Debug your PGR experience! An interview with UofG’s IT Training Officer

Debug your PGR experience! An interview with UofG’s IT Training Officer

Researcher development is a major part of helping us PGRs complete our degrees successfully and prepare for our exciting careers ahead. There are so many different courses that the University offers to help with this. Sometimes it can seem overwhelming! I’ve attended some IT courses and have found them to be among the most eye-opening and useful, for thesis writing as well as general administration tasks. Academic referencing, as one example, was definitely one of my least liked tasks until I participated in the EndNote course! I recently had the opportunity to talk with Blair Thompson, IT Training Officer at UofG, who shared his knowledge and advice on IT training for postgraduates with me.

Blair Thompson, UofG Mentors profile

Blair Thompson, UofG Mentors profile

Can you briefly describe your job position at the University?

My official job title is IT Training Officer, within IT service. Personally, I tend to deal with the courses that are geared towards postgraduates.

Are there any IT courses that you have found to be most popular among postgraduates?

The postgraduate community is very diverse in terms of the skills they employ. What they do have in common is that they have very complex documents to write – dissertations, theses. For these reasons, the ‘Word: Creating a dissertation or thesis’ course is very popular, as well as the EndNote course.

Would you say there are IT courses that are specific to particular disciplines of study?

We try to provide IT training courses that are universal, as most schools provide training that is degree-specific. If someone were to come to us to say that their schools aren’t providing the training required, then we would look into it and see if we can provide this. We also have a course on Python programming which is constantly oversubscribed, and a large part of the subscribers are from the postgraduate community.

‘ 4 Easy Ways to Speed up your PC ’ by Li Kelly, CC BY

4 Easy Ways to Speed up your PC’ by Li Kelly, CC BY

What would you say are the main reasons that PGRs should invest in IT training?

Quite simply, life is too short! The majority of our students come with some IT skills, but developing these skills definitely reduces the time and frustration spent on IT issues. For a lot of our courses, what you’ll take away is an easier life. Take for example EndNote. Referencing needs to be done to a high level of accuracy, and it would be smart to learn how to use the software well.

What feedback have you received from PGRs who have attended the courses?

The most positive feedback I get is from the word processor course. I joke about it being a life changing experience, but actually they come back and say that it really is! It’s a skill they will take on, not just to complete their PhD thesis, but also for their future career.

‘Talk to the experts’  by Mai Le, CC BY

‘Talk to the experts’ by Mai Le, CC BY

Aside from training courses, what other services do you provide for PGRs?

We provide assistance to students who are having any technical problems that we can help with. Students are more than welcome to try us at: We can organise appointments and offer individual tuition and support. We will ask that people help themselves by coming to the courses. It’s a shame not to learn these things, and we often find that the questions we get asked are those we have covered on the courses.

Lastly, any general advice for postgraduates?

Come to the courses early - when you first start writing, not when you have a couple of weeks left to submit! Come to the course as many times as you would like to throughout your research degree, but come early.

Also, we appreciate feedback and requests. If there is a course you are looking for and we aren’t providing it, get in touch and ask. It doesn’t mean that you will get it, but you might be the tenth person to ask and this may trigger the development of the course.

Inspired to brush up on your IT skills? Check out the University’s available IT courses, and let us know @UofG_PGRblog how and if they have helped you too!

Feature image credit: Tomas Yates on Unsplash

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