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Minimizing Online Training Challenges

As we move closer to the Koha rollout, there will be many things for all of us Dynix users to learn, share and ponder.  Online trainings such as GoToMeeting or GoToWebinar sessions will be instructional cogs in the training wheel.Paisley2

Online training has its opportunities and challenges.  There is no travel so both time and money are saved however it can be more difficult to foster a sense of community in a virtual classroom and you may need (or feel the obligation) to multitask with class work and library work simultaneously.  In other words, it can be easier to get distracted and feel less engaged with online trainings.

What is preferable about in-person training and are there ways to foster these same things in online trainings?

Classroom training generally offers:

  • Non-distracting learning environment
  • Common purpose: a sense of community with other participants
  • Real-time dialogue
  • Visual cues: interest, disinterest, tired, crazy paisley pants…

All of these pieces add richness to the learning puzzle.  So how can these same things be facilitated in an online learning environment?

  • Can your library be staffed such that when you are scheduled for an online training you are not also scheduled to wear your library hat?
  • If your library space has no quiet place from which to participate in an online training, can you take the class from home (this presumes that home is more quiet than work)?
  • Community occurs through everyone building a social presence.  The easiest way to be socially present is to have technology for real-time participation, e.g. a microphone.  It will make the experience more engaging for all involved.

Please share what you like about in-person training and how that can be fostered in an online environment.


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I was talking last week with the head of MATC's paralegal program and she told me her department will, by next fall, be conducting live classes at both the west side and the Truax campuses using Cisco's Telepresence. It's not going to substitute for being in a classroom with a live person though, as she and other teachers will be working alternately at each of the sites. Anyway, here's a link to Cisco's "public telepresence" and wouldn't it be cool for a new library to have such a facility?

Thanks for sharing this information about Cisco's Telepresence, Carla. It's something to think about!

Some of us are pretty technophobic and that just ramps up the anxiety level even before we start a meeting. I don't know what can be done about that. I know most of us realize it's just a matter of logging in to a website and plugging in some headphones with an attached microphone but it's an issue. And if no one has seen the software in use before, the presentation can take a little getting used to. Perhaps beforehand someone could post a series of screenshots of what we'll be seeing when we log in and during the course of the presentation, with explanations of what will happen in certain areas (with pointers to the areas) would help. Maybe a screencast of the software in use with these descriptions would help too.

During the presentation, being able to ask questions is pretty crucial. It's also one of the more daunting things for some people. Nobody likes to be thought of as the dumb one after all. Being able to look around the room and see other people with puzzled expressions on their faces makes it easier to interrupt. That's hard to replicate when it's just you trying to stare down an unblinking monitor on your computer. I will say SCLS staff is usually pretty good about asking for questions periodically throughout their presentations and I feel that's quite helpful. The fact that we tend to know most of the people and they recognize us by voice is pretty comforting. I assume there will be opportunities for people to ask additional questions after the presentation is over and via email (or whatever). I hope the presentations will be recorded for revisiting as well.

Another in-person training element that will be hard to replicate in an online environment is the hands on part of training. Sort of the equivalent of walking up to the blackboard at the front of the room and showing (being shown, talking through) how to solve a problem. Also kind of intimidating for some of us, but it can let us know what we know and give the trainers some feedback.

I think the Thunderbird migration training went so well (belated kudos to Pat and the rest of the gang!) because a huge amount of material was available to access before and after the presentation. I hope we'll have lots of similar materials available to us.

Another Thunderbird training tool I found helpful was (I think it was) from Jean who recorded a screencast that was archived as well and that was a pretty useful communication tool. As I recall, it was a little lengthy and might have been more helpful if it could have been divided into more discreet parts that could be accessed individually instead of (in addition to) all at once.

Dennis, thank you for taking the time to share so many insights and helpful suggestions!

An anxious state of mind can definitely interfere with being receptive to learning new things. That’s a fabulous idea for us to post a screencast of what to expect in an online experience independent of an actual online training. It could help decrease some of the anxiety associated with the actual online learning experience.

Thank you also for the “walking up to the blackboard” analogy. It really does help someone new to something to try to do the new thing that they just learned. It’s a reinforcing learning experience for the person at the “blackboard” and all the other class participants. It also offers a feedback loop to the trainer as far as how the training materials could be adjusted for better clarity.

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