DPOE Interview with Austin Schulz of the Oregon State Archives

The following is a guest post by Barrie Howard, IT Project Manager at the Library of Congress.

This post is part of a series about digital preservation training inspired by the Library’s Digital Preservation Outreach & Education (DPOE) Program. This series focuses on exceptional individuals who have, among other things, completed one of the DPOE Train-the-Trainer workshops.

Today’s interview is with Austin Schulz, who led a digital preservation training workshop at the Oregon State Archives during 2014 National Archives Month. He is currently a Reference Archivist at the Oregon State Archives.

Austin Schulz at the 2014 Oregon Heritage Excellence Awards

Austin Schulz at the 2014 Oregon Heritage Excellence Awards. (Photo by Kimberly Jensen)

Barrie: Can you tell the readers about your experience with the Train the Trainer workshop, and how you and others have benefited as a result?

Austin: It was a privilege to attend the September, 2011 “Train-the-Trainer Workshop” in Washington, D.C. and I am grateful to have worked with such a wonderful group of people on such an important topic in digital preservation. The presentations by our regional groups during the workshop were very helpful and provided an opportunity to see how they look from an audience perspective, as well as the chance to present some of the concepts in front of an audience. I particularly enjoyed the chance to work in regional groups because we could modify the presentations to better fit our prospective audiences. The simplicity and adaptability of the digital preservation concepts covered in the Digital Preservation Outreach Education (DPOE) baseline curriculum makes them applicable to anyone that creates and/or maintains digital content. The modules emphasize the primary aspects that both individuals and organizations need to consider as they develop a digital preservation plan, or improve upon an existing plan.

In the months after attending the 2011 DPOE workshop, I led the first in a series of one-hour workshops here at the Oregon State Archives. We decided to make the workshops open to the public with no charge to attend, so that we could better gauge the level of interest in these types of trainings. The following year we hosted another series of workshops which were designed to run approximately two hours and focused on two of the DPOE modules per workshop (all of which I modified to fit a more general audience). Based on the feedback I received after leading the second round of workshops, and those I presented in 2012, we decided to make some additional changes to the format. Due to the distance some attendees were traveling and the time between the workshops, we decided to present all six modules in a single half-day workshop instead of hosting multiple workshops throughout the month. This has allowed more people to attend and resulted in reducing the staff time needed to present each workshop.

Interest in digital preservation workshops is increasing and we continue to receive requests from both public and private entities regarding these workshops. In response, we have incorporated these Digital Preservation workshops, based on the DPOE curriculum, into our Archives Month celebrations each October and I look forward to utilizing the revised DPOE Curriculum this year.

Barrie: Since becoming an official DPOE Trainer, have you provided any other training than the most recent event? For example, have you developed any distance learning materials from the Curriculum, and delivered any online training?

Austin:I recently had the opportunity to lead a digital preservation workshop for a group of genealogists at the Canby Public Library. This gave me the opportunity to re-configure the DPOE workshop slides to fit a more specific type of audience. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to create any online training but we have made the workshop materials available for individuals and organizations that have been unable to attend the live workshops.

Barrie: The DPOE Curriculum, which is built upon the OAIS Reference Model, recently underwent a revision. Have you noticed any significant changes in the materials since you attended the Workshop in 2010? What improvements have you observed?

Austin: The core concepts and much of the content in the DPOE Curriculum has remained largely unchanged but there have been some improvements introduced in the current version. The most significant change that I have noticed is that the new module presentations include very useful notes for trainers regarding the purpose of each slide and tips on how to more effectively present them to the audience. This is a helpful addition that will only increase the effectiveness of DPOE trainers. Each of the revised modules includes slides describing expected outcomes and outputs from each module so that both the instructors and participants have a clear understanding of what should be accomplished.

The revised “Store” module now includes a concise statement of the relationship between Archival Storage and Digital Objects. It also includes a slide on the Ingest stage from the OAIS Reference Model that was not part of the 2010 presentation slides. These additions help to highlight the connection between the DPOE curriculum and the OAIS model in a way that is easier to understand.

In addition to the above changes, I also noted that more descriptive information has been added to the Object-level Metadata slide regarding the types of metadata that should be captured. I believe that all of these changes increase the clarity of the DPOE concepts while providing additional information for trainers presenting the DPOE Curriculum.

Barrie: Regarding training opportunities, could you compare the strengths and challenges of traditional in-person learning environments to distance learning options?

Austin: Distance learning allows participants to access the presentations when it is convenient for them, and requires far less resources to make available than in-person trainings. In addition, distance learning also allows presenters to contact a much larger group than would be possible with in-person trainings. Challenges that I have encountered with distance learning are that it can be a more difficult environment to engage with the audience, and the presenter may not know if the concepts presented were received and understood by the audience. Distance learning requires technology on the part of the presenter and participants in order to function. This can sometimes result in technical difficulties. However, if a presenter is trying to reach the most participants possible, distance learning does provide a viable avenue for doing just that.

Traditional in-person learning options are often geared towards smaller audiences which makes it easier for a presenter to engage with and assess how well participants are following and understanding the materials as they are being presented. This format makes it easier for participants to ask questions during the presentation and provides the presenter with the opportunity to address individual audience concerns and questions during the relevant parts of the presentation. In my experience, in-person learning environments allow for more effective discussions and participants may find it easier to engage with the presenter. However, in-person learning environments do present some challenges as they require a physical site where the training will be held and staff to present the materials. Participants must travel to the training site which creates a cost and distance barrier that may prevent some people from being able to attend. This also limits the number of people that can actually attend the in-person training. Even with these challenges I prefer the in-person format as both a presenter and participant, as it provides an opportunity for more in-depth analysis of the presentation materials.

Barrie: What’s on the horizon for 2015?

Austin: Earlier this year we applied for a grant to provide basic digital preservation training, using the DPOE Curriculum, to some small and medium sized historical repositories in Oregon. Many of these repositories currently have a minimal or nonexistent web presence and very little experience in digital preservation or online publishing of historical records. As one of the regional DPOE trainers, I would be involved in editing and leading the training workshops. Unfortunately, the grant we received was not sufficient to completely fund such a project at this point. Therefore, we have decided to scale the project back and are applying for a smaller grant to do a demonstration project this year which still includes a digital preservation component. If the grant is approved, we are planning to report back with our findings next year. The following year we will re-apply for funding of the original project to provide basic digital preservation training. I am excited to have the opportunity to be involved in such an important project and utilize the revised DPOE Curriculum to assist smaller historical repositories in Oregon.

Thank you very much for allowing me to be interviewed for The Signal. I have thoroughly enjoyed being a regional DPOE Trainer and look forward to continuing this important work in the future.