Excellent user support might start with providing working equipment and instruction in its use, but service does not end there. Anticipating user questions and wants is key—all the resources you provide should be driven by the desire to meet these needs. Self-help items like tip sheets, staff and student resource pages, information links, and FAQs are a good start, but do not forget continuing education. Technology, hardware and software, changes rapidly; just when you get used to doing things a certain way, you need to change procedures. Keeping users abreast of these changes is vital. Adding newsletters and blogs to your self-help arsenal is a logical next step.
An ongoing technology blog is a great way to share new developments with users. One, many, or all members of the department can contribute blogs to your website. Frequency depends on your needs, but monthly updates allow you to communicate new developments and feature releases in a timely manner. In our district, the technology trainer publishes an online blog each month keeping staff up to date on new features recently released by the various online services used by faculty and staff. Her blog also includes mention of upcoming web events, site and login changes, forthcoming software and hardware updates, and other new and helpful technology information. Content can include clickable links to other sites with more information or to tip sheets on your own website. Blogs are a quick and direct way to get information out to your users. The format of your blog can be formal in structure or as casual and conversational as you like. The possibilities are endless.
Newsletters are another means to reach a large audience. These tend to be more formal in structure, but they still can be tailored to meet your institution’s needs. I use my newsletters to address issues that have come up frequently in calls and tickets as well as technology items in the news that users have asked about. Newsletters can be distributed online just like blogs, but it is helpful to offer a PDF version download if a user wants to print an issue that is of particular use. Try to avoid content overlap if you offer both blogs and newsletters lest you lose readers who assume they are the same. If people feel inundated with information, they may choose to ignore your offerings completely. Newsletters offer you a chance to explore some topics in more depth than what you write in simple how-to instructions on a tip sheet. In recent issues this year, I have discussed topics such as Text to Speech options on our various devices; the Whys and Wherefores of Backups, including information about how servers work; Phishing, Malware, and other Scams; as well as other frequently mentioned topics. When creating a newsletter, be concise and to the point in your writing and limit the length. Busy faculty and staff inundated daily with emails and other communications will tend to put off reading long newsletters, and all the helpful information and tips you have included could go unseen. I find one-page newsletters work best at grabbing and keeping the reader’s attention. Include graphics as needed and try to make the appearance clean and appealing and the prose direct and aimed at tech users, not tech professionals. Explain what needs to be explained and give necessary background information, but do not get bogged down in technical details that most users are unfamiliar with and do not need to know. Newsletters should enlighten not confuse the reader.
Blogs and newsletters are great ways to reach out to and educate everyone; however, the effectiveness of these methods rests in the receptiveness of your users. Finding the right approach for your organization will help grab your readers’ attention and entice them into seeking out your next informative offerings! Tailor your style, content, and approach to your audience. Next time we will explore various in person ways to provide introductory and ongoing technology training. As always, questions, comments, and suggestions are welcomed and appreciated.
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