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November 7, 2013

Tech Corner: Tech training needs in the 21st century


In assessing the Pitt community’s needs for technology training, we heard a common refrain from people: anytime, anywhere, any device — and free.

Teaching and learning are 24/7 activities, and people asked for training that fit their individual needs and schedules. In addition, the range of need — from people who wanted to learn how to use a new iPhone, to people who needed to brush up on Excel skills, to people who wanted assistance in helping students master programming languages like C++ — was dramatic.

CSSD recognized that it needed to supplement the regular in-person training it offers through Pitt’s faculty and staff development program and its occasional workshops with something much broader.


This fall, CSSD began to provide free online tech training to University faculty, staff and students through a partnership with More than 1,000 people used the service in its first month.

Video tutorials are available on more than 2,000 topics, making it easy to find the information needed to gain new technology skills or to improve proficiency in established skill areas. The need for that breadth of subject matter became clear as CSSD looked at early usage patterns.

Some of the most popular topics for Pitt users in the first few weeks were Access 2013, Computer Literacy for Windows, Excel 2010 and 2013 Essentials, Foundations of Programming, InDesign CC, Java Essentials, Learning Word and PHP with MySQL.

But Pitt faculty, staff and students also were exploring tutorials on digital photography, creating infographics, responsive design, animation and building apps.

Instructors using online tech training resources

CSSD’s online tech training service helps Pitt faculty to take advantage of the benefits of online learning and flipped-classroom pedagogy with their students.

Pitt instructors have begun to use this resource in a range of ways. A statistics instructor, for instance, pointed the students in her introductory class to the tutorials on using Excel, giving students without extensive Excel experience the chance to reach a level playing field with others in the class. This strategy also freed up class time that otherwise would have been spent addressing questions or confusion stemming from disparate software skills, allowing the professor to focus on concepts during class time rather than on “how-to” demonstrations.

In the information sciences, students have been assigned specific videos as homework, targeting course-related skills such as Photoshop techniques or PHP. Because Pitt has a premium membership, students also have access to exercises associated with these tutorials, so that their experience goes beyond watching a video and instead becomes hands-on learning. Instructors can develop a “playlist” of related videos as part of the class syllabus and share that playlist with students.

Professional development at your convenience

Instructors, of course, are learners, too. The 24/7 availability of the online tutorial library makes it convenient for Pitt faculty and staff to find time to master new professional tools such as OneNote or Evernote. Faculty exploring the potential role of incorporating digital media in their courses can learn more about popular tools such as WordPress, iPad apps for the classroom and SoundBooth.

Employees who regularly use software such as InDesign, Access and PowerPoint in their jobs can find tutorials to improve their proficiency. When changing positions or accepting a new role, staff members have ready access to a library of tutorials to help them master the technology tools needed in the new position. The broad range of tutorials include videos on effective graphic design for promotional materials, creating a mail merge in Word or Pages, and learning HTML for updating a web page.

In addition, after watching all of the videos within a particular course, people can generate a certificate of completion. The certificate can be shared with supervisors as part of ongoing professional development efforts.

While the focus of the service is technology training, tutorials also are available for a range of nontechnical professional development skills such as communicating across cultures, increasing workplace creativity and mentoring others.

Only the beginning

CSSD has received positive feedback from Pitt faculty, staff and students on the online tech training service’s range and flexibility, with particular appreciation for its convenient, “on the go” capabilities. These early adopters appreciate that they can access tutorials that fit their specific needs from any Internet-connected device, at any time and at any pace.

I would like to encourage you to try the service today to see how it can help you meet your professional goals. The online tech training videos and helpful FAQs can be found at; you will need to log in using your Pitt username and password to have full access. New videos are added to the library of tutorials every day in response to users’ needs. If you don’t see a tutorial on a topic you think Pitt users need, please send an email to CSSD is eager to make this service fully responsive to your needs.

JoAnn Keslar is director of project and communication services for CSSD.

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