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School gets creative to train staff on self-service reporting software

Most workers have other things to worry about in their jobs than learning how to use self-service BI software, so one school tried to make it fun for all staff.

Everyone loves a good scavenger hunt, and one school in Colombia is using them to encourage teachers to embrace self-service business intelligence reporting.

"With that training, we really did bring a lot of teachers into a level of comfort, and now we're moving out of the phase of early adopters," said Olga Polyakov, assessment data analyst at Colegio Nueva Granada, a college preparatory school in Bogota that enables students to simultaneously earn a U.S. high school diploma and the Colombian equivalent.

The training started with the recognition that teachers had other priorities than learning how to use a new software system. So Polyakov tried to make it fun and relevant.

She issued challenges as part of the training that asked teachers to find some piece of information in the Tibco Spotfire self-service reporting tool used at the school. She tailored the scavenger hunt to ensure that teachers were looking at the business intelligence system for information that they would be asked to use at some point in developing lesson plans or helping individual students.

This method, combined with more traditional training sessions, has allowed the school to get more than 300 teachers, with backgrounds ranging from kindergarten instruction to advanced placement physics, trained and proficient in the system.

Polyakov uses the software to build reports that track student metrics. Teachers review the reports to see how their students are performing against predefined learning goals and to track student scores on standardized tests.

When the software was first implemented in 2013, adoption was fairly low. But thanks to a focus on training, the reports are now in high demand among teachers. Polyakov said the server hosting the self-service reporting tool has to be taken offline every now and then for maintenance, and when the software was first installed, almost nobody noticed when this happened. Now, her inbox is flooded with support requests as soon as the server goes down.

"To me, that's an informal metric to show that people are using it," Polyakov said.

This shift is happening just in time for Colegio Nueva Granada. Eric Habegger, the school's director, said accreditation standards for schools are increasingly demanding data reports -- and without teachers on the frontline collecting and utilizing data in their day-to-day tasks, he thinks it would be difficult to maintain accreditation. Education standards and the use of data in instruction "are two parallel paths, and they're evolving side by side," Habegger said. 

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What are your tips for training business users on self-service reporting tools?
For teachers, as with all end-users, the aim should be to provide them with self-service BI / reporting without them needing to be trained at all. This is not a far-fetched idea, after all we all use information systems every day (on-line banking, e-commerce, weather forecasts, …) without even thinking about it, we should aspire to delivering business systems the same way. The problem is that many so called “self-service” tools require the user to understand how they work rather than allowing information apps to be delivered to end users which speak their language.
This is Olga Polyakov, the person interviewed in this article. It’s a late reply, but I just saw the comment. Initially, I also thought that people could just be shown a dashboard link, provided a username and password and they could jump right into it. This turns out to be true for people under the age of 40 who also have a decent understanding of how to interpret graphs. The Scavenger Hunt activity was born out the realization that when you ask people who have not chosen analytical careers to perform analytical tasks, they need some help learning how. In an ideal world, the use of dashboards would be so intuitive that nobody would need a guided tour. In the real world, those who remember a time without email, or who are not trained in the interpretation of graphical displays, now find themselves asked them think about data in ways that were not previously required. Data analysis training and a formal orientation to dahsboards lowers stress levels around these new job requirements and helps people to feel like data-informed education is something they can participate in. Actually, the Scavenger Hunt is just the first step. Academic Coaches regularly facilitate data conversations using the dashboards with teachers.

There are certainly people who need assistance in accessing their on-line banking. There are customer service chats and email addresses provided in banking platforms.  Not to mention the grandchildren of the world providing in-home technical support.

Hi Olga, this is Ed, the person who interviewed you for this article. I think it's a good point you make about people still needing training. People generally want to interact with online banking and e-commerce platforms but anything new in their work life is a tougher sell. I think anything that helps them understand the tool and make better use of it is a smart strategy.