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The University of Oxford – Business Services & Projects
Contact: Jackie Boyer – Student Systems Training Team Lead
The University of Oxford lays claim to be the oldest university in the English speaking world, attracting nearly 20,000students from more than 130 countries and employing over 8,500 university staff.
In an environment where the mission is to provide exceptional education to the very best of the world’s students and to attract, develop and retain the highest calibre of academic staff it is not surprising that similarly high aspirations apply to the delivery of essential business support systems and services.
Jackie Boyer heads up the training team located within the Business Systems and Projects (BSP) division, which provides project management, service delivery and support services for information and communications technologies (ICT) delivered centrally and to other key areas of the University’s operations.
Jackie and her team of four trainers and one training administrator take their responsibilities to support the roll-out and smooth running of business systems very seriously.
“We believe in designing and delivering exceptional systems training to help personnel at all levels to perform their jobs to the best of their ability,” she says. “It’s vital that people know how to use business systems correctly because they hold important data about staff and students.”
Facilitating peak performance involves working closely with the project and business teams within the division, as well as staff across the university, to identify target audiences and training requirements. A new Personal Development Review system introduced a year ago has also given impetus to meeting the development needs of BSP staff, including the training team.
Jackie was already a convert to The Training Foundation’s Trainer Assessment Programme (TAP®) Learning System, having originally gained the Training Delivery Skills qualification in 1999.
A firm advocate of TAP®’s structured, highly interactive approach to training, she was determined to embed the TAP® methodology within her new team at Oxford. She and two newly appointed TAP® qualified team members brushed up their skills on a refresher course in 2007, while the two remaining team members attended the Training Delivery Skills course.
Delivering training the TAP® way was already enhancing the transferral of newly acquired IT skills back in the workplace, but Jackie wanted to deepen the impact of the TAP® methodology by using TAP® principles to design, as well as deliver courses.
“Designing a course that is both relevant and engaging to the delegate is as, if not more, important than the delivery,” says Jackie. “We’re training people to do very process oriented tasks and while there may not be much room for flexibility in the content, there’s certainly scope to be creative in the way we present it.”
With this very much at the forefront of her mind, Jackie and her team embarked on The Training Foundation’s onsite Training Design and Development Skills course in November 2007 – an experience that both strengthened the integration of the TAP® methodology and bonded the team more closely.
“We’d been hidebound by a very instructional way of doing things, which was compounded by a lack of common approach,” explains Jackie. “We were guilty of ‘death by PowerPoint’, designing to our own idiosyncratic styles and too little interaction with delegates. The course reinforced the importance of training needs analysis, designing around learning preferences and combining structure with creativity to aid skills retention.”
The entire team were unanimous in acknowledging the transformational impact of the course on the way they set about designing new courses and redesigning existing materials. Despite the depth of experience within the team, all felt they had gained a new perspective and the fact that they had all shared the same experience had an energising and galvanising influence.
Neil Hart, who has more than ten years experience as a trainer, commented: “I was surprised by the amount of things I learned and the way the course made me think about my role and function in a completely different light.”
For Jackie the course provided a crucial piece of the ‘training excellence’ jigsaw puzzle, enabling all courses to be designed and delivered to clear objectives, common standards and with greater relevance, participation and learning outcomes for delegates. It has also increased the motivation and confidence of her team, which in turn has enhanced its reputation across the university.
The team’s commitment to designing and delivering all courses to TAP® standards has been rewarded with TAP® Gold Partner status.
“Being a Gold TAP® Partner demonstrates our commitment to training to the highest standards of professionalism, both to our colleagues within the division and everyone we train across the university. I intend to communicate that as clearly as possible because we have a vital role to play in supporting the university’s future objectives.”