your own OER using OERs)

Thank you to Martin Hawksey, Maren Deepwell and Thomas Palmer from the Association for Learning Technology –for their ongoing support and enthusiasm.

We have now opened the scheme for its second year, and I am greatly looking forward to working with another cohort as they start their CMALT journey.

Goodbye TREE

It’s sad to close a service, especially one that you were involved in developing – but it is also a chance to reflect on what was learned from the process.

TREE was conceived in 2014, when our website was still using the somewhat clunky Polopoly content management system (CMS). The original vision was to develop an interactive tool aimed at teaching staff, to help them find out about the technology tools we offer and how these can be used for teaching and learning. We had ambitions to develop an interactive system that allowed people to rate our services add comments. We used extensive user consultation to develop requirements for this tool which I wrote about in a previous blog post – Setting out on an Agile project journey: Part 1, User Stories and Poker Chips.

Interface for TREE (Technology Resources for Educational Enhancement)
Interface for TREE (Technology Resources for Educational Enhancement)

TREE went live in summer of 2014. It was developed in Drupal – and its appearance was much cleaner than our webpages at the time. However, even with very limited content we had issues with the available search options.

Our main stumbling block however was with encouraging people to author content, and in keeping this content up to date. This required duplication of their effort as they were often already maintaining very similar content on service webpages.

We soon realised that there is too much overlap between TREE and our university webpages. Also, in 2015 our university website content management system changed from polopoly to Drupal. This has made it more user friendly to maintain webpages and offers better functionality than the previous CMS.

By creating a different web tool we were creating another place to direct staff too, this required an effort to promote, when staff were already going to our well recognised website in search of similar information.

We experimented with different channels for promotion – I set up the TREE Twitter account. I now see that I only posted 34 tweets – but I’m sure at least an hour of agony went into each composition! This was on top of email correspondence, print articles and some of my earliest blog posts. This experience introduced me to digital marketing and promotion and I learned that this requires a clear focus and vision and time to devote to development.

Screenshot of the TREE Twitter account
The TREE Twitter account

Lynda.com, which the University of Edinburgh subscribed to last year, has several courses that look useful for those interested in this area https://www.lynda.com/learning-paths/Marketing/become-a-digital-marketer

What we did right:

We learned from users – through comprehensive requirements gathering and later usability testing. People don’t all use websites in the way you think they will or that you do. Taking the time to consult with users on requirements and to sit with users during testing provides amazing insights.

We built relationships through requirements gathering and consultation and from this developed large mailing list.

What we learned:

If you can, put information where people are already looking for it – publicising a new website is hard! It’s much easier to improve content in the place people were going to look.

What I did in my holidays…Become a Manager with Lynda.com

Since summer 2016 the University of Edinburgh has provided a licence to Lynda.com online courses for staff and students. I spent some time in my Christmas break looking at this. I had already started to explore Lynda.com, watching several videos and completing the course ‘Learning with Lynda.com‘ which I’d recommend as a good starting point for those new to the resource.
Completing a course (which as far as I can see this means watching all the videos) gives you a certificate of completion – and this can be easily shared, for example on Twitter, Facebook or on your LinkedIn profile or downloaded as a PDF and printed out.

I found the course I completed interesting but I still wasn’t sure yet how to use Lynda.com for my own development – the courses are very short (most of them can be completed within an hour or two) – and are well presented and relevant – but the library is vast and offers many subjects relevant to my work (for example Education, Design and Business) . Each course give you certificate – I wasn’t sure what my next step was – beyond collecting a long list of certificates? Then I found the feature called Learning Paths that collates a selection of courses around a goal and this answered my question. I decided to take the next step and tackle the one to ‘Become a Manager‘ – which is made up of 9 courses:

1. New Manager Fundamentals
2. Hiring Your Team
3. Onboarding New Hires
4. Delegating Tasks to Your Team
5. Leading Productive Meetings
6. Managing for Results
7. Performance Review Fundamentals
8. Building Accountability Into Your Culture
9. Rewarding Employees

I was at home over the break so I decided to access this via the Lynda.com App on my Android tablet or phone as I usually have one of these devices to hand. The App gives a reduced selection of the Lynda.com features but does mean you can download content – so you can download a course when you have Wi-Fi and watch even when you don’t. The videos can be watched full screen and you can easily skip about within the course structure. Progress was synced to my account across multiple devices and progress watching the downloaded content was synced next time you had a connection.
Unfortunately the App doesn’t give you access to the ‘My Goals’ section of Lynda.com where you access the Learning Paths. So this first thing I did, to work around this, was to go to my laptop and add all the courses from this Learning Path to a Playlist – as I could see this via the App. Then, in odd pockets of time over the holiday, I watched the videos and worked through the courses. It was easy to squeeze this into odd moments – I would watch a couple of videos when I was cooking, or when I had a few minutes during the day. They are generally bite sized (I’d say three minutes on average) and include good recaps – so stopping and starting isn’t much of an issue. This activity probably replaced some time I would have spent reading the news or twitter online.

After a chunk of videos, say three or four, there is a short quiz and I found these really helpful to check if I’d understand what I’d just watched. Though the interface for questions on android devices was frustratingly temperamental – it requires you to drag the correct answer off the screen – but sometimes took several attempts to register this. I did persevere though, as I really wanted to check my answers.
Many of the courses also come with exercise files which can’t be accessed from App, but I will probably take a look at these now I’m back in the office – as several of them are templates that maybe useful in my work.

The App also doesn’t allow you to bookmark videos (which you can do on the website) and this I did miss, when watching the courses there were one or two videos that resonated, and that I wanted to go back to again or to discuss with colleagues – without the bookmark option it’s going to be harder to find these again. Hopefully Lynda.com will add this feature in time? I see in the App that I can share videos in various ways, so next time I will try to email details of key videos to myself.

What did I get from following a learning path that I wouldn’t have got from just choosing nine courses on management that I was interested in? I think that answer lies in the collation, basically I did watch courses that I wouldn’t have selected – because I was interested in the overall goal. This was on the basis that someone with more experience than me had selected appropriate courses and that therefore the relevance would become clearer to me in time. Some of the courses listed I didn’t initially think looked interesting or relevant – the course ‘Managing for Results’ for example, was much more relevant than it looked on the face of it. A couple of the courses used slightly different language (it being authored in the US) – for example ‘Onboarding New Hires’ is what I would have called New Staff Induction – so I wouldn’t have been able to find this by searching for it despite the relevant content. On the minus side, the legal aspects where focused on the US context, this was clearly stated but I still felt I had to watch through them to complete the course!

Once I completed the course I went to my laptop and added the certificate to my LinkedIn profile. This displays nicely and it links through to show the details of the Learning Path and the courses it contained. This would be valuable to staff and students for evidencing their knowledge and skills.

So having spent time exploring what it means to Become a Manager with Lynda.com – I’m now ready to relate this to my current work – feeling better prepared and more confident to develop my own experience as a manager in 2017.

Screen shot of the 'Become a Manager' Badge from Lynda.com on my  LinkedIn profile
The ‘Become a Manager’ Badge from Lynda.com on my LinkedIn profile