Strategies and Tips for Successfully Teaching ATLAS.ti – An Interview with Certified Trainer Mutinda Mutuku
Thank you for sharing with us, Benson! Could you please tell us, how did you get started with ATLAS.ti?
My first time to use ATLAS.ti was during my Postgraduate studies in the Netherlands. ATLAS.ti was introduced as a technical software that researchers can use for sophisticated qualitative data analysis. Due to interest in qualitative data analysis and the nature of my MSc thesis, I took personal interest to explore more and understand ATLAS.ti and later use it as tool for my MSc data analysis.
I completed by MSc in 2017 and thereafter applied for Student Certification. I have been an ATLAS.ti student trainer for the last two years, providing ATLAS.ti and qualitative data analysis training in Kenya. My main clients have been corporates such as Non-Governmental Organisations, Research Organisations, University staff (major PhD students) and individual researchers.
What kind of people tend to come to your trainings?
The majority of my clients have reached out to me because they have seen my credentials listed on the ATLAS.ti global consultant. They prefer me because I am listed as a consultant available in Kenya (preferably Nairobi). Once I have received an email from a client regarding ATLAS.ti, we exchange few calls and emails concerning their training or technical need. I request the client to share with me their training need and objectives. This can be in terms of project goals and objectives or if a PhD student, this is captured in their research questions and objectives. This is the document that guides me in setting the scope for my training and capture the client’s expectations. It is from the objectives where I mark some tangible training outcome which I can measure and assess at the end of training.
Do you have any advice for other people who want to teach ATLAS.ti?
Preparation is key in conducting technical training. ATLAS.ti offers a lot of features that not every trainee will understand or find useful. But how a trainer organises a session will even motivate trainees to explore more advanced features. One class may find Geo-referencing exciting and useful, but another group not concerned at all with these spatial features. The key important skill here is to learn client expectation and prepare according to their needs.
I have developed competence in training because of my academic qualifications and international exposure. I have acquired intra and inter-personal communication skills that help me to understand by audience, gauge their level of understanding and speed of conveying information. Any trainer needs to work on been a good communicator.
I have found the ATLAS.ti manualvery resourceful in terms of referencing. I may have the knowledge of ATLAS.ti, understand the basic features, all managers, and how to visualise, analyse, report and present data in ATLAS.ti but the answer to some specific questions from trainees I have been forced to make reference to the ATLAS.ti manual. Also keep up to date with the advancement of the software such as watching video clips, attending webinars, and subscribing to the news channels (newsletters, Facebook page etc). there is no problem in referring to previous works where the trainer can show the trainees how some feature in ATLAS.ti can be used.
Do you also teach about qualitative data analysis strategies?
Qualitative data analysis can be cumbersome. It takes career passion, motivation to read a lot, understand data and have an analysis strategy. In ATLAS.ti the basic of training has been to make clients understand the key features in the interface such as explorer, the six managers, and reporting features. But it takes more to first understand the clients need, their data (if they have it) and advise them on how to go on analysis. This is important to avoid rushing to hypothetical approaches in analysis and end up misleading client. QDA involves bulky data and one must have interest in dealing with such voluminous data.
I have had to research and share more papers to my trainee upon establishing their needs. A case was for a PhD student who was using Grounded Theory approach but didn’t really know how even to kick-start her methodology. I went outside ATLAS.ti training and shared a paper by Susanne Friese on CAQDAS and Grounded Theory Analysis. From this paper, the client appreciated how ATLAS.ti can indeed be useful.
Do you have any final thoughts?
Whereas ATLAS.ti is a technical software, the professional training seems to take passion more than specific career path. That explains why natural scientists, medics, engineers, computer scientist are finding ATLAS.ti useful in their data analysis. my experience so far confirms that a trainer in this technical software ought to have personal drive to share this knowledge, be of good personal discipline, good inter and intra personal communication skills and keep up to date to the development of the software.
Personally, through this certification I look forward to continuing to share knowledge and develop myself to a more competent researcher, data analyst and trainer. I hope to expand my training base to include lecture sessions in universities. I have trained several university Staff in three universities and we are engaging on how they can introduce ATLAS.ti has a module as Research Methodology alternative while introducing QDA (it is important to mention that many Universities’ research methodologies majors on Quantitative approaches).