Quality and Productivity Database

Descriptive Title of Proposal: Developing a Culture of Innovation through online training
Year Submitted 2011
Person(s) Responsible for the Idea
Name Title
Andrew F. Ness Associate University Registrar (Records & Services)
Name of Institution Queen's University
Office Address Gordon Hall, Room 125, 74 Union Street,
Kingston, Ontario
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Telephone: 613-533-6000, x74053
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.
Name (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) Jo-Anne Brady
Title (Senior Administrative Office of the Institution) University Registrar
Office Address Gordon Hall, Room 125, 74 Union Street,
Kingston, Ontario
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Telephone: 613-533-6000, x74054
Email Address: Email hidden; Javascript is required.

The Office of the University Registrar designed and implemented a year-long training program to improve staff members' ability to innovate with available software and to support the change from our legacy mainframe to PeopleSoft Student.

The challenge: The University had undertaken an implementation project to replace our decades-old mainframe with PeopleSoft Student. PeopleSoft requires staff members to navigate using modem methods (e.g. mouse-clicks versus function keys) and is supported with online learning tools (video tutorials and interactive online training materials). Our Registrar's Office staff members have decades of experience (40% with over 30 years of experience). Most have limited understanding of, or experience with, online learning tools and techniques.

We were also required to migrate from MS-Office 2003 to MS-Office 2007. We needed to train all staff members quickly on the 2007 version of the software. We also knew that use of MS-Excel would be critical for staff after the PeopleSoft launch, but was virtually unknown to staff to that point.

The solution: A weekly training program was launched for staff that required all staff members to study for 30 minutes per week using online resources to learn how to use Microsoft Word and Excel 2007. Staff members were given 24/7 access to a learning library for many types of software (negotiated for free from IT Services), and curriculum expectations specific to their experience in Word and Excel. The training was scheduled in consultation with managers, and was done at staff members' desks during the work day.

The results: Staff members quickly embraced the knowledge gained through training and applied it in day-today work situations. They also became less dependent on IT support and instead, worked collaboratively to find solutions to simple technical problems. They looked for ways to improve processes using their new skills. They were encouraged to take additional courses outside of office hours, and many improved skills in other areas. Most importantly, their enthusiasm for the project was reflected in their positive comments to other departments. Other academic units adopted our approach for their own staff, and the project was profiled as a success in on-campus publications.

Criteria Please submit one paragraph describing how the proposal fulfills each of the evaluation criteria.

This project is entirely portable to another institution. Managers in each operational unit were asked one question: "Can you spare 30 minutes each week per staff member to make this project work?" 30 minutes per staff member was l/70th of each person's working time each week. Provision of training is almost always challenging because of the opportunity cost borne by a department when an employee is not working - others must provide back-up support. This project required virtually no back-up support, plus gave every single staff member an equal amount of training time. Provision of courseware at an institution other than Queen's may require some minimal investment, but most campuses have access to online training materials (or can secure access through a campus partner or corporate connection) at little or no cost. To facilitate transferability, we would provide interested partners with: 1. Curriculum guidelines for Word and Excel plus templates for tracking staff progress 2. Vendor suggestion for provision of online training resources

Quality Impact

The ultimate goal of this project was to shift administrative culture - to move staff members from a reliance on others for technical help, to comfort with self-sufficiency and training materials. We wanted to encourage and reward all staff members for improving their work processes using available tools. The goal was achieved, with little direct cost other than the commitment of staff members' time and energy. The results were demonstrated in myriad ways. Technical discussions were observed among staff members that had never occurred before. Solution-based thinking became a part of everyday work. Staff members asked about how to solve specific business problems using their new-found knowledge.

Productivity Impact

We have begun to realize quantitative gains as a result of the project. We have shifted production of a major mailing program that was only possible with detailed Excel training that will result in a direct savings of $40,000 per year. We have reduced staff time devoted to final grade processing significantly (two person-weeks of time) by adopting a new process using MS Excel and mainframe output. We anticipate more cost reductions once our new system is live.


Online training is not unique in higher education, but applying online training using a collaborative method is quite unique, as is provision of training time during every work week of the year for all staff members in an operating unit. Our office culture has shifted considerably now that this project is over one year old. Staff members support one another with software issues, use the tools in more innovative ways (particularly Excel) and are comfortable with online learning tools just as we prepare to launch PeopleSoft Student in March 2011.