Nailed it: Moving digital skills training online

Ann Backhaus1, Dr Marco De La Pierre1, Dr Alexis Espinosa1, Dr Mehaboob Basha1, Dr Sarah Beecroft1, Cristian  Di Pietrantonio1, Dr Pascal Elahi1, Audrey Scott1, Ali Zamani1, Dr Christina Hall2, Dr Sara King3, Dr Mark Crowe4, Dr Darya Vanichkina5, Dr Liz Stokes6, Dr Rebecca Lange7, Dr Anastasios Papaioannou8

1Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, Kensington, Australia
2Australian BioCommons, Melbourne, Australia
3AARNet, Adelaide, Australia
4QCIF, Brisbane, Australia
5University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
6ARDC, Sydney, Australia
7Curtin University, Perth, Australia
8Intersect, Sydney, Australia

 

Digital skills training across AUNZ has moved online. While not necessarily ‘new’, the transition was abrupt and impacted by the social complexities of responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Working from home infrastructure meant training could continue in theory, but represented previously unexplored avenues for many of us.

Over the last several months, there have been endless discussions about successes, challenges, achievements, and recommendations about the best ways to deliver online training. In the ENRICH Community of Practice alone, there have been well over 3,000 messages exchanged this year, and this represents just one of many ways in which the eResearch skills trainer community in AUNZ has come together (virtually) to share emerging best practices for distributed and virtual skills instruction.

We’ll kickstart with a short lightning talk on “the journey of a container”, illustrating a repeatable approach to designing and delivering training, through selective content building, i.e. reusing some and creating afresh other. Social-learning and community-building are also purposefully and uniquely built into the design and delivery of each training conduct.

We’ll then flip this conversation and draw from the breadth of experiences across the community to share our successes, near-misses, embarrassments, and utter disasters with online training – and how we learned from them. We will use padlet – a tool for flipped learning – to enable attendees to share stories anonymously, and upvote the most common/egregious/relatable ones for focussed discussion.

Our target audience is the trainer seeking a community of practice offering a candid assessment of the challenges of pivoting training to online delivery, a support network, mentorships and partnerships. We will provide a platform for those, and others in the broader community, to share their stories and work together to continue to create positive and productive training experiences for our research community.


Biography:

Ann is the Education and Training Manager at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre. Ann has significant experience in adult teaching and learning, as well as training project and program design, development and management. She has led distributed, global training teams strategically and operationally. She has worked in and experimented with a variety of modalities and approaches for training and documentation in technical and technology areas. She has deep and broad experience in online and blended learning. Her experience spans numerous industries and sectors, including government, academia, and private enterprise.

Dr Sara King is the Training and Engagement Lead for AARNet. She is focused on outreach within the research sector, developing communities of interest around training, outreach and skills development in eResearch. She is currently working on creating reusable guidance information for Jupyter Notebooks and other AARNet services to be adapted for Carpentry training workshops. She is passionate about helping others develop the infrastructure and digital literacies required for working in a data-driven world, translating technology so it is accessible to everyone.

A profession for eResearch

Dr Nick Tate1

1University Of Queensland

There has been significant discussion around the benefits of formalising eResearch ICT support roles with reference to the SFIA (Skills Framework for the Information Age) Framework. To date, there are few, if any, published eResearch roles which decompose into a combination of SFIA skills and Levels of Responsibility.

The benefits of adopting a standardised approach to these role definitions are substantial. Standardised roles will facilitate an equivalence not only between eResearch roles within the “not for profit” research sector but also with other research organisations and with the wider body of ICT/digital skills and roles.

This will improve the career prospects of eResearch ICT staff by improving the portability and recognition of their skills and experience. And, in turn, this will make the role of eResearch ICT support person more attractive at a time when ICT skills are in considerable demand leading to shortages.

To address this issue, it is proposed to run a Birds of a Feather (BoF) session which presents attendees with a range of potential eResearch ICT roles together with options for possible breakdown into SFIA skills and Levels of Responsibility.

After the session, it is proposed that the results should be collated and summarised before being shared with each participant. The summarised results would then be shared with the SFIA Foundation, who are currently seeking input for the development of SFIA V8 and with the Commonwealth Government’s project on the definition of ICT roles in the Australian Public Service.


Biography:

Nick has 45 years’ IT experience and 20 years in Cybersecurity. He headed up ICT at two London banks and was IT Director and head of AusCERT at UQ.  He is co-founder of the eResearch Australasia Conference and was Director of the Commonwealth funded Research Data Storage Infrastructure project (RDSI). Nick is Vice-President of the Australian Computer Society with responsibility for professional standards, degree certification and certification. As President of the South East Asia Computer Confederation (SEARCC), he leads an APEC project on ICT Skills Frameworks. He is a member of the SFIA Council and an Adjunct Professor at UQ.

A holistic, credit-based approach to researcher training

Dr Monica Kerr1, Marium Afzal Khan2

1University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia
2Intersect Australia, Sydney, Australia

Universities have a duty of care to equip Higher Degree by Research students (HDRs) with the skills required to build careers within and outside of academia. Underscored in the 2016 ACOLA Review, transferrable skills training is now an integral part of a contemporary research education program. The Career and Research Skills Training (CaRST) program is the University of Adelaide’s approach to deliver more comprehensive research training and career development for HDRs. Embedded into the graduate research degree and complementary to the main research project, CaRST incorporates eResearch skills training along with a number of other personal and professional skills that are valuable for success in the modern workplace.

Method

CaRST is structured around the four domains of the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF), namely knowledge & intellectual abilities; personal effectiveness; research governance and organization; and engagement, influence and impact. The program implements a credit system for HDRs through which they can track their development across various domains and also incentivizes them to diversify their skills. Traditional eResearch training, such as Intersect’s software carpentry-style courses for programming languages, is complemented by other technology-related training courses that are valuable for researchers (e.g., creating research impact through social media).

In this presentation, we will discuss the CaRST framework in detail, how eResearch training can leverage this system, and some observations from the data about how HDRs choose to structure their training and development. Lastly, we will talk about a proposed framework to evaluate the impact of such a program.


Biography:

Dr Monica Kerr is the inaugural Director of the University of Adelaide’s Career and Research Skills Training (CaRST) program for Higher Degree by Research students (HDRs). Monica specialises in developing researchers to enhance career and research outcomes. She is an experienced leader, having previously held a senior management position at one of the oldest scientific organisations in the US, the New York Academy of Sciences, and has led initiatives to create industry-ready graduates and student-led startups at the CRC for Cell Therapy Manufacturing and UniSA Ventures, respectively. Monica obtained her PhD in Cell & Developmental Biology from Harvard Medical School.

Nailed it: Moving digital skills training online

Dr Sara King1, Dr Mark Crowe2, Dr  Darya Vanichkina3, Dr Liz Stokes4, Dr Rebecca Lange5, Dr Anastasios Papaioannou6, Ann Backhaus7

1AARNet, Adelaide, Australia, 2QCIF, Brisbane, Australia, 3University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 4ARDC, Sydney, Australia, 5Curtin University, Perth, Australia, 6Intersect, Sydney, Australia, 7Pawsey Supercomputing Centre, Perth, Australia

Digital skills training across AUNZ has moved online. While not necessarily ‘new’, the transition was abrupt and impacted by the social complexities of responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Working from home infrastructure meant training could continue in theory, but represented previously unexplored avenues for many of us.

Over the last several months, there have been endless discussions about successes, achievements, and recommendations about the best ways to deliver online training. In the ENRICH Community of Practice alone, there have been almost 3,000 messages exchanged this year, and this represents just one of many ways in which the eResearch skills trainer community in Australia has come together (virtually) to share emerging best practices for distributed and virtual skills instruction.

During this facilitated session we’d like to flip this conversation and draw from the breadth of experiences across the community to share our fails, embarrassments, and utter disasters – and how we picked ourselves up, learned from them, and had another go! We will use padlet – a tool for flipped learning – to enable attendees to share stories anonymously, and upvote the most common/egregious/relatable ones for focussed discussion.

Our target audience is the trainer seeking a community of practice offering a candid assessment of the challenges of pivoting training to online delivery, a support network and mentorship. We will provide a platform for those, and others in the broader community, to share their stories and work together to continue to create positive and productive training experiences for our research community.


Biography:

Dr Sara King is the Training and Engagement Lead for AARNet. She is focused on outreach within the research sector, developing communities of interest around training, outreach and skills development in eResearch. She is currently working on creating reusable guidance information for Jupyter Notebooks and other AARNet services to be adapted for Carpentry training workshops. She is passionate about helping others develop the infrastructure and digital literacies required for working in a data-driven world, translating technology so it is accessible to everyone.

AARNet’s Review of the Medical Research Institute Sector

Ms Genevieve Rosewall1

1AARNet, Carlton, Australia

Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet) strives towards a long-term vision for a globally networked data-sharing ecosystem that accelerates knowledge creation and innovation. This vision includes reinforcing the resilience of AARNet’s infrastructure and building out new capabilities to meet evolving digital needs. AARNet has a strategic priority to support and invest in health and medical research infrastructure, and aims to remove barriers to access to and sharing, movement and analysis of data for health and medical research.

Rapid advances in health information technology are driving transformation in health research, enabling more complex and efficient research to be conducted. Medical Research Institutes (MRIs) are internationally recognised leaders in health and medical research, covering a broad range of human health issues. To understand requirements across the sector, AARNet engaged with over 35 MRIs to discuss their digital practices, requirements and pain points.

This presentation will outline the engagement activity AARNet has conducted with MRIs over the past few months – consultations with stakeholders to uncover challenges and identify commonalities in requirements of organisations and opportunities for collaboration and growth. The sector analysis and summary that was completed during this engagement will be presented along with potential solutions and actions identified to assist the medical research sector. This presentation will inform the eResearch community of digital challenges and issues faced by those conducting health and medical research across Australia.


Biography:

As the Health and Medical Community Liaison at AARNet Genevieve works closely with researchers to understand the digital research requirements of the Health & Medical community. Working nationally Genevieve advises on service development and assists with the deployment of technologies and workflows to meet the needs of Australia’s Health & Medical research community.

RDM online Training (RDMoT) disrupted: Continuity in RDMoT amidst change

Ms Adeline Wong1, Dr Adrian Chew1, Ms Cecilia Stenstrom1

1University Of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

When life throws you strawberries, how do you jam with it? Earlier this year, the host platform for UNSW’s Research Data Management online Training (RDMoT) decided to go into retirement mode unexpectedly. Then COVID-19 decided to also weigh in. There were concerns around how we would keep true to our design approach with alternatives in lieu of an online training platform and face to face engagements.

UNSW’s contextualised RDMoT is a key strategy to address issues and associated risks for researchers and research support staff who handle research data throughout its lifecycle. It has received excellent feedback since its rollout in 2019 (n ≈ 1200). The asynchronous online training distills various data policies, guidelines and procedures into actionable outputs for the target audience. The RDMoT was developed with a participatory design approach, with ongoing refinements to each iteration of the training based on feedback obtained from end-users.

This presentation will reflect on the opportunities afforded in the virtual space, as a result of COVID-19 and changes to the host online training platform. We will outline our (virtual) approach to maintaining RDM engagement and the development of RDM resources to support researchers throughout the various stages of the research data lifecycle. The presentation highlights how we continue to co-opt end users to co-produce training, amidst the interruptions; which is important to ensure alignment between institutional objectives and learners’ interpretation of those objectives. It also aims to examine how training and engagement, continue to be organised around user-centricity, albeit in different permutations.


Biography:

Adeline is a Research Data Management project officer at the University of New South Wales. Her background is in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). She is interested in Adult Education, especially in the areas of learner motivation and inclusive instructional strategies for learners from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

Adrian W. Chew is currently the Data Management Training Consultant at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. He is also an Adjunct Lecturer with the School of Education at UNSW Arts and Social Sciences.

Making the most of online engagement

Ms Megan Guidry1

1New Zealand eScience Infrastructure

Situation:

2020 has been especially challenging for the eResearch community in Australasia.  For community builders, the difficulty centres around moving workshops, meetups, conferences and other events online while maintaining a high level of authentic engagement.

Task:

In this lightning talk, Megan Guidry, training coordinator for New Zealand eScience Infrastructure (NeSI), will share how the NeSI engagement team has been coping with online training, virtual conferencing, and long bouts of remote working.

Action:

This lightening talk will highlight the successes and challenges of moving online including:

  • The highs and lows of running NeSI’s first online machine learning hackathon, and
  • what the engagement team learned from running NZ research software engineering conference online.

Result:

After reflecting on the above experimental approaches, Megan will explain how these experiences and learnings are shaping NeSI’s training and engagement plans for the future.


Biography:

Megan Guidry is the training coordinator for New Zealand eScience Infrastructure (NeSI) and Regional Coordinator for the Carpentries in New Zealand. Her main priority is raising the eResearch capability in New Zealand through training coordination and community building.

SIGNet: Building the SWAN community

Dr Sara King1, Dr Anastasios Papaioannou2, Mr Paul Branson3, Mr Michael D’Silva4

1AARNet, Adelaide, Australia
2Intersect, Sydney, Australia
3CSIRO, Perth, Australia
4AARNet, Melbourne, Australia

By the end of 2020, it is predicted that there will be over 100 million Jupyter Notebooks in Github, the world’s largest host of source code. In 2015 the site hosted just 270,000.

Initially gaining popularity in programming and computer science, Jupyter Notebooks are the tool of choice for an ever-increasing number of researchers in Australia who now have access to a dedicated Jupyter Notebooks environment, the Service for Web-based ANalysis (SWAN), via AARNet’s CloudStor. Launched in December 2018 the service is available for all researchers at member institutions.

In early 2020, AARNet invited a group of SWAN users to create the CloudStor SWAN Special Interest Group network (SIGnet ). The primary focus of the SIGnet community is for users to help each other use SWAN efficiently to accelerate quality research in Australia. SIGnet aims to address the need for building knowledge and expertise in handling, analysing, and visualising research data using Jupyter Notebooks.

This BoF will be a timely opportunity to support interactions between SWAN users. This session will bring together a range of people across different domains who are using Jupyter Notebooks in different ways to showcase their work.

In addition to short presentations on various use cases of SWAN, this will be an opportunity for the community to provide feedback and suggestions. The AARNet team will update the community on current developments and future plans for CloudStor and SWAN, including a service for sensitive data.


Biography:

Dr Sara King is the Training and Engagement Lead for AARNet. She is focused on outreach within the research sector, developing communities of interest around training, outreach and skills development in eResearch. She is currently working on creating reusable guidance information for Jupyter Notebooks and other AARNet services to be adapted for Carpentry training workshops. She is passionate about helping others develop the infrastructure and digital literacies required for working in a data-driven world, translating technology so it is accessible to everyone.

Optimising the learning experience in programming courses for researchers at any level

Mr Malcolm Ramsay1, Dr Anastasios Papaioannou1, Mr Aidan Wilson1,2, Dr Weisi Chen1,3

1Intersect, , Australia
2Australian Catholic University, , Australia
3University of Technology Sydney, Australia

Since Intersect incorporated programming languages into our researcher training catalogue, we have seen a continuing and rapid increase in demand for courses in Python, R, MATLAB and Julia. In 2019, we trained more than 2100 researchers in programming courses alone, using the Carpentries material as a basis and complemented by Intersect’s own courses.

We notice there are three types of researchers attending our courses; those completely new to programming and hesitating about which language to use, those with programming experience but relatively new to a particular language they want to use, and those with experience in a language who want to extend their skills into libraries for data analysis and visualisation. To address this, we have established teaching pathways optimising the learning process of researchers at a level they are comfortable with and matching their skills.

At a foundational level, a new series of awareness-raising webinars introduces learners to programming concepts in preparation for interactive learning. Introductory units focus on exemplifying these concepts rather than teaching a particular language, preparing learners for any language. Finally, more advanced units build on this foundation, allowing more advanced learners to extend their skills for specific data analysis use-cases based on their research needs.

In this presentation, we explain the motivations for developing these new teaching pathways, including an analysis of course evaluations and open-ended feedback. We discuss how the Carpentries materials fit into a broader curriculum, bookended by language-agnostic awareness and introductory courses, and use-case specific advanced courses.


Biography:

Malcolm Ramsay is the eResearch Training Administrator at Intersect where he works to improve all aspects of training and raises awareness of digital tools within the research community. During his PhD, Malcolm used computer simulations to understand the role of shape in crystal melting, incorporating Data Science tools to the academic environment. Malcolm’s industry experience comes from Co-Founding the startup FluroSat, where he applied his data analysis expertise understanding crop stresses using remote sensing. When Malcolm isn’t working to understand and communicate data, he gets as far away from his computer as possible; running, cycling, or climbing a rock face.

Quality research training in a post-face-to-face world

Dr Anastasios Papaioannou1, Mr Aidan Wilson1,2, Mr Malcolm Ramsay1, Dr Weisi Chen1,3

1Intersect, Australia
2Australian Catholic University, Australia
3University of Technology Sydney, , Australia

Intersect has been delivering high-quality training in technical research tools for over seven years. In that time we have taught over 17,000 researchers at 1,400 courses, and all but a very small portion have been face-to-face courses.

In March, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to suspend all in-person training activities. As training is one of our most highly regarded member services, and with a team of devoted and agile eResearch Analysts and Training Specialists, we were able to quickly and effectively transition the entirety of our training platform to an online environment.

Despite initial hesitation to move our technical training out of an in-person delivery method, online training has proved to be as effective, and has opened up avenues for expansion and potential partnerships with other organisations that we couldn’t foresee in an in-person model.

One such area of expansion facilitated by moving online is the opportunity to expand our course catalogue to include awareness level presentations that are less interactive, and more demonstrative. In July 2020, Intersect launched a series of research technology webinars providing quick introductions to eResearch tools and techniques. These answer questions commonly posed in training courses, are openly available to anyone, and free to attend.

This presentation will discuss the challenges we faced in moving online, the tools and techniques we have found to be effective in online training, and will report on how our training has continued to be very highly regarded by attendees in the era of social distancing.


Biography:

Dr Anastasios Papaioannou is the eResearch Training Manager & Lead Research Data Scientist at Intersect. Anastasios holds a Ph.D. in Computational Biophysics from the University of Sydney, with his research focus being on data science and computational methods in applied medicine and biology. With over 6 years of experience as an Academic Tutor and eResearch Training Instructor and over 8 years of research experience, Anastasios works collaboratively with universities, research organisations, and government departments to develop and implement solutions to increase research productivity and help researchers enhance their skills and find solutions to their research challenges and problems.

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    eResearch Australasia provides opportunities for delegates to engage, connect, and share their ideas and exemplars concerning new information centric research capabilities, and how information and communication technologies help researchers to collaborate, collect, manage, share, process, analyse, store, find, understand and re-use information.

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