Proposal for a staff development training room

Proposal for a staff development training room
Julian Crowe, IT Services, Colin Mason, SALTIRE, Sandy Wilkie, Human
The three main providers of staff training (HR (Staff Development), SALTIRE and IT
Services) are hampered in their work by the lack of a staff training room. It is
increasingly difficult to get access to general teaching rooms and computer classrooms
during the term, and in any case these rooms are often unsuitable. The University's
demand for staff training is growing ever greater and we need the space as well as
specific tools to deliver it as efficiently as possible. At present we are unable to provide
external trainers, from other Universities or from commercial firms, with the facilities that
they take for granted elsewhere, and this reflects badly on the University.
The advantages of a dedicated staff training room are
it can be made secure, permitting trainers to make preparations in advance of
their courses
computers would not need to be restricted like those in the open access
computer classrooms; they could be made more like staff desktop computers,
and special software could be loaded for specific classes
staff training requirements would not compete for space with student teaching
and conferences
a congenial atmosphere could be created
display equipment could be provided and kept in a state of readiness
Proposed facilities
8-12 networked PCs/Macs with desks and chairs
additional chairs, speaker's desk/lectern
full range of display equipment: data and video projector, video player, screen,
OHP, flipboard, whiteboard, 35mm slide projector
modest refreshment facilities
appropriate lighting and blinds
I f this room is to meet the needs of all three units, the layout of the room will need to be
highly flexible. Computer equipment will need to be easily stored, and trailing cables
removed. Furniture should be modular and movable. Computers could be either laptops
or compact PC "cubes" with flat screens. Wireless networking would make things still
more flexible, but there are network cables to the rooms under consideration if wireless
networking is deemed too expensive or problematic at this stage of development of the
The computers’ configuration should be made secure, but not in the way the classroom
machines are secured. It must be possible to load and unload additional software, and a
quick method of restoring the basic configuration should be provided. A mix of Macs
and PCs may possibly be desirable, with the Macs running Virtual PC, so as to give
greater flexibility.
We have considered two possible locations: The current PC classroom in Swallowgate
and the Modern Languages computer room on the first floor of United College building.
At present staff training is sometimes delivered to larger groups than could be
accommodated in either room. The use of large groups is forced on us in part by the lack
of ready access to teaching rooms and computer classroom, so that we have to train as
many people as we can at one time. In many cases a smaller group would be
preferable, but still on occasions we might need to resort to a larger room.
The room currently houses 12 PCs which are available 24 hours a day for student use.
Given the size of the most recently created classrooms in the neighbourhood (Butts
Wynd and Irvine, with 35 and 40 PCs each) Swallowgate's 12 machines are less
significant than they were in the past. We propose that the 12 PCs should be relocated
in the Library, if possible. As it happens Swallowgate is about to be re-furbished, so this
might be a timely proposal.
There will be issues to do with access to other rooms adjacent to the classroom; for
example there is a nearby room occupied by postgraduates, and their normal way in to it
during the evenings and at weekends is through the computer room's 24-hour access
door. The external door means that access to the room out of hours would be
comparatively easy to arrange.
Neither the front door to Swallowgate nor the back (24-hour) door currently provides
wheelchair access. Also the room is poorly heated and ventilated. All these issues
should be addressed as part of the refurbishment of the building, irrespective of whether
the staff training room is created.
There is a cupboard along the corridor from the proposed training room, which until
recently housed ITS material, since thrown away. It could possibly be used as an
equipment store.
The current computer classroom is used by disabled and other students who need
computers to write their exams. This function does not sit well with the arrangements in
the computer classrooms, and could be better accommodated in the staff training room.
Losing the use of the room for staff training during exam diets is not likely to be a great
Modern Languages
Development of new multimedia and IT facilities in the School of Modern Languages
might render the current computer classroom redundant. This is based on comments
from within the School of Modern Languages. If it becomes available it would offer some
advantages over Swallowgate. It is larger (currently housing 12 PCs and 12 Macs) and it
is already in decent decorative order with good lights and blinds. The benches make it
unsuitable for group teaching and would need to be removed. The lack of wall space
might make it hard to provide screens and whiteboards.
Using the Modern Languages classroom would not involve losing a 24-hour classroom.
As it is on the first floor there is no question of wheelchair access (unless a lift is installed
at some point). The School 6 lecture theatre is close by, which could be an advantage
for events needing facilities for both large and small groups. Out of hours access to the
UC building has to be arranged with janitorial staff.
The major disadvantage of the Modern Languages option is that it would mean waiting
until (if ever) it is released by the School of ML. Meanwhile we could miss the chance of
getting the Swallowgate room refurbished suitably.
IT Services uses a rough figure of £2,000 per station when costing provision of computer
classrooms. In view of the higher specification of the PCs and desks for the staff training
room this should be raised to £2,500, with a maximum of 12 stations. However, a review
of the best deals currently available at the date of purchase will be undertaken to ensure
maximum specification per pound rather than to accept a deal with our current
recommended supplier (Viglen). If we allow £5,000 for display equipment and £5,000 for
building work, we are suggesting a cost in the region of £40,000.
To put this in perspective we should consider the cost of training. Using typical figures
from commercial training providers, the difference between on-site training and use of a
commercial trainer's own premises is in the region of £100 to £150 per day per student.
IT Services currently provides about 200 student-days of training per year, so the
projected cost is the equivalent of less than two years' IT training. This does not take
into account use of the room by Staff Development and SALTIRE, nor the likely increase
in IT Services' provision of training, which is at present limited in part by lack of facilities.
Neither of the proposed locations is wholly satisfactory, but either would be better than
nothing. A swift decision is required if we are to take advantage of the opportunity
offered by the Swallowgate re-furbishment. Irrespective of the location, there is a case
for providing such a facility somewhere in the University.