A smooth marble sculpture entitled Knowledge Ascending stands at the entrance of the south wing of the Fairchild Martindale Library complex. For Stacey Kimmel-Smith it’s a daily reminder of what her work in LTS is all about - providing access to information and learning opportunities to Lehigh’s students, faculty and staff so that they can reach their goals.
As assistant director of Client Services in LTS, Stacey leads teams that handle the help desk and computer repair service, among other duties. Empowering the Lehigh community to make the most of the wealth of technology provided by the university is at the heart of their mission.
“We are very involved in the client experience in LTS,” she explained. “The Help Desk tends to be on the pulse of what our users are experiencing at any given time.”
As the pandemic hit in 2020, that pulse was rapid and very much focused on learning to work, teach and study remotely. As coordinator of LTS seminars, Stacey started scheduling multiple sessions of workshops on remote tools like LUApps, Google Docs and the VPN. The courses filled up and reinvigorated the LTS seminar series, which now offers 27 different workshops. But there are limits to what LTS can produce itself.
In a case of good timing, a collaboration between Lehigh HR, LTS and the Center for Career and Professional Development had recently resulted in Lehigh employees and students gaining access to a powerful online learning platform - LinkedIn Learning.
LinkedIn Learning features tens of thousands of videos on creative, technological, personal development, and business-related subjects – all presented by experts in their fields. There is literally something for everyone, whether you want to learn to play the mandolin or become certified in more than 30 professional areas.
“What’s really great about LinkedIn Learning as opposed to perhaps a random YouTube video is that there’s a really consistent high quality to the instructors and the videos,” Stacey noted. “There’s always captioning, there’s a learning community, and additional resources and materials. The features that are bundled into each course are really valuable.”
Stacey and her fellow collaborators in HR and CCPD were enthused about the breadth of the content. They wanted to make sure people knew Lehigh had invested in the system for faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students. The LinkedIn Learning 20 in ‘21 Challenge was launched as part of the effort to get the word out.
The ambitious challenge - to complete 20 hours of LinkedIn Learning courses by the end of 2021 - sparked curiosity and action. Over the course of the challenge, 543 people activated their LinkedIn Learning accounts, and 338 signed up for the challenge. Stacey was pleasantly surprised.
“I was especially impressed that 52 people completed the full 20 hours and some even went beyond that. And it was fun to see that people got a bit competitive, too,” she said. “People had the option of being on the leaderboard or not and we sometimes heard from folks who had at first said they didn’t want to be who changed their mind when they saw a colleague on there. A lot of staff and faculty also liked earning Be Well points.”
While competition, Lehigh swag and Be Well points were motivators for some, feedback collected by the LinkedIn Challenge organizers confirmed that the quality of LinkedIn Learning courses was the main attraction.
For example, top faculty challenge achiever Mihail Cutitaro shared: “Linkedin Learning has been very helpful in seeing teaching techniques and explanations from well-known experts in the industry, with the goal of incorporating my new knowledge in my everyday teaching. Additionally, I use LiL to learn new things that are of interest to me personally, such as project management techniques, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.”
Kathy Dern from Development and Alumni Relations found courses that were especially timely for her role. “We are currently implementing a CRM in Development & Alumni Relations,” she explained. “LinkedIn Learning has allowed me to both refresh and acquire new skills in Visual Studio, SSRS, and Microsoft Dynamics. The classes provided hands-on experience that prepared me to be an effective member of my team.”
LTS staff member Devin Jayetileke (right) made the most of the certification offerings. “With the help of LinkedIn Learning I was able to obtain my CompTIA A+ certification,” he said. “The 19 course training videos were highly detailed and helped me focus on the material I needed to spend my time on.”
If you haven’t had a chance to activate your LinkedIn Learning account, it’s not too late. Getting started is quick and easy, and all faculty and staff are eligible. Follow the instructions on the HR website’s LinkedIn Learning page and you’re ready to find your first class.
Stacey thinks whether you use it for personal or professional interests, you’ll be hooked. “The content and experience will exceed your expectations.”