design training programs based on appropriate learning principles and theories
There will be infinite opportunities throughout the career of an information professional to share knowledge through teaching and instruction. Helping others navigate informational tools and resources is as much a part of the service that we provide as it is to collect and maintain these tools and resources. The types of instructional opportunities that an information professional encounters will vary depending on their respective information or library environments. But in general, librarians can expect to assist patrons and students in areas ranging from how to use the catalog and databases, to teaching information literacy for evaluation of information sources, to providing training in search skills and techniques.
Librarians and other information professionals also participate in a professional community with a long history of openness and of sharing professional strategies and advice; providing instruction or advice to colleagues is a highly likely activity an information professional can expect to partake in. This is especially true in training new staff members and volunteers.
When approaching each instructional opportunity, it is important to be mindful of applicable learning theories and principles. In this way, we can be aware of general ideas about how people learn, and understand how people learn most effectively. This, in turn, should influence the manner in which we approach instructional situations. We will also need to be flexible in our teaching methods in order to include new technologies and teaching methods. A prime example of this is screencasting: when I began this program, screencasts were fairly uncommon, and they have since become an excellent and ubiquitous method of providing instruction.
Some factors to consider when designing a training program or while providing informal instruction include the fact that people learn in different ways and at different speeds. Especially when confronted with new digital interfaces, we can expect some learners to feel anxiety or reluctance, and perhaps a bit overwhelmed. At all times, the learner must feel respected and that the learning process is purposeful. This makes it important to keep things simple and concise, and to provide relevant examples.
It is possible to compare an effective teaching opportunity with the qualities of an effective presentation, as they both use strategies based on learning principles and theories. As with a strong presentation, providing the motivation and reasons for learning something at the start of a training program engages the learner, as will informing them of what they will be learning from your instruction prior to diving in. Using examples and visuals that are specific to the learner are effective in keeping them engaged throughout the rest of the training program. Finally, helping the learner retain the information that you have provided is also a valuable component of the instructional process. Therefore, a conclusion, summary, and a reminder of the motivations should be included to aid this process.
To demonstrate my competency in creating effective training programs based on learning theories and principles, I am submitting a screencast I created for Open Library. This screencast instructs Open Library users how to participate in some record maintenance that involves merging multiple author entries. Using the learning principles described above, I designed this screencast presentation with the intent of promoting effective learning. I also feel that the screencast medium in itself is an effective tool for training because it shows viewers what they will be looking at on their own screens, and it can be paused and replayed if desired.
To further illustrate my ability to design instructional tools, I am submitting a website I created in my Information Tools and Applications course. The website serves as a introduction to the concepts and processes involved in digital preservation practices. Readers walk through the website in a sequential order that is intended to compartmentalize the major areas of the field of digital preservation, such as digital preservation methods, organizational collaborations, and various standards relevant to digital preservation practices. This site is by no means an extensive overview of this continuously evolving field, but its structure as a learning tool is effective.
As an information professional, the ability to effectively train and communicate information to patrons and colleagues is essential. Reflecting on the basic principles and techniques that support effective learning (and therefore teaching) has been instrumental in helping me articulate the aspects of successful training tools and presentations. I anticipate that this skill set will be invaluable throughout the course of my career.