November 2020 meetup: Digital Preservation Education and Training

The topic of our last meetup of 2020 is one that is near and dear to me - digital preservation education and training. It was a great showcase of the efforts of two Australasia Preserves working groups to develop training material that we can all use.

It was hosted by Jaye Weatherburn (University of Melbourne, DPC) with presentations from Ross Harvey, Matthew Burgess (State Library of New South Wales) and Michelle Goodman (Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre). 

The presentations took us full circle through the development, delivery and participation in the Digital Preservation Essentials training modules. If you haven't already read the earlier blog post about the release of this material, I recommend it for the background.

Ross Harvey - developing training guidelines

Ross Harvey started it off describing the outputs of the Education Development working group. One of the important things to note about this group is that it's an intentional mix of 4 educators and 4 practitioners. That blend of expertise in teaching and the practice of digital preservation meant that their focus was on developing practical digital preservation training with clear learning outcomes.

Members of the Education Development subgroup of the Education WG

This working group developed 3 things:

  • guidelines for developing & offering digital preservation training and education
  • minimum requirements for online offerings to ensure equitable access
  • a workshop evaluation form
It was important to this group that their outputs were available to anyone. You can find them here under a CC-BY-NC-SA license. 

Ross knew of one course that had used the guidelines and a workshop that had used the evaluation form. If you know of more uses of these we would love to hear about it in the forum!

Matthew Burgess - developing the training

Next Matthew Burgess gave us a brief overview of the training developed by the Digital Preservation Essentials working group. 

Members of the Digital Preservation Essentials Subgroup of the Education WG

The first iteration of DP Essentials was delivered as a digital preservation carpentry course at the 2019 IDCC in Melbourne. Following that the DP Essentials WG was formed to develop the training material. They created 5 modules focused on pre-ingest and ingest. The expected outcomes of the training were to:
  • learn key digital preservation concepts, how to approach digital preservation workflow development, how to prepare digital material for preservation using current tools
  • contribute to and support the teaching and learning of our community of digital preservation practitioners
Matthew walked us through the material covered by each module at a high level. Most of the modules included an activity which reinforced the working group's intention to teach practical skills. They have a recommended pathway through the modules, based on the concepts and skills needed for each:
  1. Digital preservation concepts and workflows
  2. File format characterisation
  3. Quick start to the command line
  4. Metadata and digital preservation
  5. Packaging digital materials for ingest or transfer
These modules were originally designed to be delivered in person over two consecutive days. Matthew had planned to hold a face-to-face trial workshop for New South Wales public libraries in March 2020, which was cancelled of course because of Covid. 

The working group reconvened and reviewed the first 2 modules (concepts and file formats) for online delivery. Matthew scheduled an online trial for New South Wales in October 2020. This trial covered the first 2 modules over 2 morning sessions on a Monday and Wednesday.

Michelle Goodman - participant in the training

Next we heard from Michelle Goodman who was one of the participants in Matthew's online trial of DP Essentials. 

Michelle is a Council Archivist at Parramatta Heritage and Visitor Information Centre. She described her background as a paper-based archivist. Although their collection is largely analogue, they are actively digitising, and they are seeing an increase in born-digital items that will be coming to them. To prepare for that, Michelle said they will start planning to move their focus from digitisation to digital preservation. They will develop a digital preservation policy, and start planning to implement a robust digital preservation system and workflows. 

Michelle was interested to learn more about digital preservation but also thought the workshops would take her out of her comfort zone. She went ahead and signed up knowing the relevance to her job. The pre-workshop tool setup was at first overwhelming until she got comfortable by playing with the tools.

Her experience in the workshop was that it was well-run, easy to join in, a great mix of learning new things and hands-on activities. She hadn't worked with Padlet before but thought it was fun and worked well. 

Padlet - an online board they used to share ideas and information

After the workshop, Michelle took a lot of practical steps to implement what she learned. She joined Australasia Preserves so that she can look to our community for advice. She plans to put together a full audit of their digitised and born-digital holdings. She will develop a digital preservation strategy with her colleagues. She will develop a briefing note for senior managers, and will continue meeting with her IT to reinforce requirements. Although she has a lot of work ahead of her she knows now where to start and go to for advice.

Matthew Burgess - training evaluation

Next Matthew went over the results of a survey given to the participants, before and after the workshop that Michelle had participated in. 

Did you increase your digital preservation skills and knowledge?

Before and after the workshop the participants were asked where they thought their digital preservation skills and knowledge were on a spectrum from a beginner to advanced. 
  • (Before workshop) 25% beginner, 17% beginner / intermediate, 38% intermediate, 21% intermediate / advanced
  • (After workshop) 7% beginner, 7% beginner / intermediate, 67% intermediate, 20% intermediate / advanced
It's clear that the participants felt the workshop had increased their digital preservation skills and knowledge.

Were you satisfied?

Satisfaction in the workshop was rated high across all areas, especially on the digital preservation concepts and workflows module (73% very satisfied). It was slightly lower for the activities and the kinds of skills, tools and knowledge they covered (40% very satisfied, 53% somewhat satisfied). Overall 100% of the participants were either very satisfied (60%) or somewhat satisfied (40%) with the workshop.

Was it relevant?

The participants were asked how relevant they thought the workshop content and activities were to their professional career and to their job. 100% thought it was highly relevant (53%) or somewhat relevant (47%) to their professional career. Slightly less, 86%, thought it was highly relevant (33%) or somewhat relevant (53%) to their current job.

What other feedback do you have?

93% thought that the learning outcomes were clearly communicated, and 73% thought the content and activities helped them meet the learning outcomes. 

87% thought the difficulty level of the content and activities was just right. And 80% found the pace of the workshop about right.

100% were likely (53%) or very likely (47%) to recommend the workshop to a friend or colleague.

When asked how confident they feel about applying what was learned in the workshop in their workplace, the results were mixed: 33% very confident, 20% somewhat confident, 40% neither confident or unconfident, 7% somewhat unconfident. Matthew wondered if the confidence level would increase after they took all 5 modules. 

When asked which delivery method (in person or online) they would prefer if the State Library delivered the remaining modules, 73% preferred online. One person commented that having it online saved them from a 4 hour commute to the State Library.

The participants also gave feedback on the workshop in their own words - some shown below. 

Selected feedback from the online workshop participants

Matthew said it was critical to the success of the workshop to have the help of other Library staff as instructors. For this workshop he always had one presenter and 2-3 facilitators to help with group activities and answer questions in the chat.

What's next? Matthew plans to deliver the remaining modules online in early 2021 to the New South Wales public libraries. 

The working group itself does not plan to deliver the training. They made it freely available for all of us to use. They have released a lot of material - administrative resources (timeline for a 2-day face-to-face meeting, EOI template, etc.), participant resources (SW setup guide, workshop files), modules (slides, activity workbook, participant handbook).

If anyone wants to provide feedback on DP Essentials, or remixes the programme, the working group wants to know about it. There is a feedback form at the bottom of the DP Essentials page, or you can get in touch through the forum. 

Update: The material for the first two modules have been updated on the website following the feedback from the training in October and is available for download.


Q1: Ross Harvey noted that material can quickly become outdated in our domain. Are there any arrangements to update this material periodically?

Matthew said that this had already happened since they first released the material back in June/July. The OPF made changes to their website and the reference model used in the course is no longer available online. Also, new reference models for workflows were released by the National Archives of the UK. The incentive to update the material will fall on those giving the training as they encounter outdated material. The intention of the working group wasn't to keep it updated but to provide the foundations of a course to build on and update as needed.

Q2: Attendee asked if there were people who would be able to deliver the training to small organisations that don't have the expertise to run the training themselves.

Matthew suggested this as a topic for the forum for the community to discuss. He noted that putting on the training does require resourcing (time dedicated to it, additional instructors to facilitate). He said the working group would be happy to support anyone interested in giving the training.

Q3: Ross Harvey asked the other members of the Education Development WG present in the meetup if they were aware of more examples of the guidelines being used. 

Neither Lizzy Tait nor Leisa Gibbons had, but both spoke about the potential relevance within their own institutions. 

2020 wrap-up from Jaye

Jaye reminded us that this was the last meetup for 2020. We'll be back in February to celebrate the third birthday of Australasia Preserves. Get in touch if you want to hold a session in the meantime. She put out a call for anyone to wants to participate as a co-organiser next year. Jaye ended by thanking everyone who's participated in any way on the forum or in our meetups.

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