Libraries adding value with technology training: creating curriculum once and presenting it many times in multiple formats gives the public a great return on its investment in the library.
Traditional libraries are being redefined. They are not only places to access books in print but are also rich resources for digital assets. As a result, technology training programs need to progress beyond basic "mouse and keyboard" in order to meet the ever-changing needs and demands of the public.
Libraries Teaching Technology
Becoming a library of the future requires factoring in the one trend that does not slow down--technology. With the emergence of new technologies every day, libraries need to stay apprised of the latest trends and pay attention to the types of questions asked by customers. "How do I download an ebook to my NOOK?" and "Do you recommend a device with Android or Mac OS to get library resources online?" have become common queries. These questions provide insights into the types of programs and training libraries need to develop. Today's customers are curious and want to know about cutting-edge technologies such as the newest tablets, e-readers, and smartphones. That curiosity equates to a very real need for educating patrons on how to use these technologies.
There are other essential needs that libraries should address. Job seekers need to know how to complete online applications or acquire specific skills prior to employment interviews. While many libraries offer public computers for searching for jobs, few actually provide the necessary skills to improve the employability of users. As more companies go high tech, most job applications must now be completed online. Even the jobless who need to file for unemployment must do so online. Although our economy has taken a fall, technology is booming, and there are not enough skilled workers to fill jobs.
As library collections transition to a digital format, the focus should be on showing nontech users how they can benefit from these online resources. Libraries need to provide electronic resources such as access to training tutorials and digital reference databases for individuals and small businesses. Another concept to consider is that not all computersavvy users learn best in an online environment. The need for social interaction and face-to-face learning is still preferred by many. For example, how can a job seeker do well on an interview if she has never experienced one? And how can someone successfully complete a multitasked spreadsheet project at work if he has never done a spreadsheet before? Through technology training, libraries can afford patrons these experiences. The Orange County Library System (OCLS), where author Vengersammy leads a team of instructional designers and technology trainers, is a prime example of how a library can add value to the community it serves through technology training.
OCLS, with headquarters in downtown Orlando, serves the residents of Florida's Orange County Library District. The District's diverse population is made up of nearly a million people served by the Main Library and 14 branches. As a successful 21st-century public library, OCLS provides firsthand, real-world learning experiences. Emerging technology has made it possible for OCLS to change the way information is delivered. The Library System's mission is to connect our changing community to the evolving world of ideas, information, and technology through continuous innovation, making this a great place to live, learn, work, and play.
OCLS offers a wide array of informational and educational computer classes to the public at all library locations. Computer training ranges from basic classes such as How to Use the Mouse and Keyboard, Email, and Internet to more advanced classes such as Web Development, Photoshop, QuickBooks, and The Microsoft Office 2010 Suite. Classes such as Ebooks and Audiobooks, iPad, NOOK and More, and Facebook are also offered on a regular basis. Classes range from 1 hour to 1.5 hours in length and are scheduled 7 days a week, with some locations offering up to six or seven classes per day!
Learning objectives focus on developing skills by facilitating personal and professional growth through technology training. The objectives aim to create interactions that provide meaningful and realistic learning experiences using hands-on practice exercises. This allows learners to transfer skills acquired to practical settings--at home, at school, at work, and so on. Through hands-on interactions, learners improve employability skills and their general grasp of technology. OCLS offers approximately 1,300 classes systemwide each month targeting job seekers, small businesses, and casual users. In 2011, the number of unique class titles increased to more than 230. In 2010, more than 50,000 people attended the library's classes.
To serve the library's diverse community, classes are offered in English, Spanish, and Haitian Creole. Orange County's Spanish-speaking population continues to grow rapidly (it currently includes about 25% of our residents), and our classes have kept pace. The library has made it a priority to connect with these diverse audiences through technology training, as well as by offering other services to meet the needs of these communities. These services include our Citizenship Inspired program, which provides a series of learning opportunities to prepare for the U.S. citizenship exam, and Practice Makes Perfect, a conversational English learning opportunity.
The technology training program at OCLS has classes for children, teens, adults, and seniors. All classes require registration with a library card in good standing. Computer classrooms are equipped with eight to 12 computers, which allows each student to have access to a computer. Four locations have Mac computers that dual boot into the Mac and Windows 7 operating systems. Each computer lab has access to a shared read-only drive that houses the class exercises. Each classroom also has a computer for the instructor, as well as a projector screen and whiteboards. At the end of each class, students receive a certificate of completion. In order to ensure a high standard of instructional quality, there is consistency in class offerings across branches that allows students the option of taking a missed class at any library location. In addition, since many new users may not fully grasp class content the first time, students may retake classes at the same location or at another library.
OLCS technology trainers, many of whom are bilingual, specialize in everything from the basics to advanced classes. There are full-time, part-time, and casual trainers. The casual trainers are called upon as needed to cover classes in the event of an unscheduled absence. Students frequently comment favorably on the instructional and software skills of the library's technology trainers.
Various instructional environments are offered to meet the growing need for computer-based training. Students have the option to attend a face-to-face class or an online class, depending on individual learning preference. Traditional face-to-face classes are the mostly widely attended. Class schedules are customized based on a location's demographics and the demand for classes. Surveys and continuous analysis of class statistics determine the need for classes at any particular location. Traditional face-to-face classes are composed of instructor-led and student-centered training. These classes center on realistic hands-on class exercises that students can use both personally and professionally. Learning objectives are defined at the start of class and are covered and practiced throughout the class exercises.
In instructor-led classes, students benefit from direct interaction and guidance from a live technical trainer. Step-by-step instructions are projected on a full-size screen, allowing students to view the demonstrations of the software features. Students are guided in using the computer workstation for hands-on practice. Classes include course tracks on developing job-specific skills such as Photoshop, QuickBooks, HTML, and Office 2007/2010. These course tracks have approximately four classes in each series. For each series, a hypothetical project is completed, with each class focusing on a different phase of the project. Each class in the series is built upon the previous class so that at the completion of the class series, students have gained basic knowledge of the software through completion of the entire project. Open source classes have been added as part of the curriculum for learners interested in alternative cost-effective software solutions such as GanttProject, which is similar to Microsoft Project, and GIMP, which is similar to Photoshop.
In this student-centered learning environment, the technical trainer serves as the facilitator and students collaborate in small groups on multifaceted projects. This face-to-face learning is promoted as a workshop, which can run up to 2.5 hours. Real-world workplace scenarios are assigned to each group at the start of the class. These scenarios mimic an office setting with the technical instructor as the supervisor and the students serving as staff. In the Microsoft Access workshop, students build a database from scratch. Other workshops include Photoshop, QuickBooks, and Microsoft Excel.
Web-based computer training comprises live training (i.e., synchronous) and self-paced interactive tutorials. The targeted demographic includes patrons with busy schedules or physical impairments that make it difficult to attend traditional classes at the library. In addition to this, students have the ability to access the self-paced interactive tutorials as a tool to prepare for class or as a review after completion of a class. This offers an alternative for students and allows them to access computer training from the convenience of work or home. If a local branch is not offering a particular face-to-face class, a patron can use one of the public access computers to attend the live online class without the need to travel to another location. These classes are delivered via the web with a live instructor. Each class is presented with a series of interactive tutorials to engage learners by providing a realistic environment and tasks to complete. The library also offers prerecorded self-paced tutorials via the web, which are accessible 24/7. These tutorials cover a broad array of topics on various applications. The library will be developing additional task-specific tutorials in the coming year.
While most classes are offered either in person or via the web, some classes have been developed using a mixed mode of delivery. In this mode, some instructional content is delivered face-to-face while other aspects of the class are available via the web. If an online component is determined to be needed for a particular class, the team will determine which elearning tool is most appropriate to accomplish the desired learning outcomes. The library uses elearning tools such as Adobe's Connect, Captivate, and Flash. A good example is a program launched in 2009 called WebTopics. WebTopics is a selfpaced online course where learners are introduced to 10 unique web-based learning units including blogs, podcasting, social networking, and language learning. This web-based course ties into face-to-face classes offered throughout the system.
Instructional Design Process
The library recognizes that instructional design methodology is essential to the success of its classes. A team of instructional technology specialists (ITSs) developed and maintains the instructional content for technology classes. The instructional technology team follows evidence-based instructional strategies such as the ADDIE Model, the BSCS 5E Instructional Model (5E Model), and the Learning-By-Doing Theory to develop and refine each class. Combining these grounded instructional theories and methods have proven more effective than just following one. This model affords students the opportunity to engage, explore, explain, and elaborate on skills learned. The Learning-ByDoing Theory is integrated into each phase of the ADDIE and 5E Models to ensure that students obtain hands-on experience with the applications.
The Technology and Education Center employs the Instructional Systems Design for developing new training programs. This approach provides a stepby-step system for evaluating students' needs, designing and developing training materials, and evaluating the effectiveness of training interventions. The first step is a needs assessment of the library's community. The needs assessment provides a firsthand look at the needs and desires of the population. It also provides firm grounding to support investment in the development of certain classes. Feedback from students is collected via online surveys at the conclusion of each class. This feedback is essential to the curriculum development process and continuous quality improvement. In addition, a quarterly statistical analysis of classes is conducted to identify trends of highdemand and low-attendance classes, allowing an adjustment of class offerings to best reflect the wants and needs of the community served.
The ADDIE Model is a key construct that helps us organize our approach. In the analysis phase, the team performs a learner analysis to identify traits, current technology skills, and any constraints. This information is used to develop classes that reflect actual learner needs versus those perceived by the instructor. During the second part of this phase, the team performs a needs assessment of the learner. This step determines if a proposed class topic is needed or wanted by the target audience. It also provides needed information about which instructional delivery method is most applicable. Both steps are crucial in determining if the class will continue into the design and development phases. Implementing the analysis phase helps the library avoid committing limited resources to classes that would not be highly utilized by patrons.
During the design and development phases, one or more of the ITSs becomes the subject matter expert and works on the actual course content and supporting documents, which often include a PowerPoint presentation, a class booklet, and one or more applied class exercises. Other elearning components and learning aids are also created in this phase. The ITSs begin what is called the formative evaluation process. As part of this process, the team conducts "test runs" of various components of the class curricula and the instructional delivery method. The process often involves teaching the class to individuals with varying degrees of computer literacy. This allows the ITSs to observe the efficacy and efficiency of the curricula and any relevant elearning tools. In structional components are then revised based upon observations.
In the implementation phase, the instructional design team trains and prepares the technical trainers to facilitate the new class. The team also ensures that the training meets the original goals established for the class. This includes ensuring that the content is in scope and that the learning outcomes are fully addressed. It also ensures that the method of delivery is effective and that learners can effectively perform skills taught at the conclusion of the class. The team also coordinates with various library departments to make sure class booklets are ordered, needed software is installed in the training labs, and any elearning components are functional and debugged.
For each technology class developed by the library's instructional design team, the formative evaluation is performed throughout the development and implementation processes. At the conclusion of the evaluation process, another final evaluation method called the summative evaluation is performed. This final evaluation process provides the team with information on the efficacy of the class and helps to ascertain if learners achieved the class objectives. It also guides the library toward future classes and identifies any improvements that can be made to the curriculum.
Meeting the Technological Needs of Our Community
As the needs of job seekers increase within the community, librarians have developed online resources to help them. A job-seekers workshop series debuted in September 2011 at nine library locations. This workshop walks job seekers through the interview process and offers instruction in other critical employment skills. Students gain expertise using skills learned in the four prerequisite classes (Resume Writing, Job Seeker Letters for Employment, Search and Apply for Jobs
Using the Internet, and Improve Your Job Interview Skills). As part of the jobseeker course track, students tackle creating a resume, writing cover letters, and searching and applying for jobs. Students then have the opportunity to enhance their interview skills through moderated mock interviews. This exciting workshop provides a collaborative learning environment where participants share and learn from other students.
The Technology Petting Zoo was introduced in late 2010 to serve patrons who are curious about the latest mobile devices. Participants can get their hands on e-readers such as the NOOK and Kindle and tablets such as the iPad, Xoom, and Galaxy. In addition, they get a demonstration on how to use these devices to access free downloadable music and ebooks from digital collections such as Freegal and OverDrive. It also helps to promote the library's Free Downloadable and Mobile Device classes.
Social media classes, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, are geared toward more casual users who are interested in learning how to set up accounts or who want to know the difference between the different social sites. The Internet Safety class is highly encouraged by the library for internet users of all ages.
As part of the Summer Reading program, the library offers Camp Savvy. This program is designed for kids and teens and gives them the opportunity to learn new software or brush up on technology skills. Camp Savvy receives high marks from parents. This summer kids were introduced to CrazyTalk and comic strip software acquired through a Disney Helping Kids Shine grant. OCLS saw a 13% increase in attendance from last year. EduGaming is popular among teens. In this class, teens learn how to create interactive games using a game engine called Unity. The library's new Whiz Kids program is a series of computer classes offered after school during the week for area students.
OCLS is presently evaluating how it can best serve and meet the needs of small businesses. Already, OCLS offers course tracks to help small businesses manage their finances, build webpages, and produce publications for marketing.
Classes are marketed through the library's website and on public PC screen savers, signage, printed class calendars, newspapers, and radio stations. Promotions also appear in our enewsletter and print newsletter.
As centers for learning and knowledge distribution, Orange County libraries have always provided quality instruction in working with students. OCLS has formalized the process by integrating trusted instructional theories into the development of its curriculum and training. By making curriculum relevant and available in multiple formats (in-person classroom instruction, in-person small-group instructional workshops, live online interactive classes, and computer-based self-paced tutorials), OCLS continues to meet the needs of many learning styles and lifestyles. Creating curriculum once and presenting it many times in multiple formats gives the public a great return on its investment in the library. The community has demonstrated a high approval rating for OCLS through its repeated and robust use of the library's tech-savvy services.
Ormilla Vengersammy (venger email@example.com) has more than 15 years of technology training experience and 10 years of curricula development. She leads a team of instructional designers and technology trainers at the Orange County Library System, Florida, in face-to-face and online instruction. Vengersammy is expected to graduate from the University of Center Florida in December 2011 with a master's degree in instructional technology.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||Orange County Library System|
|Publication:||Computers in Libraries|
|Date:||Nov 1, 2011|
|Previous Article:||Accreditation, ROI, and the online academic library: today's academic libraries must demonstrate their value to cost-conscious university...|
|Next Article:||How to successfully survive a mandated project: you can minimize the impact of these experiences by using the seven principles outlined here as you...|