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At the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at The University of Sheffield we run an innovative series of informal 20 minute sessions that are about planting seeds and changing minds. The sessions have two clear strands, one focused on teaching and the other on research. The remit is not to teach people how to use something in their work or study but to let them know why they could use it and how they can learn more about it. The evidence shows that this organic approach is working - staff and students are starting to use many of the tools that Bite Size has covered. Any kind of widespread change within organisations can be hard to deliver, but by bringing champions on your side, good practice and ideas can spread naturally. Now that Bite Size is established with over 70 unique sessions, running the twice-yearly programme has became much easier. With support from an administrator and curation in the two themes of research and teaching by two of the team, Bite Size now only requires approximately a few hours every month to co-ordinate, yet the results have been excellent.
Bite Size grew from the idea that there were new and emerging in-house and external technologies and tools of which many staff and students at ScHARR were unaware. Added to this was the fact that the University is home to a multitude of experts in several areas of technology, research and teaching who are all keen to speak to colleagues about different ways of working or pointing out existing resources and services. Started in late 2010, previous sessions have covered a variety of topics including Google Apps, Screencasting, Prezi, Social Media, data security and the Cloud. Bite Size is open to all academic and support staff in addition to students. Presenters come from all across the campus with a variety of speakers with backgrounds in teaching, research, administration, technology and research. Initially sourcing speakers was quite challenging but due to the success of Bite Size finding new topics and speakers has become less of a chore as the sessions become more widely known which means there are now staff volunteering to run sessions- it seems to have helped foster a culture of sharing which will hopefully stand Bite Size in good stead for the future.
Bite Size runs on alternate Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays every week to ensure that part-time staff can attend at least some of the sessions. The sessions are advertised on ScHARR Library's blog and Twitter feed in addition to the University of Sheffield's social media platforms including Google+; as well as via colourful posters across the department. Add enticing Bite Size cakes to the mixture and a ten minute question and answer session at the end, and the results have been extremely positive. A Bite Size questionnaire highlighted that the sessions are positive in promoting new ways of working with over 90% of respondents saying the sessions had been effective in teaching them new skills.