I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to participate in an online chat about e-learning best practices with our own Paul Signorelli.  As I answered questions for Paul, I had the opportunity to reflect on my experiences in introducing blended learning at Gwinnett County Public Library, an organization, that until a couple years ago, relied almost solely on classroom-based ILT for training.  In my ferver to get e-learning off the ground, I took a few lumps along way that could have been avoided had I taken more care to address early on a few fundamental questions in implementation regarding physical assets, supervisory needs, and administrative concerns.  I volunteered to Paul that I would be happy to compile and share a general e-learning preparation checklist for libraries considering e-learning, or for those that are relatively new to it.  Here goes (or visit the Google group T is for Training for a printer-friendly version):     

E-Learning Preparedness Checklist


□  Does each work unit have an adequate number of PCs to be used primarily for e-learning?

□  Are the PCs in an area away from potential distractions?

□  Does each training PC have the necessary equipment and configuration for e-learning?

  • Consider equipment such as:
  • Headset microphones for webinars
  • Webcam for video conferencing
  • Browsers correctly configured (i.e., Java, Flash Player, Active X controls, popup blockers, software applets, etc)

□  Is there a Help Desk/Tech Support system in place?

□  Are there bandwidth bottlenecks during peak times of PC use in the branches?  


□  Do employees have scheduled off-desk time to participate in e-learning?

□  Is training viewed as an essential job function and supported as such?

□  Are policies/guidelines in place to restrict hourly employees from accessing e-learning off the clock?

□  Will concepts taught in e-learning be modeled and reinforced in the workplace?

Training Administrator

□  Will e-learning offerings conflict with branch/department scheduling?

□  How will new e-learning opportunities be advertised?

□  Which, if any, e-learning classes count toward CEUs for your professional staff?

□  Have you communicated your vision for e-learning so that staff know what to expect?

□  Do you have the buy-in of key stakeholders, such as the Director, the IT department, line managers, etc?

□  What evaluative criteria will be used to determine the success of e-learning initiatives?


Networked TeacherThere is a lot of talk about the new wired and networked student, but where does that leave teachers and trainers?

Alec Couros considers what it means to be a networked teacher and his ideas informed the last minute of this video on The Networked Student.

Networked Teacher roles Far from being rendered obsolete, the networked teacher has a powerful set of functions in the realm of social learning. Relieved of the sage-on-the-stage burden, teachers can explore new territory.

  • Learning architect: helps students to build learning networks
  • Modeler: provides guidance when students get stuck
  • Learning concierge: helps students with communication etiquette and how and where to ask for information
  • Connected learning incubator: provides guidance on how to vet resources and identify quality information
  • Network sherpa: organizes the mountains of information
  • Synthesizer: helps students navigate beyond the  course and develop real knowledge for their futures
  • Change agent: helps students to “creatively solve the world’s problems”

These are good roles to consider in terms of “training” (outmoded term) library staff, but don’t you think all of these roles could apply to librarians and their patrons of all ages?

I spent all of yesterday on the “aorta” level of the Seattle Public Library, those crimson hallways being the site of our local ASTD chapter’s Future of Training event. It was a fun and lively exchange of knowledge and experience with a cohort of mostly corporate trainers. The format followed the organic barcamp model, with sessions suggested and posted (somewhat) on the fly and locations shifting according to the level of interest expressed.

As a frequent online presenter and facilitator, I was interested in a session on Web conferencing with live video. I have imagined that seeing the instructor’s expressions and gestures would fill in the missing link that keeps online training from being the full equivalent of in-person training. The live motion would counterbalance the static nature of the information on the slides. Now I know it’s not that easy or automatic.

The presenter showed us a recording of bad video—what not to do—before showing us the “good” video. I was hard-pressed to tell the difference. This is what I saw:

  • the lighting was terrible, casting deep shadows on the speaker’s face
  • the camera angle was singular, static, and poorly chosen
  • the speaker was not animated and not engaged with the camera (aka the audience)
  • the colors of clothing and background were drab

With all this visual turnoff, you’d think I’d be looking at the slide content instead. But no—I couldn’t take my eyes off the speaker’s face, unless she swiveled her chair or crossed her legs, which drew my eyes there. Motion in an otherwise inert environment is totally seductive, even if it is deadly dull motion.

I realized that, in order to add video effectively, you have to acquire the skills of a TV producer. Set up professional lighting and manipulate multiple cameras with pre-programmed zooms (an approach pioneered by Desi Arnaz for early television). Stage the background and the apparel (and makeup?) and find a SME who’s also trained to work in front of the camera. Then you might have something worthy of taxing the bandwidth of your audience.

I have enough challenges working in the present Web conference setting that I think I’ll wait for this piece of the future of training to evolve a bit more. But hey, feel free to disagree with me! I just stumbled on Oovoo, which makes me think that maybe video communication does have a future. Anybody oovooing?