The Visitors & Residents principle developed by Dave White of Oxford University describes a framework for assessing people’s motivation towards the use of web technology. This provides a useful way to frame the approach to training we’ve taken with web2practice. Many of the technologies we deal with are residential platforms, meaning that it’s hard to see their real benefits until you’ve lived there for a while. So how can we best explain the potential of such technologies to new users?
Traditional training has often involved a fair bit of ‘manual labour’ – following a manual of instruction telling you what buttons to press to make something happen. For many of the current generation of web2.0 tools, that approach is no longer valid. For a start, they tend to be intuitive enough to make a manual largely irrelevant. More importantly though, they are more than just tools to do a specific job – they are platforms that enable you to carry out a range of online activities.
Let’s take Twitter as an example. When you first sign up, there’s very little to see or do, which sometimes leads people to dismiss it (I know I did). We can think of this like a new house – until you start living there, filling it with your own stuff and inviting your friends around, it isn’t really your home. So with Twitter, you need to spend time there and make the effort to meet the residents to realise the value of being in that community.
So our approach to training in technologies like Twitter that require a regular online presence is more about stimulating interest, showing potential and motivating people to explore the technologies for themselves in the context of their own practice. As such, we also try to check our enthusiasm for technology with an understanding of the implications of adopting these tools. It’s simple to sign up for a new tool, but it takes time and effort to make good use of it. For some people, being an occasional visitor might fit their practice, but for those aiming to become residents, we need to be clear on what this requires.
Perhaps we also need to try to change people’s and institutions’ expectations of what ‘training’ is, what it can achieve and how it needs to be supported after the event. This is something we’ll be discussing at the forthcoming UCISA masterclass on Fresh ideas for successful IT training, but we’d be interested to hear your thoughts here too, so please do comment.