Case Study ~ OSP Assistant (1985)






Mary Talcott

Adminstrative Assistant in the Office of Special Programs
Marty DeWindt College Trainer
Objectives & Goals
Mary's boss knew Excel would be a big help to Mary and asked me to train her. Specifically, he knew it would help in her student abroad balance sheets.
Background & Specific Problems
One of Mary's jobs was to set up and keep track of the travel expenses for Principia's travel abroad programs. The balance sheets she kept were detailed and lengthy. She tracked travel and accomodation costs, as well as meal, museum, performance, and other activity costs. The cost per student was based entirely on the average for the number of students going - usually around 20. When the number of students changed, every detail had to be recalculated, including reconverting with all of the exchange rates for all of the countries involved.
Methods & Solutions
I worked with her for 20-30 minutes twice a week. The sessions were two-part: I was learning how she did her job in order to build a spreadsheet template and she was learning Excel.

      I showed her what I developed and she told me where I needed to make corrections.

      Mary liked to figure things our for herself, so I introduced a small topic in the tutorial with the assignment to work through that part of the tutorial (about 30 minutes of "homework"). At the next session, she asked questions about aspects she did not understand.

Progress was slow. She was "getting it," but couldn't see how it would be much better than what she was already doing very effectively and comfortably. We had been at it for 6-8 weeks.

Results, Limitations, & Next Steps

The AHA Moment: A Convert Is Born!

Two days before a group of 22 was due to leave for Italy with a side trip to Austria, one student dropped from the program. Everything had to be recalculated. It took Mary 6 hours - a very long night! Fortunately, the spreadsheet was about done. When I met with her the next day and brought up the spreadsheet, I typed 21 in the cell that had 22 for the number of students. Viola! Close to instantaneously, the calculations were completed.

Mary's astonishment (hand to mouth, drop back in chair, audible gasp) was a delight. We completed the training in another week. She began converting all of her work into spreadsheets. She taught herself other applications for her office work and began using these in her work as clerk for her church. Most importantly, her resistance to technology melted and she became inventive in how she approached her work and using technology.

This was a prime example of the
power of relevance
combined with basic skills
leading to transference
with initiative and independence.