Bringing ‘Writing for the Web’ onto the web
We’re creating an online version of our popular Writing for the Web course, and are looking for volunteers to help test it, and name it.
We’ve been providing Writing for the Web training for over ten years now. It’s a mandatory course, along with the system training, to get access to the corporate CMS (EdWeb, previously Polopoly). It’s not limited to CMS users though – it’s open to any member of staff, including PhD students. (Anecdotally, I’d say around two thirds of trainees are CMS users – that is, they are there because they ‘have to be’.)
I completely overhauled the course in 2013 to bring some of the examples and research up to date – what was good web writing in 2006 may not be now – and the course has remained very popular, with 93% of participants finding it gave them greater confidence in web tasks.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to learn very much but went along to “tick the box” of having attended. I actually learned loads, it was presented in a brisk but engaging way and it highlighted several classic mistakes I’ve been making, and gave me some really great ideas to improve the web pages I work on.”
Issues of delivery
However, there have been a few practical issues we’ve long been aware of:
- engaging participants
Although we have delivered sessions at King’s Buildings, and a few bespoke sessions for pre-arranged groups at Little France and other places, the course is mainly held centrally. This causes problem for staff at more remote campuses (a problem common to any all-staff training course).
The move of IS (and our training courses) to Argyle House has made this problem worse, as even staff in central locations now have quite a trek.
Related to this is timing. We have to walk the delicate balance between providing access to training and managing our own resources. We generally run it once a month, and it’s almost always overbooked. When staff come in on very short contracts to do web work, there can be a frustrating wait to be trained up to use the CMS.
It took two months from attending the course to use the EdWeb system to be able to get onto this course.
In six years of delivering the course, I’ve only once had someone literally sleep through the course! However, we don’t test participants and it can be difficult to encourage an unwilling participant to really engage. This is exacerbated, of course, when they’ve had to wait six weeks to get on the course then take an hour to get there.
Because of all of this, it’s long been on our radar to offer the course online. However, that’s a big task to take on, and resources have been stretched recently. So it’s been simmering away on our longlist.
Then Lynda.com came along. The idea behind getting a Lynda subscription for the University was exactly to be able to ‘outsource’ this kind of training.
How does Lynda.com compare?
We did a thorough review of Lynda’s offering on Writing for the Web – by Chris Nodder – to compare it against our own and found that while it’s an excellent course, it wasn’t quite right on it own for what we needed. So we’ve been creating a blended learning course, using content from Lynda together with our own training.
Watch out for a separate blog on exactly how we’ve blended the course, and overcome the challenges it’s brought.
Bringing the title up to date
Through this process, and from reviewing the feedback, it’s become clear that ‘Writing for the Web’ is an outdated concept, so we’re planning to rename the course. Like this whole process, though, this is easier said than done. If you’ve done the in person course at any time over the next ten years, we’d love to hear your thoughts about our proposed new titles.
Our renaming survey has now closed – the course will be called Effective Digital content. Find out more about what this means on another blog post:
Be in the pilot
We’re just starting to get the course (which we’re also planning to rename – up on its feet, and it’ll start out life in beta before being rolled out to the whole University. Anyone completing the beta course will be considered to have done the course for EdWeb access purposes, but you’ll need to be a bit forgiving as to teething problems, and willing to give feedback to help us fix them.
Get in touch if you’re interested in helping us test it – whether or not you’ve done the in-person training before – or to make sure you hear when the course officially goes live.