In Autumn 2015 ULCC worked with colleagues from the Digital Curation Centre (DCC) and the Digital Preservation Coalition (DPC) to conduct the Digital Archiving & Preservation Training Needs Survey (#DAPTNS15).
We were delighted to receive 216 responses to our survey. We’ve been looking at the results in the hopes they’ll tell us something about training needs in the field of digital preservation.
Digital Preservation Training Needs – Distribution of respondents
About half of the respondents came from an HE & FE sector, closely followed by people working in Cultural Heritage or Government Sectors. A very small percentage described themselves as coming from a Financial Sector.
The majority of respondents come from an Archival or Library professional background, with about 25% working in Research or Records Management; the Museum sector was sadly under-represented.
Over half of the respondents were based in the UK, with less than 25% from the US and Canada, and only 25 respondents from mainland Europe. It was also encouraging to receive a few scattered replies from as far afield as South America, Japan, South Africa, New Zealand, and India.
What we learned about Digital Preservation Training Needs
We’re partly doing this in the context of our own Digital Preservation Training Programme (the DPTP), in the hopes that we could improve the offering in response to the needs identified here. Below, I’ve arranged the results into a sequence that covers (in this order): content of training; format of training and learning methods; ease of attendance; and expected benefits from training.
What digital preservation subjects are most important to you?
We set out a stall of 22 possible topics relating to digital preservation, and asked respondents to rank them. The results here clearly indicate that strategic and planning subjects easily outrank IT concerns. Students want to learn about project management and planning, not just about technical solutions.
The highest scorers in this area were “Knowing where to start” and “Requirements analysis”, followed closely by an understanding of “Best Practices”. Ranking fourth was an IT-based response, indicating a need to know more about “Available Tools for Digital Preservation”.
Lowest scoring subjects were “Risk management” and “Legal”, areas where it’s likely that students have already learned a lot through their own experience or through project management; there was also very little interest in “Storage”, or “Standards”.
Precisely zero interest was registered in learning about “Models for Digital Preservation”. Does this mean the OAIS Reference Model has passed its usefulness as a teaching aid?
“Would Like To Know More”…Which digital preservation subjects do you feel most confident about?
Given the same set of 22 topics, respondents were asked if they felt unprepared, or would like to know more; or were confident in their understanding, or confident in practice of these subjects.
We received an overwhelming number of “Would like to know more” responses to each topic. The highest scorers were votes for what we might regard as “difficult” topics, such as Legal, Costs, Web Archiving, Tools and Complex Objects.
In the “Feeling totally unprepared” area, we see the highest degree of concern reserved for Complex Objects, Purchasing a System, Costs, and even File Format Migration – the latter slightly surprising, as we always thought the subject was well understood.
The “Confident In Practice” responses didn’t score so highly, but unsurprisingly they were in areas we would certainly expect to be well understood by now and bedded down in practice in our community – including Digitisation, and Cataloguing.
If the DPTP isn’t already teaching them, what subjects would you like?
For this part of the survey we invited respondents to name up to five digital preservation issues that are not in the list of 22 topics, but that they would like to learn about.
Pending further analysis, we intend to use these results towards a potential new syllabus for a revised DPTP in the future. For this exercise, a subjective grouping was made, putting like responses with like.
Interestingly, again this shows the trend is towards students wanting to learn more on Strategic and Planning issues than exclusively IT matters; strong themes rising to the surface were “Organisational Change and Advocacy”, “Collaboration”, “Strategic Thinking”, and subjects related to finance and funding for DP. Out of 19 recurring themes, only 6 or 7 themes indicated a technological concern. These trends were strongly endorsed by responses to the “Expected Benefits” question; see below.
How would you like training delivered?
The clear winner here was “Face-to-face” training, followed closely by a preference for Blended Learning. Interestingly, not many votes were received for a training option that was exclusively online; this option was even less popular than peer-to-peer networking, or learning at conferences. We didn’t see any strong dislikes in this area, other than for “Self-taught”, an option which received an overwhelming neutral vote.
What’s your preferred learning method?
The majority vote was for “Learn by doing” – i.e. some practical hands-on experience with software or tools that help them do it. The next highest vote went to learning from “Case Studies and Best Practices”. People also seemed enthusiastic about the idea of video, participatory exercises, or discussions.
The learn-by-doing method has shown up on our DPTP feedback more than once; learners get the rough idea of a process from slides, but clearly there’s nothing like seeing it happen on the screen.
How easy is it for you to attend a face-to-face Course?
We asked respondents what factors blocked them from attending a training course in person. Only a small number of respondents indicated the actual course fee might be the problem. The real problems, ranked in this order, are:
- Costs of travel
- Hotel costs
- Time spent away from work
- Staying overnight
We were a little surprised by #4 in this list, but it may be possible to conclude that (a) employers cannot spare people for even 2-3 days at a time and (b) employers don’t regarding training courses as having much value!
How hard is it to get days off work? 90 respondents said “Possible”, and 32 said “Difficult”; these were the two highest scoring votes.
What would be the ideal course format, and how long should it last?
The clear winner was “One day of face-to-face” training – a result which matches the above votes, and indicates a one-day course is an all-round winner in terms of overall cost and attendance.
There was also a preference for some form of blended learning. There was a strong dislike for a week-long face-to-face course. Interestingly, the votes for an all-online course delivery were quite equivocal.
What benefits do you expect to get from training?
This part of the survey invited contributions from the respondents with free-text fields. Again, a theme-based analysis has been used to draw themes out of the responses; again, the trends indicate that solving planning problems is a higher concern than learning about technology.
Out of 19 identified themes, the top two were to do with Strategy and Planning and Improving the Organisation through Digital Preservation, with special IT concerns ranking third. Responses here also indicate an interest in learning how to procure a system, aligning local strategy with best practices and standards, and the need for practical hands-on skills also makes another appearance.
We were struck by the frequent occurrence of the word “Confidence” in this part of the survey; respondents indicated they want confidence they are doing the right thing, that they are confident they understand the subject, and confidence in the survival of the digital objects they wish to preserve.
- People want to learn about strategy and planning, not exclusively Digital Preservation theory, not exclusively Technology.
- People are clear that Digital Preservation training will bring them benefits directly related to their job / organisation / collections.
- People want to learn by doing; they want to see case studies of how others have done it.
- People would rather attend one-day courses than try and get a week off work.
- The price of a course is less of a barrier to attendance than one might think.
- An online offering would be welcome, but there’s no strong evidence that it would be popular.
- Everyone wants to know more (there’s an appetite for learning), and everyone wants to feel confident about Digital Preservation.