Summary: Servicing “Core” and “Chore”

29 07 2009

Joe NichollsDavid Harrison introduced Joe Nicholls, who presented this talk examining the ways in which they have been thinking about the way both students and researchers use technology as part of their working practices at Cardiff University.

Joe’s key point was the need for a holistic approach, in which there needs to be an iterative cycle of communication between the web managers/developers and the end users to ensure that there is appropriate education about tools to enable users to do their jobs, but also an understanding of the users requirements when developing new tools.

To understand this, Joe took us through a series of diagrams which demonstrated the different layers of IT interaction that researchers go through in order to do the different parts of their job.  This involved identifying “core” activities and “chore” activities – including many of the practical institution IT services, such as payroll and HR.  He showed how the modern working environment for these researchers involves working across these different layers to complete tasks, and highlighted the need to be aware of this in order to best meet the needs of these researchers when developing new tools.

Joe also made the important point that we have to take into account the external web resources when considering how researchers and students are working, not just our internal services.  Understanding how and why these tools are used can help web managers consider how best to improve their own tools and educate users about best practice (particularly when considering how to preserve content), so you are effectively enabling them to work in a modern IT environment.  This does not necessarily mean teaching them how to use particular tools, but rather teaching them transferable skills and literacies that enable them to move across tools and work effectively.

As technologists, we tend to focus on the tools rather than the task as a whole – making us service providers.  But this isn’t good enough in a modern IT working environment.  We need to be educating users and learning about their requirements, understanding the benefits of external tools as well as our own so that we enable students and researchers, creating a new, agile working environment that capitalises on all of the tools that will benefit people within the university.

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