- IT tutorials, help clinics and resources made available to club and county officers
- Education and support provided to save administration time and facilitate communication and collaboration in clubs and counties
- Online seminars delivered weekly via Microsoft Teams and available afterwards on the GAA Learning YouTube channel
- Joint approach between IT, and Officer Development Committees
- Led by Gerard Bradley (Tyrone), Noel Tierney (Westmeath), Michelle Healy (Galway), Terry Brady (Cork) and Eoghan Tuohey (GAA)
The GAA has ramped up its efforts since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions to upskill its volunteer officers and full-time administrators in clubs and counties on their use of IT.
Emphasis has been placed on increasing the awareness of how to use Microsoft Teams for hosting meetings at club and county levels, and Microsoft Forms for managing voting on motions at County Committee meetings.
The development of tailored educational materials for GAA Officers has been led by Gerard Bradley, the current IT Officer with Tyrone GAA and member of the GAA’s IT Committee centrally. He remarked: “We have developed a series of short modules covering a variety of tasks using the Microsoft 365 package that has been made available to club and county officers. These training modules are targeted at an audience which has a wide range of I.T. skills. Our volunteers in particular need I.T. tools beyond email which can reduce the administrative burden of running the modern GAA at club or county level. The recent webinars provided online demonstrations and backup training materials which are particularly targeted at maintaining communications during the current pandemic. The most recent session provided an opportunity for clubs and counties to get solutions to I.T. queries and problems.”
Another member of the IT Committee, Noel Tierney from Westmeath, has worked in conjunction with Bradley to design and deliver tutorials via the online seminars. “In recent years, we’ve delivered many face-to-face sessions on the Office 365 suite of tools to GAA officers throughout the country,” Tierney says.
“With the constant turnover of club officers, the main priority for users in those two-hour sessions is Email and we’ve also tried to give a brief overview of both Calendar and OneDrive. Jarlath Nolan from Roscommon and I cover the midland and western circuit for Office 365 training. We’ve always felt that additional sessions would help encourage wider adoption of the extensive suite of tools that Microsoft provide, but Club and County Officers get really busy in spring and its unreasonable to expect them to travel long distances for additional training.
“Webinars and other resources such as short videos hosted on the GAA E-Learning platform are other channels we’ve explored to deliver training and support to GAA Officers at club and county level. Initially, I was sceptical about webinars for GAA IT training, but circumstances in recent months have forced us to consider alternative approaches – like many organisations, the GAA has had to become very agile very quickly. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well they’ve gone. First of all, the technology to deliver the webinars is improving constantly. We use Microsoft Teams and it has proven to be very stable and reliable during the sessions we’ve held in recent weeks.
“Secondly, all of the webinars so far have involved at least two or more associates presenting the material – two or three different voices during the sessions is much more effective than one presenter carrying total responsibility. It adds a bit of energy to the sessions, and a second opinion is on offer when someone asks a tricky question! We know each very well at this stage, and whenever there is a technical glitch, a second presenter can step in and keep the session moving or answer any urgent questions via the chat feature.
“We’re acutely aware that some webinar attendees are very familiar with the Office 365 applications while others are relative newcomers, so we try to pitch it at a level where participants can leave the session feeling that they’ve learned something. We’re also conscious that it’s important to involve participants in the webinars, so we try to interact as much as possible with attendees and answer as many questions as possible. I’d never have imagined even five months ago that counties and clubs would be holding executive meetings via Microsoft Teams or voting on motions via Microsoft Forms. What’s even more encouraging is that club and county officers now have expertise in IT tools that are highly sought after by employers.
“Our work for the year isn’t finished yet, and we’ll be more than happy to provide additional webinars on Microsoft Teams, Forms and OneDrive. In the long run, from a club and county perspective, OneDrive is the most valuable, yet under-utilised component of the Office 365 suite, as it provides gigabytes of GAA controlled file storage, in the cloud, to every GAA club in the world.
“Currently, even though we’re all missing GAA activity on the field during the long summer evenings, GAA volunteers all over the world are taking full advantage of this once in a generation opportunity to take a massive leap forward in the adoption of communication and collaboration technology across the GAA and its sister associations. Please keep an eye on the webinar schedule and let us know what else we should cover. In future sessions, we hope to showcase clubs or units who are using the Office 365 suite extensively, in particular features such as Forms and OneDrive for collecting and sharing data.”
The most recent webinar on 21 May acted as an IT Clinic for County Officers. Participants were surveyed in advance on technical problems they were experiencing, and a panel of IT Officers was assembled to prepare tutorials and answer questions on the webinar. Cork GAA IT Officer, Terry Brady, gave an overview on how Microsoft OneDrive can act as an “online filing cabinet” for Officers to store documents, and how officers can control which individuals and groups with both GAA and non-GAA e-mail accounts can view, or edit documents.
Michelle Healy, Galway GAA IT Officer, has been present on all seminars to help officers with queries within the Q&A chat feature in Microsoft Teams. Michelle, who is also Secretary of the Ahascragh Fohenagh Club, spoke about how a smarter use of the Microsoft 365 system can make a difference to clubs and counties.
“We are fortunate to have Microsoft 365 systems freely available to the GAA community to enable us continue to operate our activities seamlessly, where needed. In recent weeks, club and County Board Officers had to very quickly transition to using online communication and collaboration channels fully. Many users would be familiar with email, in recent weeks they have experienced the additional benefits available through the active use of the tool suite in the Microsoft 365 portfolio. These systems have enabled many to conduct their business successfully, remotely and online.
“We have also learnt that we do not need to bring groups together in person, face to face, for every discussion item that needs to be debated. This is a culture shift from how we traditionally ran meetings and courses. The effective use of IT enables us to have better flexibility and participation and hopefully we continue to leverage the use of IT to create efficiency going forward. We have had the opportunity to both learn from and support each other with practical IT solutions during this time. The IT community are very supportive and available to help where needed and I would encourage those who require support or have improvement ideas to contact us. Strong teams working together off the pitch are most important at a time like this.”
Over the last few years, the GAA’s IT and Officer Development Committees have worked closely together to provide training to club and county officers on using Microsoft 365. Workshops have been delivered on-demand in counties under the auspices of the Club Leadership Development Programme (CLDP).
Eoghan Tuohey, GAA Officer Development Coordinator, currently coordinates the organisation of the CLDP. He noted that the Officer Development Committee has seen a strong increase in the demand for all IT-themed modules in the last year.
“The “Getting Work Done in Office 365” module was one of the most popular offerings in the CLDP, because it focussed on practical things officers could do to make their lives easier right away,” Tuohey states. “We hope that Club Officers in the GAA, LGFA and Camogie Association continue to avail of the supports on offer.”
In addition to the provision of training, the GAA has increased the priority given to the promotion of Club resources. Jack McCarney (GAA Club Administration Coordinator) has worked closely with the IT Committee to create a Club Folder Structure for Clubs. This is a set of sample documents and folders which GAA clubs can copy and use. To start with, a club secretary template has been created which includes files in the following folders:
- Garda Vetting
- Minutes Property
To learn more, visit: https://learning.gaa.ie/clubfolderstructure