Microsoft Office Training – An untapped resource?
Our UCD EDTL Student Intern Eimer shares the findings of research concerning students’ experiences of Microsoft Office training and share some insights into the value of this training, and how best to deliver it.
There is an expectation that students, most of whom have grown up in a digital age, can navigate their way around Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Many of us list ‘proficient in Microsoft Office’ as a skill on our CV – but can we assume that this skillset goes beyond the basic toolbar functions? As students at third level, are there steps that we can take to elevate this skillset from functional to professional? As technology expands into more and more jobs that are not IT focused, the importance of digital literacy in Microsoft Office should not be underestimated. A study conducted by the International Data Company (IDC) illustrated that in the US, the top three skills listed on job descriptions are strong oral and written communication skills, detail orientated and Microsoft Office.1
In the 2020/2021 academic year, UCD IT Services offered Microsoft Office Training online for all-students. Previously, the training had been delivered face-to-face, and the training was moved online in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, a focus group was organised to gain insight into the motivating factors that led students to sign up to the course and to gather feedback on the delivery, content, and accessibility of the programme. The course is delivered via an online assessment preparation tool. Participants watch short video tutorials before completing exercises and a student handbook accompanies each practical. Participants found the delivery was clear, concise and that the platform was easy to navigate.
While training in Word, PowerPoint and Excel is offered, the uptake of the Microsoft Excel course was much higher than its other counterparts. Students may feel they have sufficient aptitude in these areas and do not feel they need additional training. Better promotion or advertising may ameliorate this. The interest in Excel can be derived from a lack of prior knowledge. Participants expressed a wish to expand their knowledge beyond the basics and felt less comfortable using Excel. Participants wanted to advance their skills in preparation for modules that involved data analysis, for research and for internships. When participants applied this acquired knowledge when doing projects and assignments, they felt their time was used much more efficiently.
Uptake in the course was much higher when it had been recommended by a reputable source, such as a lecturer, or classmate who had found it beneficial. A cohort of students signed up because of emails from UCD registry and IT. The course was completed by masters students who wished to build their professional profile. Members of the focus group felt that some accreditation or a shareable badge on LinkedIn would have provided a greater incentive to finish the course and offered a tangible goal to work toward. Other training platforms send reminders to complete a course once started, and this prompt would have been welcomed by the participants. Microsoft training would be a costly endeavour to undertake on your own as platforms require payment – students have a brilliant opportunity at their disposal. This training is not only relevant for careers but also for everyday life!
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