ITS Training Services expands to reach more Penn State students, faculty, and staff in 2011-12

by Jennifer Montminy, communications intern for Teaching and Learning with Technology

Innovation, progress, and improvement continue to be the staples of ITS Training Services at Penn State. In the 2011-2012 fiscal year, this 14-person unit reached more people and provided more services than ever before. The ITS Training Services team offered 697 training sessions and reached a total of 7,798 participants, an increase of over 1,000 participants from 2010-2011. Combined, the trainings logged a total of 19,291 participant training hours, an increase of over 3,500 hours from the previous year.

Each of the three training session types--scheduled offerings, Training on Demand, and vendor training--that ITS Trainings Services offers saw increases almost across the board, again, in both number of programs offered, and number of attendees. The unit offered 11 new scheduled training sessions and 35 new and revised training materials, addressing new technology needs in the Penn State community. From the scheduled training sessions, a staggering 96 percent of participants rated the overall training experience as "Excellent" or "Good" and 92 percent of participants stated that they planned to use the skills they learned within the next three months. Also, by offering scheduled training sessions during academic breaks--a time when attendees often have increased availability--the unit was able to reach 277 participants, including 195 graduate students.

In addition to face-to-face training sessions, ITS Training Services also offered 133 training sessions via Meeting@PennState, powered by Adobe Connect. With this service, they were able to reach 886 participants University-wide, more than a 30 percent increase in number of participants reached by this medium last year. Again, participants reported being extremely happy with the training: 90 percent of evaluation respondents claimed that these sessions were "About the same as the face-to-face sessions" or "Better than the face-to-face sessions," and only 5 percent reported audio problems. This method of training reached participants at 24 Penn State locations beyond University Park and saved a reported 17,000 miles of travel.

Training on Demand (TOD) sessions, which allow faculty and staff at all campus locations to request training for their group, unit, department, or classroom, demonstrated remarkable growth, with a 50 percent increase in the number of sessions requested and over a 40 percent increase in the number of participants. At University Park alone, 90 TOD sessions served 956 faculty and staff members while the Technology Learning Assistants (TLAs) supported an additional 67 faculty requests (a 26 request increase from 2010-2011). An additional 77 TOD trainings sessions, including 7 presented via Meeting@PennState, powered by Adobe Connect, were offered at 19 campus locations and totaled 938 attendees. In order to reach more students, the service provided 116 training sessions in the classroom, reaching 2,797 students University-wide.

Through vendor training, ITS Training Services provided both for-fee offerings--with negotiated discounted University rates--and free offerings by vendors with whom Penn State has license agreements. The unit worked with 5 different vendors--Adobe, HDI, Learning Tree International, lynda.com, and Net Objectives--building both relationships and opportunities with these companies.  The 10 for-fee courses that were offered to 176 attendees saved the University $170,000. Additionally, by partnering with Learning Tree International to supply participants with discount vouchers, ITS Training Services saved Penn State staff over $40,000 this year through the 44 vouchers that were used. Combined, ITS Training Services and their vendor agreements saved University IT Professionals more than $210,000, bringing the total that the program has saved the University since 2009 to $400,000.

One of the largest of these vendor agreements that ITS Training Services manages is lynda.com, which continues to grow as an extremely important training tool across the University. This year ITS Training Services made a huge upgrade to lyndaCampus, which, in addition to the many tutorials offered by lynda.com, provides support for personal profiles, certifications of completions, and movie bookmarks. The number of unique of lynda.com users increased 24% from last year, jumping from 8,440 unique users to 10,748, and an outstanding total of 20,097 hours of training were completed. This service strategically allowed the unit to offer fewer courses on Microsoft Office and Adobe CS and focus more on developing training for University-specific applications.

In addition to the many increases in training session offerings and attendees, ITS Trainings Services also demonstrated their commitment to progress in every aspect of training through their extensive development projects and initiatives. The unit collaborated with several other units within and beyond ITS to produce various new training materials and eLearning modules on Penn State tools. ITS Training Services launched new initiatives, including developing training for the Identity and Access Management project as well piloting a new consultation-style service called Tech Tutors, aimed specifically at reaching students. The unit worked closely with the Center for Workplace Learning & Performance--partnering on specific programs, partnering on tool implementation, and investigating opportunities to incorporate presentations at new employee orientation sessions.

The unit also played a major role in the Oracle calendar migration, training and supporting faculty and staff as they began to use the University Collaboration Suite as a University-wide common good service. Additionally, members of ITS Training Services took on an important role in exploring ways to improve accessibility of training materials, with many unit members sitting on external committees tasked with examining different aspects of accessibility and University requirements. The unit continued to develop iStudy tutorials, hosted the Penn State Network of Trainers Summer Event, evaluated vendor registrations systems, and more.

ITS Training Services also worked to become an ever more active and visible part of the Penn State community. Announcements and information, regarding class enrollment and otherwise, were posted to 14 different locations including e-mail lists and websites. The unit participated in several events to reach over 1,600 faculty, staff, and students and worked with the Office of Human Resources to provide 25 service overview presentations as a part of the New Employee Orientation Program, reaching nearly 500 new staff and faculty.

Overall, ITS Training Services accomplished a year of significant achievement in both the depth and breadth of their work, growing in almost every aspect of the department. In addition to the impressive hard metrics related to their training offerings, the unit has demonstrated widespread innovation and dedication though collaboration initiatives, new materials development, and direct responses to the needs of the Penn State community. It is not a stretch to say that everyone from IT professionals to faculty, staff, and students, are in capable and caring hands with the trainers in ITS who through their own innovation, progress, improvement, continually ensure the same for those around them.

The full report is available on the Teaching and Learning with Technology website.