Novel study elucidates the long-term behavioural change & impact of digital skills training on researchers’ workflows

Dr Anastasios Papaioannou1, Dr Jianzhou Zhao1, Aidan Wilson1,2, Dr Sam Ryan1,3, Marium Afzal Khan1,4, Dr Ghulam Murtaza1, Dr Jonathan Arthur1

1 Intersect Australia, Sydney, Australia
2 Australian Catholic University, Sydney, Australia  
3 La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
4 University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

Intersect’s mission is to help researchers to be more efficient and effective in their research; reducing the time to move from an idea to a tested solution. As a leading provider of digital skills training for researchers in the Australasian region, Intersect provides an extensive range of technology focused training to researchers and higher degree research (HDR) students across Australia. This training ranges from awareness to advanced levels; is delivered interactively either face-to-face or online; and covers categories such as Research Computing, Programming, Data Science, Data Analytics, Machine Learning (ML) & Artificial Intelligence (AI), Statistics, Data Visualisation, Data Collection, and Data Management. Intersect continually revises, updates, and expands its course catalogue, ensuring researchers always have access to the most relevant and useful research training.

Our hands-on, instructor-led, live, interactive training is delivered by over 25 highly experienced instructors and is targeted at enhancing the capabilities of researchers in digital tools and technologies. Our research and training expertise extends across various disciplines including, but not limited to: ICT, Data Science, Linguistics, Engineering, Statistics, Bioinformatics, Health & Medical Sciences, Materials Science, Sports Science, Spatial Analytics, Computational Chemistry, Numerical Modelling, Behavioural Science, and Social and Political Sciences.

Since the inception of Intersect’s training program in 2012, over 30,000 trainees (comprising over 13,000 unique participants) have completed Intersect Australia training. Over 2,000 courses have been delivered, across 40+ universities and research-intensive organisations in Australia. In 2021, 6,728 researchers were trained and 349 courses (270.5 training days) were delivered. This equates, on average, to at least one training course for every working day of the year. Intersect operates a comprehensive, data-driven quality control process to ensure robust, quality delivery of training, including a course evaluation survey at the end of each course to generate a Net Promoter Score (NPS). Intersect’s NPS in 2021 was +75 based on more than 2,500 responses; this is considered outstanding. The average scores of the five primary metrics for measuring the quality of the training delivery exceed 9.4 out of 10, which indicates that feedback from participants is excellent.

While short-term assessment of trainee satisfaction with our training program is successfully captured and reported via the aforementioned method, determining long-term behavioural change on HDR students, researchers, and staff is more challenging yet equally important in evaluating the impact of digital skills training. To this end, Intersect has developed a Training Impact Survey to assess the long-term impact of our digital skills training on researchers. In addition, the survey aims to gain insights into other key areas of interest, including  whether there is a link between digital tools/technologies and research outputs and investigating the support services researchers use for additional research assistance after training. This survey is now sent biannually to our member university researchers and staff who attended our training a year prior. In the first distribution (June 2021), the survey was sent to those who attended a course between January 2019 and June 2020. We received 740 responses out of approximately 4,800 invitations, a response rate of more than 15%. Subsequently, we sent the survey to those who attended a course from July 2020 to April 2021 and we received 610 responses out of approximately 4,600 invitations. We aggregated the responses from both iterations of the survey and the findings and detailed analytics are presented in this report.