This section covers:
- Options for provision of online skills training – what will work best for your library or respective staff
- Criteria for assessing whether training meets good practice and is likely to be effective
- Finding online sources of training (free or fee based).
For each skill (“deliverable”) on your training plan consider options for providing the stated training requirement. The first factor to consider should be the mode of training, then move on to the logistics of who will do it and when. Assess how each assessed need or requirement is best delivered (the mode) by reading through the various in-house and external options below. These range from formal group sessions to team discussion and sharing (show and tell). A variety of modes may be the most effective mix. For example, developing judgement in the selection of eResources for specific queries could be best done through regular brief discussion at team meetings of the eResources used – successes and failures can both be learnt from. Basic search skills and strategies are most effectively taught in interactive, group sessions. Building on and consolidating this knowledge is usefully done through provision of exercises or experience.
Underlying your decisions will be the need to ensure that any training delivered is as effective as possible. It is a considerable investment by the library (in staff time especially) and there may be only one opportunity over a period to provide such skills training.
For formal or organised sessions (whether online or face-to face) training has to be well executed for full value to be gained. A brief list of such critical success factors is provided below. Use this as a rough measure to assess potential organised training options.
Key Components for Successful Skills Training:
- There is a clear statement of what is to be covered and the expected outcomes are made evident to participants
- The content is presented as much as feasible in the context of real local information needs i.e. each session example should relate to a clear customer need to resolve, not just a new tool to master
- The trainees are challenged in sessions to carry out the next step, not just told what to do. Making it a collaborative learning process will keep them creatively involved
- Slower participants are well supported – strong anxiety will impede their confidence and capacity to learn
- Search strategies and generic skills are given emphasis rather than all the features of a specific tool or resource
- Opportunities are provided for things not to work, and then approaches to how to work around them elicited from the trainees. Participants will learn from such “failures” much more readily than from just following successful steps
- A mix of modes and media is deployed in formal sessions – participant hands-on, group discussion, exercises, whiteboard key points; and written handouts are not provided until after concepts are presented (given before can split attention and hinder learning)
- “Stories”, anecdotes, analogies are drawn on – anything that’s illustrative – of how the resources have been used to fulfill needs. These will enhance awareness of value and learning retention
- Trainers do not take over the participant keyboards to demonstrate an issue – rather they are talked through it. This will instill a lot more confidence and consolidation of learning
- “Think aloud” processes are used whenever directing or demonstrating anything - participants are not left to figure why something is being done or used
- Brief recaps are given at the end of each session as well as an opportunity for questions.
Poor training can be worse than none as it may actually discourage or intimidate those less confident with eResources. Make it count! Don’t confuse presentations or demonstrations with training for use; the former may increase awareness of possibilities but won’t develop skills.
In-house training - Scheduled
- Peer “pair & share” – buddy up staff in teams, assign them specific skills or products and ask them to learn and then “teach” each other the key features and relevance of selected eResources.
- Coaches – assign coaching roles to identified staff
- Learning spots – schedule regular short spots in team meetings for staff to contribute examples of success (or failure) stories, discuss cases of use, or examine the presentation of eResources in another library’s website.
- Self-directed from resources – assign or arrange scheduled learning or practice periods to work through exercises, case studies, online tutorials from eResources vendors or other elearning sites Consider the merits of facilitated vs. self-paced sessions: facilitated (i.e. a staff coach or mentor leads participants through the learning resources) can be of benefit to the less confident as it enables immediate response to any queries; self-paced sessions are easier to schedule, less intensive in terms of resources and allow participants to proceed at their own pace but present risks of weaker monitoring of participant progress. Creating online eResource challenges for staff where they can collect points for new skills learnt can increase participation and motivation from staff. At minimum staff should be asked to briefly report on what they covered in each session and any queries that arise.
- Better-resourced libraries may want to extend this through developing their own materials and structured sessions as a component of their on-going training programs. Such sessions could “blend” external online or elearning resources with your live service practice monitoring and/or coaching schemes.
Effective Use of Online Tutorials
Online skills tutorials or other elearning including wiki and blog options can seem an attractive way to provide training when other options are limited. The obvious advantages of accessibility, flexibility and low overheads can however prove less than cost-effective if a number of critical factors are not thought through and provided for:
- Capability – the staff member should be capable of starting at the required point and developing skills progressively; ensure they have the requisite base
- Relevant content – assess whether the tutorial does clearly relate to work demands or skills. If not clear but still useful, make the relationship apparent to participants
- Engagement – assess whether the sessions do engage participants through their content and design. If this is very weak you may not get completion or good learning outcomes
- Support – ensure there are competent staff member/s available to monitor the progress of participants and respond to their queries
- Infrastructure - assess whether you have the required software, bandwidth and freely available PCs to confidently deliver material
- Follow-up/monitoring – determine how skills gained are to be evaluated and possibly tested (by interview, observed on the job…?)
Online Tutorials may be more effective if used as a complement to other provided training (on-the job, live sessions, mentoring, discussion etc.) - rather than being the sole tool i.e. they are blended with other modes of learning.
In-house training - Unscheduled
Research indicates that ‘informal’ learning is increasingly seen as the principal means of developing staff – formal, assigned training sessions comprises only 10-20% of what staff learn on the job. Informal learning then is a more effective and faster route to developing skills particularly where formal opportunities are scarce or challenging to organise. To have impact however it needs active encouragement and deliberative initiatives.
Create a culture of informal learning through the following options:
- “Play” - encourage staff to explore and evaluate nominated eResources during downtime on service desks. Set up bookmarks to key resources and provide a short list of questions about eResources or typical search queries that staff can use to guide their exploration. This is a less structured, more casual version of self-directed learning and more suitable for those who have had some prior exposure. It shouldn’t be an option for introducing new resources or up skilling new staff.
- Search Modelling – informally convey to users or staff the thought behind and approach to using eResources by deploying an explicit “think aloud” approach to searching i.e. explain and comment on exactly what and why you are doing at each step (including failure points) any time you are undertaking a search with them.
- Managerial modelling - when managers learn of positive examples of eResources use or developments in other libraries they should convey and discuss them with staff formally and informally to contribute to the awareness of value of the resources.
- Mentoring and staff swap opportunities can be a way of transferring and extending knowledge
- “Catch up” sessions - ask nominated “coaches” or “eResources specialists” to deliver a standard short awareness session to any staff member who expresses or exhibits (in a service context) a lack of familiarity or confidence with relevant eResources.
- On demand - put up promotional posters or flyers for eResources in related areas of the print collections or staff areas and indicate to staff that anyone who would like to learn more can ask for a short 1:1 awareness session
- Email/blog/newsletter/intranet - if your library has a vehicle for communicating to staff, provide periodic posts on search experiences and approaches with links to examples in eResources.
- Encourage staff to subscribe to industry blogs, wikis and websites and to share any tips and tricks learned via meetings and internal communication channels
Your training possibilities may seem constrained by the lack of facilities available or accessible in your library. But don’t be deterred if you don’t have adequate provision for formal group sessions – you can still do a lot through informal clusters of work PCs, using customer PCs before opening time or working at an individual coaching level etc.
The availability of external providers and courses or resources is ever changing. You need first to be aware of training needs and desired modes (as above) and then have someone responsible for monitoring and alerting staff to suitable opportunities.
From time to time NSW.net develops and delivers training courses focused on the state-wide eResources that they provide. These courses are designed to assist library staff to get the most out of the resources and ensure they are equipped with the knowledge to use these eResources effectively for the benefit of their communities. NSW.net also provides information on vendor based training.
Further information at: http://www.nswnet.net/training
Online Vendor training
Many of the current NSW.net vendors provide some form of online tutorials and/or web based training. Some provide periodic visits from their representatives that will be useful to refresh staff on issues, key points or eResources updates. These can complement in-library training programs.
Vendor visits or resources can serve to raise awareness, but they may not provide effective skills training (as outlined in the Key Components for Successful Skills Training above). Presentations that are essentially demonstrations (whether live or via webinars) may help staff see possibilities for use or better understand content, but are not a substitute for real skills or confidence development
A range of other professional and commercial organisations present periodic opportunities for continuing professional development (CPD) in this area. Maintain a watching brief on professional listservs and the offerings provided though ALIA.
There are a growing range of freely available online tutorials. Evaluate options and consider whether any could form the basis of an in-house staff training program.