Web Magazine for Information Professionals

TAPin: Training and Awareness Programme in Networks

Kay Flatten outlines the training and awareness project that focuses on universities in the Midlands area.

The TAPin project is a project which aims to deliver early in the eLib programme. The first deliverable was the Interim Report featuring the six partner universities, each representing a unique segment of the HE community. TAPin includes new and old universities with a variety of IT infrastructures and network readiness.

The Infrastructure Audit, IT Strategy Survey, and Academic Staff Audit touched the heart of information provision from a variety of perspectives. The results of this research were intended to inform the subject librarians and LIS managers at the partner universities prior to their Stage Two work on the delivery of training and support to academic staff. Others developing products and processes for networked information provision will find the Interim Report useful in shaping decisions. A brief summary of the findings are presented here. Orders for the report in print can be emailed to the TAPin research secretary at Meena.Patel@uce.ac.uk or watch for the electronic version of the TAPin Annual Report at: http://www.uce.ac.uk/tapin/tapin.htm

Network Environments

The study included Education, Law, Life Sciences subject areas, with Business Studies used as a benchmark. The subject departments were mostly single sited; however, the university libraries were multi-sited. The campus networks generally used ethernet with over half reporting a bit rate of 10 Mps. Connection to campus networks with global access varied among subject departments and between universities. Developments were ongoing to connect sites. Dial-in access was not well supported or used. The Interim Report includes tables with the most popular hardware and software applications across all subject departments and libraries.

Strategic Planners

The IT Strategy Survey was shaped after observing information planning meetings at management level. Strategic planners did not seem to have a clear picture of the future culture change. References were seldom made to teaching and learning issues. Every group observed was impressed with the mission and extensive nature of the eLib programme. They were genuinely interested in what their academic staff reported to the research team. This TAPin phase will continue through the summer and autumn.

Academic Staff

Data were collected from 199 randomly selected staff who taught for 20% or more of their workload. In-office interviews were held with 179 of these subjects.

Figure 1 illustrates the high percentage of staff reporting computer access at work. There were only 14 people without computer access in their office. Half of the sample had computers on their desk which were connected to Internet/JANET. Home computers were also common among staff though the number connected to networks was low (n = 22).


Figure 1: Percentage of staff having computer access at work and home

Access to a desktop computer was not universal and a significant university and subject affect was noted. Staff at the older universities were significantly more likely to have desktop computers than staff at newer universities (Chi Square = 18.91; 1df; p<.01). However, as illustrated in Figure 2 differences in desktop computing also existed between subject areas. Staff were more likely to have a desktop computer if they were in Business Studies with 91.3% having access, than in Law with 61.8% (Chi Square = 14.60; 3df; p<.01). Life Sciences and Education had nearly equal access with 84% and 86.8% respectively. The difference in university group was not significant when controlling for differences in subject area. Law had the greatest disparity among universities with an older university having 100% of its Law staff with desktop computers, and one new university having only one Law academic with a desktop computer. When controlling for Law, no significant differences existed between old and new university access to desktop computers.


Figure 2: Percentage of staff from subject areas having computer and network access at desktop and home

Learning network skills

When academic staff were asked if they would like training in the access and use of networked information, 78% answered 'yes'. Perceptions of expertise was the main reason for not wanting training, with 'no requirement to do so' as the second reason.

The interview process revealed staff were not interested in seeking support, often mentioning that they preferred to be self-taught. Only 20% of the staff from old universities and 15% of staff from new universities believed that academics automatically avail themselves of all support that is offered. They mentioned that attending training courses in IT was too time consuming. Slightly more staff indicated they were interested in finding out what information technology has to offer (53%) and will make time to learn IT tools (46%).

The focus group discussion with the interview team of 18 post-graduate LIS students revealed important insights into staff development issues. Their main findings were:

TAPin librarians were asked what training they needed. They indicated a need in Internet skills including search engines, discussion lists, document delivery and electronic journals.

Because the librarians needed this training before they could be expected to develop support models, the first year of TAPin included a librarians' training programme. Netskills piloted their Intermediate Internet Skills and HTML workshops with TAPin librarians, and Paula Kingston presented methods of presenting support in networked environments.

Project future

Currently the research team is busy disseminating the Stage One results of TAPin. The librarians are profiling the academic staff they will target with network support in the 1996/97 academic year. Mailbases have be launched for the librarians to discuss URLs and problems encountered. An impact study in November of 1997 will measure the effectiveness of TAPin.