From fundamental-level seminars and classroom-style lectures to high-end technology training and one-on-one consultations, Information Technology Services (ITS) Training Services strives to accommodate all the technology training needs that Penn Staters may have. For that reason, each year ITS Training Services adjusts a few traditional services and experiments with new ideas to determine those that work best-and this year is no exception.
This academic year begins with a variety of changes and additional services offered by ITS Training Services, including an additional format for free technology seminars, a new concept for the Web site home page, and the Blended Training Solutions service that was recently launched for faculty.
Also new this year are several additional free seminar topics, an improved registration system, and the availability of a catalogue that lists the free technology seminars to be offered throughout the 2004-2005 academic year.Free Seminar Additions
In the upcoming academic year, ITS Training Services will offer more than 600 free technology seminars to Penn State faculty, staff, and students. These seminars take place over three sessions, which coincide with the fall, spring, and summer terms. Seminars cover a wide range of software topics in such categories as Web and Internet, Technologies for Teaching, Graphics, Multimedia, and Desktop Publishing, Office Applications, Operating Systems, and many more.
This year, ITS Training Services has expanded offerings in the Operating Systems category to include several courses on Linux and Mac OS X. "We're excited to be able to offer training on these operating s ystems," said ITS Training Services director Lisa Lacombe, who said they are working directly with Apple to coordinate and offer the Mac OS X training. Some of the Mac OS X course topics include getting started, troubleshooting, and server concepts.
Lacombe stressed the importance of making every effort to offer training on many of the software programs for which the University has site licenses. Thus, the new Linux training is a valued addition. "The Linux courses (offered for the first time this fall) filled up fast, so it must be a topic of high demand. We're glad to be able to meet that demand," she said. Linux topics include Configuring Network Services, Installing Linux and Dual-Booting with Windows XP, Migrating from Windows to Linux, and more.
Another popular addition, which was implemented over the summer, is a new seminar format called "Getting Started." These seminars are typically hands-on in format and less than two hours in length. They are meant to "get participants up and going with the software," according to Lacombe, who said that the training specialists carefully choose the relevant information to accomplish that purpose in the allotted time. "The goal is for participants to leave the seminar with the skills to use the software effectively for their jobs," she said, adding that shorter seminar durations fit better into busy schedules during the semester.
Feedback has been good so far, according to Lacombe, as well as to many of the training specialists who have taught these courses since summer. "Judging by seminar popularity, attendance, and wait list numbers, we can reasonably assume that people like this format," said Lacombe. Some of the "Getting Started" seminar topics include Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Excel, Microsoft Project, and Digital Photography.
To reference all the free seminars that will be offered throughout the year, ITS Training Services created a catalogue listing those seminars that will be offered during the fall 2004, spring 2005, and summer 2005 seminar sessions. The ITS Training Services Seminars Catalogue is an annual publication that is intended to serve as a reference list of the technology seminars offered at Penn State throughout the academic year. The catalogue is available upon request to those who did not receive it through campus mail. It is also available in PDF format via a link on the ITS Training Services home page.
It is important to note that, due to scheduling restrictions, seminars will appear in the online registration system only during the session in which they will be offered.Registration System Enhancements
Over the summer, the free seminar registration system went through some changes. "Users shouldn't notice too much of a change," said Alexa Kurilko, ITS Training Services seminar coordinator. "The system was enhanced to be more usable and intuitive," she said, adding that enhancements to the free seminar registration system include an improved interface and advanced search feature. Users who enter the system will find consistent navigation throughout the system, as well as expanded and intuitive search capabilities, according to Kurilko.
Now when a user enters the ITS Training Services registration system, a list of categories will appear as links in the center of the page. Users may simply click on the category link to view a list of seminars in that category, or click to view all seminars in alphabetical list format that are being offered for that session. The basic search feature is still available, whereby users may type a seminar title or part of a seminar title into the search field to search for specific seminars or topics of interest.
The advanced search feature is brand new and provides greater search control, giving users the options to search by seminar title, date range, sections with open seats, and more. Users can view their results in calendar or list view. In list view, they may sort alphabetically or by date. "This was a greatly needed enhancement," said Kurilko, who added, "the more flexible the system is, the better chance users will have to find what they're looking for."
Though users must log in to the registration system to view all the seminars that are currently available, they are not required to register for a seminar. Users are welcome to enter the system and browse around just to see what is available during the current session.Web Site Home Page News & Updates
Because information technology is such a dynamic topic, seminars may change or be added throughout the year, according to Kurilko. In order to keep participants and potential participants informed, ITS Training Services has revamped the Web site home page to incorporate monthly updates.
"We tried to think of the best way to keep people up-to-date without inundating them with e-mail," said Kurilko. "The Web site is the most public thing we have," she added, "so it just made sense to put it on the home page." At the beginning of each month, as updates occur, the new information will be listed in brief format on the home page. Longer stories will link to a full story page, and archived articles will be linked from the full story page.
Kurilko stressed that the best way to stay informed is still by joining the Training News list, to which new information is e-mailed before it is published on the site. "But for those who prefer to pull the information for themselves, rather than having it pushed at them, the home page updates are the way to go," she said.Blended Training Solutions
The Blended Training Solutions (BTS) service for faculty was launched over the summer and, according to Web-Based training specialist April Sheninger, has "really taken off." Blended Training Solutions combines hands-on instruction with Web-based resources. Through the Blended Training Solutions service, ITS Training Services specialists consult with faculty about the technology training options available through ITS Training Services, which they can use to help facilitate learning for their students.
The popularity of the service has a lot to do with a new partnership between ITS Training Services and the University's e-Portfolio Initiative, according to Sheninger. "We've been working with Glenn Johnson (e-Portfolio Initiative project manager) by taking over some of the hands-on e-Portfolio training sessions, and this has really helped get the BTS service off the ground," she said.
Though most of the requests for Blended Training have come in the form of e-Portfolio training, the BTS specialists also continue to provide other types of training, mostly on Web editing or Web page creation, page layout, graphics, and presentation applications.
Sheninger also feels that the service is popular because it provides the just-in-time training that students can use immediately and in the future, as well as the fact that BTS is a service that faculty needed. "We're offering a service that faculty really want," said Sheninger, "which is apparent by the popularity of the service."
Sheninger stressed the fact that instructor and lab resources are limited for this service, so the farther ahead that faculty can make the request, the better. Blended Training Solutions specialists are typically scheduled to capacity at least one month out, but planning a semester in advance is optimum, said Sheninger.
To learn more about all the services available through ITS Training Services, visit the Web site at http://its.psu.edu/training/.