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Abstract

Current Web Support for Skills Training in MHS
By: Alex Hardman Contents Abstract................................................................................................................. ................2 . Introduction............................................................................................................................3 Training Programmes............................................................................................................ 3 . Usability - The Trainee Experience........................................................................................7 The Training Calendar........................................................................................................7 RSS/ Information Management..........................................................................................8 User Booking Management ...............................................................................................9 News/ Blog.......................................................................................................................12 The Admin Toolset...............................................................................................................13 Programme Management ................................................................................................13 Course Catalogue Management......................................................................................14 Course Instance Management.........................................................................................15 Course Instance Archive Management............................................................................18 Participant Search............................................................................................................18 Attendance Data...............................................................................................................19 Forthcoming Bookings Data.............................................................................................21 Summary..................................................................................................................... ........22 .

Abstract
This paper sets out the web development in place in MHS to support skills training. It details how the website www.mhs.manchester.ac.uk/trainingteam was developed in close consultation with the trainers and administrative support staff to deliver a system that provides a database of skills training and online booking functionality. The paper demonstrates that the success in amalgamating training resources available to the faculty is born out by the visitor and bookings data during the first 70 days of its existence. The paper then sets out → How the system was designed to tightly mirror the working processes of both the trainers and administrative support, in terms of o presenting courses and programmes, o the communication and management of training events, o and the production of valid event data. → How data from the skills training database is organised so that courses can be presented as programmes that reflect the range of training provided within the MHS training team. → How the system allows users/trainees to manage their relationship with training events both in terms of the RSS enablement of training data and in the provision of an attendance history and the automated production records of attendance. → How the systems allows line managers and supervisors to see the breadth of support on offer. → How the system enables support staff to easily direct trainees to appropriate and timely training information.

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Training Programmes

Introduction
The MHS Training Team website amalgamates all the available resources from the training team into coherent and focussed web presence. It combines a booking facility for training courses, a facility to promote the various training programmes available from the team, the suite of available online resources, a news facility and a booking facility for the Pathways conference. The site has been live since the 12th February 2009. In its first 70 days (up to 22nd April 2009) the site: → took 861 bookings for a total of 72 bookable training courses/workshops. → Has had a total of 2669 visits of which 1174 were unique visitors → Served a total of 25,742 pages with an average of around 10 pages per visit.

Training Programmes
The Faculty MHS Training Team delivers training to a broad range of audiences, from PGR students through to senior academics. For this reason training courses are organised into programmes that aim to address specific skills requirements of each audience. Currently the team provide the following discreet programmes: Postgraduate Researchers, Research Staff, Research Team Leadership, New Academic Programme and Academic Staff. Within each programme the team groups related training courses into categories. For example in the Postgraduate Researcher programme courses are currently grouped into the categories of “First Year Training”, “Mid Programme Training” and “Final Year Training”. Each programme has its own set of categories that that are appropriate for that programme. The Programme/ Category structure of training provision in the team was a requirement in the design of the training course database. It was necessary to reflect the real world organisation and working practises of the team within the system to ensure that the training opportunities are presented/ marketed in a coherent way for each programme audience. The system allows the administrator to add, edit, and delete training programmes and associated categories and to present bookable courses within these. The ‘Training Programme’ section of the site affords the communication of the structure and availability of training for each programme.

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Training Programmes

Figure 1 shows the online presentation of the training programmes in the system. The system allows the programmes to be ordered in any order and is fully content managed.

Figure 1 - Online presentation of training programmes

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Training Programmes

Figure 2 shows how courses are structured into programmes and categories, with the example of the “New Academics Programme” and the category of “Research Excellence”. The system displays information about each course such as aims and objectives and attached media such as documents, PowerPoint slides or video (not shown in this example). As can be seen within the ‘Training Programmes’ section trainees can book onto courses by clicking on available dates.

Figure 2 - The New Academics Programme/ Research Excellence Category

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Training Programmes

Figure 3 shows the booking form.

Figure 3 - The Booking form

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The Admin Toolset

Usability - The Trainee Experience
The Training Calendar
As well as providing a means to present the structure of training programmes it was also a requirement that the system makes it as easy as possible for potential trainees, line managers, supervisors and support staff to quickly find relevant training opportunities. For this reason training courses are presented chronologically in a training calendar on the main page of the site. The user can view all available courses or refine the calendar by selecting those that are part of a particular programme (e.g. Postgraduate Research Training). For usability purposes the calendar can easily be viewed full screen. Figure 4 shows the training calendar as positioned on the home page of the site. The title of each course is a link to the password protected booking form. Figure 5 demonstrates how the calendar can be refined to display courses for a particular programme.

Figure 4 - The training calendar

Figure 5 - Refining the calendar by programme

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The Admin Toolset

RSS/ Information Management
The Training Calendar is RSS enabled. This means that the data for available training courses can appear elsewhere, such as in Student/ Staff portal, other relevant websites (such as Research Support) or on mobile devices such as mobile phones and PDA’s. This allows the trainee/user to keep up to date with training information without having to remember to repeatedly visit the site and in a way that suits their individual information management practices. Refining the training calendar to display either ‘All courses’ or those of a particular training programme also refines the RSS feed enabling the user to subscribe to data feeds that exactly meet their training requirements. Figure 6 shows the RSS feed for “All Courses” as displayed in Staff Portal. As with the data presented in the training calendar clicking on the links to the feed within portal takes the user directly to the password protected online booking form. In a similar way to Portal the RSS feeds are easily viewable in all popular RSS readers, such as Google reader, Netvibes, etc.

Figure 6 - The training calendar viewed in the university portal

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The Admin Toolset

Figure 7 – Shows the RSS feed for all courses as viewed in a Nokia mobile phone. The feed displays which programmes the course relates to, the date and a link to the online booking form.

Figure 7 - The RSS feed for "All Courses" viewed through a Nokia mobile phone

User Booking Management
A requirement of the system was that trainees could manage their training events. Upon making a booking the system automatically emails the trainee with a booking confirmation and instructions about managing bookings. The system offers the trainee a password protected “My Courses” section. This section allows the trainee to view each course they are yet to attend and those that they have previously attended. The system allows the trainee to generate a booking confirmation and once completed a record of attendance which they can download in Microsoft word format and use for PDP purposes. In order reduce the administration load, users are also offered the facility to cancel a booking up to 48 hours prior to its commencement. Figure 8 shows the ‘My Courses’ section, showing both upcoming and previously attended courses. Figure 9 and Figure 10 show a booking confirmation (for an upcoming course) and a record of attendance (for a completed course) respectively.

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The Admin Toolset

Figure 8 - The 'My Courses' section

Figure 9 - An auto generated booking confirmation in MS Word format

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Figure 10 - An auto generated record of attendance in MS Word format

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The Admin Toolset

News/ Blog
The site uses the blogging platform Wordpress to allow the team to deliver relevant researcher development news to the faculty. In order to maintain coherent user experience the news items are presented within the site via an RSS feed. Figure 11 shows how the site displays items published in the Wordpress blogging platform.

Figure 11 - The blog

The blog provides the team with the facility to quickly publish researcher relevant information. It also allows trainees and visitors to comment on blog post and to subscribe to the blog in Portal or their favourite RSS reader.

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The Admin Toolset

The Admin Toolset
The site provides a range of tools to manage programmes of training and course delivery. The toolset was developed in close consultation with both the training staff and admin support. The adoption of agile design principles in the development process has led to a system that facilitates and enhances the day to day operation of managing a large number of courses over a range of programmes.

Programme Management
The ‘Programme Manager’ tool allows administrators to define a programme. Defining a programme involves setting a ‘Programme Name’, a rank (which defines the order in which programmes are displayed in the ‘Training Programmes’ section), defining a series of ‘Programme Categories’ and adding ‘Display Text’ that describes the programme on the site. The Programme Manager tool incorporates a WYSIWYG editor so that display text can be entered with full formatting including the inclusion of hyperlinks, text formatting, bullet points etc. Figure 12 shows the ‘Programme Manager’ tool.

Figure 12 - The ‘Programme Manager’ (In update mode)

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The Admin Toolset

Course Catalogue Management
The ‘Course Catalogue Manager’ allows an administrator to define courses. Defining a course involves setting the ‘Course Title’ and description (again with full WYSISWG formatting) and choosing the relevant ‘Programme’ and ‘Programme Categories’ so that the course sits in an appropriate place within a programme structure. Figure 13 shows the ‘Course Catalogue Manager’ tool.

Figure 13 - The 'Catalogue Manager' (in update mode)

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The Admin Toolset

Course Instance Management
A course that is defined in the ‘Course Catalogue Manager’ (see previous paragraph) may be run a number of times throughout the year. A ‘Course Instance’ describes each instance that a course is run. For example the course catalogue item “Peer Mentoring for Researchers” may have an instance running on the 21st April and another instance on the 3rd May. The ‘Course Instance Manager’ allows an administrator to set up and manage instances of courses in the catalogue. The ‘Course Instance Manager’ displays all the course instances that are forthcoming. Figure 14 shows the course instance overview.

Figure 14 - The course instance manager'

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The Admin Toolset

For each course instance there is a ‘Manage’ link which allows the administrator access to comprehensive range of instance management tools. These course instance management tools are shown in Figure 15.

Figure 15 - Course instance management tools

Firstly an administrator can amend the details of a course instance. As with each admin tool there is business logic that prevents the mismanagement of a course (i.e. deleting a course instance without informing the participants for example) the full details of which are not in the scope of this document. This tool provides facilities to: → Manage communications with participants. Administrators can use the system to send emails, with attachments to all participants, all participants who attended and all non attending participants (see Figure 16) → Manually add participants (rather than them booking online), → Record attendance details (see Figure 15) → Check all bookings for a participant including prior non attendance. → Download in Microsoft Excel format an attendance sheet (see Figure 18). → Manually delete a participant → Set the instance as archived. This removes the course from the course instance manager and makes the attendance data available to the statistics section.

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The Admin Toolset

Figure 16 - The email control

Figure 17 - Manually adding participants

Figure 18 - Auto generated attendance list in MS Excel format

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The Admin Toolset

Course Instance Archive Management
Once a course has been run it is archived. The system provides a toolset to an administrator that is similar to that for non archived course instances (see previous paragraph). This allows an administrator to quickly provide details for past events and to use the communication tools.

Participant Search
The system provides a participant search facility that allows an administrator to quickly find information about a participant. The administrator can search by user ID, email address or pick from a list of all participants that have ever booked with the site (see Figure 19). The search provides details of forthcoming and previous bookings for a participant including any non attendance.

Figure 19 - The participant search facility

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The Admin Toolset

Attendance Data
The system supports the generation of comprehensive attendance data. Data can be generated for all or for specific programmes and within defined start and end dates. The generated data is downloadable in spreadsheet format and is thus portable and easily transferred to other applications such as MS Excel and database applications. Figure 20 shows the attendance data for each course and the grand total statistics at the bottom.

Figure 20 - Attendance data
(Note - this is a compressed screen shot and doesn’t show the entire dataset)

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Figure 21 shows the same attendance data in spreadsheet format.

Figure 21 - The Attendance data in spreadsheet format

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Forthcoming Bookings Data
The system allows the generation of data for bookings on forthcoming workshops/ courses. It works in a similar way to the ‘Attendance Data’ tool, by providing data for all programmes or specific ones and generating grand total data. Figure 22 shows an example of this data and summary statistics.

Figure 22 - Forthcoming courses data
(Note - this is a compressed screen shot and doesn’t show the entire dataset)

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The Admin Toolset

Summary
Data from the first 70 days of the site demonstrate that it successfully delivers and communicates the outputs from the team. The reasons for this are: 1. The site provides a coherent overview of the activities of the team. Visitors coming to book onto training easily find other resources of interest such as online resources and news items. 2. The site was written in conjunction with the people who deliver the resources. The site reduces the administration load and complements and enhances the working practices of the team. 3. It does a finite number of things and it does them well. 4. It provides good and timely management information allowing the team to easily manage a large number of events. 5. It provides a range of communication tools that reduce the administration load in delivering course information and communicating with attendees. 6. It provides a mechanism for trainees to manage their training, by making events easy to discover, easy to keep up to date with and easy to manage. 7. It makes the data for both admin and trainee easily portable allowing both user types to bring to bear their own working practices with this data.

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