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Using Lynda.com in the Doctoral School Skills Development Programme

Daniela Bultoc (UCL Human Resources) discusses how the UCL Doctoral School Skills Development Programme.

25 January 2016

The programme is open to all graduate research students, provides an opportunity to expand generic research skills and personal transferable skills through face-to-face workshops and, most recently, Lynda.com online video tutorials.

Life and employability skills for postgraduate researchers

The Doctoral Skills Development Programme is open to all postgraduate research students at UCL and focuses on practical skills training courses to help students’ research at UCL and also to enhance their life skills and employability.

These skills are an important part of UCL's research strategy and the QAA Quality Code for Higher Education.

The skills programme is informed by Vitae's national Researcher Development Framework (RDF), a professional national development framework for planning and supporting the personal, professional and career development of researchers.

Students discuss with their supervisor which courses from this programme and any departmental/faculty training courses they need to attend, and then select a range of courses to be taken over the full period of their research. The Doctoral Skills Development Programme covers the cost for students attending its courses.

Making skills training more accessible by increasing online availablility

Over the past year, Daniela has worked closely with UCL Information Services Division (ISD) and Lynda.com, a platform paid for by UCL which offers users free and professional videos supporting learning in software, creative and business skills, to bring in a digital element to the programme.

By mapping the entire programme, 70% of courses available (around 650) now have an online equivalent made available to students.

“UCL’s postgraduate population is changing with more and more students unable to be on campus full-time," says Daniela. "The introduction of online materials has addressed this need. They are now able to access training courses whenever and wherever is convenient to them through a ready-made solution.”

The Lynda.com website is open to all UCL students and staff and offers unlimited access to thousands of videos created by expert teachers at any level of instruction.

Thousands of videos viewed each month

Daniela has monitored students’ use through the email sent out to make them aware of the resources.

“With over 11,000 videos viewed in the last six months, it's clear students are regularly utilising the broad range of videos available to them.

Many of the tutorials talk students through technical software or essential training; the course rankings show videos relating to programming software to be most popular.”

Steady viewing figures indicate the resources are being utilised throughout the year.

Daniela has sent out 'programme e-bulletins' about the resources. These reminders clarify that these tutorials are not a separate tool but in fact a supplement to their face-to-face learning. They are also very beneficial for students who can’t attend the sessions or want to use the tutorials for revision.

Encouraging more use of online resources and teaching

Course tutors have also been encouraged to use Lynda.com within their sessions. “In the ‘call for applications’ to deliver a training session, we suggest that blended learning or flipping the classroom might be useful – course tutors can use these materials in a way that gets students to self-teach whilst utilising classroom time for meaningful discussion. Around two thirds of courses are now run differently with Lynda.com’s introduction.”

Daniela also hopes that using Lynda.com in this way will encourage sceptical tutors to see it as a useful tool in the future and that incorporating an online element will not impact teaching time but enhance it, particularly for non-campus based students.

“The next step will be to evaluate the impact and see if Lynda.com has contributed to a better learning experience for students. We will also continue to work with course tutors to encourage them to use a blended approach and think about how they can develop their teaching with Lynda.com.”

Using Lynda.com on a large scale has enabled time-pressured students to independently supplement their learning by self-teaching (and revising) and ultimately to move away from being passive learners at a crucial time in their early careers.

On a larger scale, complementing an ‘offline’ skills development programme available to nearly five thousands learners has enabled a broader range of students to benefit when in the past this might not have been possible.