Alice La Rooy - Design Narrative for Excel Training

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Alice La Rooy
26 March 2013

Excel Training for first year University Students - within an Engineering Module


I was working as an IT Trainer at a University back in 2008 and I was part of a team of trainers.  We were all working on creating lessons plans and activities that would be relevant to the student's field of study - rather than using off the shelf materials that are often suited to adminstrative uses.  At this stage the timetables for teaching had not been produced so we did not know exactly which one of us would take each class.


This module had 4 hours dedicated to Excel training split across 2x 1hr classes and 1x 2hr hour class.  The classes were to be in an IT Classroom where every student would have a pc to work at. The students had a range of IT skills and the purpose of the classes were to give some students an introduction to more advanced uses of excel and allow interesting practise exercises for those with experience already.


We were trying to ensure each student in the class had a baseline experience and confidence in Excel because other modules these students would take at higher levels would require a certain degree of assumed knowledge.


I contacted the module tutor to find out what skills within excel he wanted the students to learn.  I also spoke to the IT trainers who had taught excel on this module in previous years.  from this I determined the lessons learning outcomes. I decided to customise an existing lesson plan to cover the first two 1hour sessions.  I still had another 2 hours of teaching to plan so I devised an Energy Bill Calculator template that the students would complete formulas within and format for the purpose of estimating their own electricity bills.  The lesson was tutor-led and files were downloaded from Blackboard/WebCT and a solution was posted there after class.


There was a bigger range of IT experience in the class than I had anticipated.  As a result I had to demonstrate on the projector at a slower pace than I anticipated.  Some students stopped following along and checked facebook and emails instead - then asked questions as they 're-joined the class'.


Based on the experience of this class I redesigned a future lesson (on powerpoint) as a self-paced worksheet.  I introduced the next lesson by talking about some key skills they would be practising and showing a finished example and then passed out the detailed instructions on how to complete the exercise.  That way students with additional questions could use more of my time and those who had much more experiece could work away at their own pace. 

Because the timetables were not set when I designed this session I had to make very detailed notes about how to the complete the activity.  So for anyone interested in how to calculate the costs of running electrical appliances within an excel can download my lesson plan and excel file here.

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Siobhan Duvigneau
10:05pm 25 May 2014

Very useful insights on how to improve the quality of the learning experience for the students, and helpful link to resources. Was it possible in the time assigned to these teaching activities to run a pre-task as a formative assessment technique to ascertain the level of knowledge amongst the student cohort? Also, was it possible to model the activity before handing out the detailed instructions? I ask as I am a secondary ICT teacher and we were often discouraged from handing out 'how to' guides and encouraged to model the steps by asking students to suggest how to undertake a task. You may have adopted a similar approach as part of your self-paced worksheet.

Louise Worsley
6:23pm 14 April 2015

Loved this Alice - I think this does lend itslef to self paced learning.  I recenlty put together a basic accoutning priniples course for project managers.  Far to dry a subject to teach in the classroom but seems to work in an e-learning approach.

Eleanor Dommett
7:47pm 27 March 2017

I really enjoyed reading this and I think is confirms something I have suspected but not been able to prove (or more correctly not systematically tried yet). This is that there is a massive range in IT skills within our cohorts of students. Some are pretty proficient and can get by very easily whereas others really struggle. This makes any generic training really hard.

Martin Kerr
12:54pm 3 April 2017

I find it useful to see that you have had a very similar experience to me with regard to training using tools like Excel not least the diversity of existing knowledge. This can really catch you out. As I found your initial assumptions about levels of knowledge was perhaps based more on estimates rather than something more tangible - apologies if I have misinterpreted.

I like the picture you have painted about the progress and development of your materials particularly within the constraints of timetabling which can be tricky when you need technical resources as well.

I think your reflections are absolutely spot on making it a self study session. I feel that unless you can assess prior knowledge directly an accurately it is better with a workshop style approach. What you have created can also be a self study exercise too.

The point you made about students getting bored and accessing social media is a constant problem regardless the content. If they were doing this using the PCs they were supposed to be working on, consider blocking some of these sites via the browser or even just load the exercises directly on to the machines and disconnect the network connection. I have found that creating some additional more complex tasks with Excel is worth looking at to stretch more experienced users, maybe using more complex formula with your electricity bill sheet where possible?

Thanks for sharing this experience.

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