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

Physical

□  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?  

Supervisory

□  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?

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Two posts you just gotta see (guaranteed you’ll get some useful ideas!)

  1. Janie Hermann’s interview with Jon Jiras of RIT Libraries talking about their amazing “Food For Thought” Continuing Ed. program.
  2. Janie’s follow up with Jon, reporting on this year’s (crazy successful) program.

For complete info on the Food for Thought program, see the Food for Thought Homepage. Thanks for sharing all of this wonderful info Jon, and thanks for blogging it Janie!

Working with and watching a trainer as talented as Edmond Otis in action offers lessons far beyond the topic on the table.

Edmond, presenting a recent Infopeople webcast on “Setting Boundaries With Library Patrons,” offered guidance to library staff members on a variety of interrelated topics, including how to deal with library users who are problems because they are so nice. Faced with the nice person who is taking up more time than we have to offer, we are not without options, he reminds us in the webcast. Edmond first suggests that we ourselves are culpable in letting the situation persist, then offers tips on how to professionally—and humanely—resolve the problem: be honest and tell them that we have others who need our assistance; be nice since those who are nice deserve reciprocal treatment; and value the magic of the rapport we can develop and maintain by treating others with respect rather than lashing out in frustration. He emphasizes the need to consistently apply the rules, policies, and procedures we are expected to follow. And he reminds us to be empathetic, attentive, warm, respectful, engaged, flexible, and responsive—which pretty much describes how Edmond himself operates as a trainer.

The presentation, at that level, can serve as a trainer’s manual for other trainers even though it is as far as one can be from the Beyond Bullet Points approach which Cliff Atkinson is so justifiably popularizing among those employing PowerPoint slides in their workshops, webcasts, and webinars. One of Edmond’s viewers, in fact, took the time to write and thank Edmond for effectively incorporating his slides (viewable from the page where the webcast is archived) into his presentation. It’s not, as we can see, just about the way the slides look; it’s as much about the trainer’s ability to engage an audience and leave it with a lesson to be treasured and employed to everybody’s benefit.

A fully integrated presentation—in this case, the sound of Edmond’s well-modulated voice, the sight of him speaking during the webcast, and the presence of slides which provide a simple roadmap to the presentation and also serve as printable hand-outs to be retained and used as a handy cheat sheet—do not require lots of fancy graphics; if it is from the heart and meets the audience’s needs, it’s going to be effective.

The reminder here for all of us involved in staff training is that there are numerous ways to approach learners onsite or online. The wonderfully creative way Atkinson approaches PowerPoint is, in fact, very attractive, and I’m among those who are experimenting with it and enjoying it. This doesn’t mean that any of us need to see this as an either-or, to-bullet-or-not-to-bullet, choice. Bullet points can be effective and attractive if the presenter is as engaging as Edmond is in this webcast, and students will, as we have seen, respond appreciatively. And the more tools we have and employ, the more we’re going to have to offer those who want to learn from us.

Michael Stephens at Tame the Web draws our attention to Skokie Public Library’s “Ten Things” learning program. If parking is as bad in Skokie as it is in New Jersey, this is one heck of a learning incentive!!

So what learning incentives (food, swag, gold stars) have you found effective in your training adventures?