This guest blog post is by Articulate Community Manager Jeanette Brooks.
Remember the old stereotype of librarians shushing noisy patrons and tending musty stacks of books? That notion’s about as outdated as a 1962 encyclopedia set.
Walk into a library these days, and you’re more likely to see a crew of tech-savvy information specialists and literacy professionals, staffing a dynamic and technology-rich learning environment.
Today’s libraries go way beyond book-lending. They’re important hubs of research and discovery, where you can navigate all sorts of media, technologies, and services. And as I found out recently from Kathleen Gesinger of WebJunction, rapid e-learning is an important part of that mix.
WebJunction is a nonprofit online community where more than 61,000 library staff and volunteers learn and share new skills and best practices. Kathleen is an Articulate user, a WebJunction Partner Services Consultant, and a training specialist who loves to help others learn. Here’s what she told us about WebJunction and how its members are using Articulate tools in the library field:
What does WebJunction do?
“It’s a free, supportive, friendly place for library workers across the country to learn about library management, technology, and services. Anyone can join. Within WebJunction there are lots of individual state library communities, too. We offer self-paced online courses, discussion boards, webinars, and all kinds of other online events and resources. The goal is to help members deliver leading-edge and cost-effective programs for the libraries in which they work — not only for library patrons, but also for staff development and continuing education. WebJunction has been a leader in social learning for library staff since 2003.”
How is WebJunction using Articulate software?
“In 2007 we were shopping for course creation tools. We needed something that would help us build tutorials for our own administrators. We also wanted a tool to recommend to our state library partners so that they could create library-specific course content. We looked at several options out there, and we chose Articulate. We really like Articulate’s easy user interface, and the fact that Presenter allows users to build content by starting with PowerPoint — a tool most people are already familiar with.
“The great thing is, because so many of our state partners within WebJunction now use Articulate, we’re better able to provide a consistent learning experience for learners — and all the courses work well within Plateau, our learning management system. The Articulate tools are approachable, user-friendly, and SCORM-compliant — all of which is really important for our environment. It’s definitely our go-to tool for course creation.”
You recently created a group for Articulate users within WebJunction, called Course Creation Gurus. Tell us a little about that.
“Many of our members develop instructional content for use in their own libraries and to share with other libraries. We started the Course Creation Gurus group to give these folks a chance to learn and practice their e-learning design and development skills. We found that they had lots of content ideas for courses they wanted to build, but they needed an easy way to share course-building tips and techniques with other library workers. We ended up with members across 10 different states participating in the group.
“Since so much of the content our members build is specific to the library field, it’s really helpful for library staff to learn from one other. And collaborative learning just makes so much sense! It helps us each learn more, and quicker. That’s really important in our field – many states are facing staff layoffs and resource reductions, so we’re all looking for ways to do more with less.”
How do group members learn & connect with each other?
“We launched the group in February, and for six months we held two live online sessions a month, via an online conferencing tool. The first Monday of each month we held a learning session, led by a different ‘guru’ each time. Our facilitators included Tom Kuhlmann and Jeanette Brooks from Articulate, Dale Musselman (WebJunction Learning Manager), and me. These were lively, interactive sessions where we shared all kinds of e-learning tips and techniques. We also gave opportunities for discussion and Q&A.
“As a follow-up to each learning session, on the third Monday of the month we met for a learner showcase. This was an informal time for anyone in the group to share how they’d been applying and experimenting with the things we’d learned so far. It was a great way to exchange bite-sized learning and help each other work through any questions that had come up since the previous session. Lots of great inspiration, idea-sharing, and discussions happened during those sessions — I learned that motivated learners can really drive some meaningful conversations!”
How did you choose the topics for each month?
“Inspired by Tom Kuhlmann’s Rapid E-Learning Blog, we skimmed through nearly every blog post and identified several key areas we wanted to cover. Tom does such a great job of keeping learning fun and approachable, we figured why reinvent the wheel? We decided on the following six topics:”
Did participants learn and interact with each other between meetings, too?
“Yes! We created a group page within our internal WebJunction learning & support center. It’s where members can view session info and participate in discussion threads related to our monthly topics.
“We added new resources to the page throughout each month, to keep pace with what we were learning. On the group landing page, each week we featured a different Screenr video from the Articulate community tutorials, to keep the page fresh and to showcase the current month’s topic. We also posted all the session resources and recordings so that anyone who missed a session could stay in the loop. And if there were additional Articulate community resources that could support the group’s learnings (such as tutorials, blog posts, books, or other resources), we added links to those, too.”
Sounds like you leveraged a lot of Articulate community resources to augment the group’s progress.
“We did! Also, since none of us is an expert in every facet of the tools, we frequently reminded participants to take advantage of the Articulate community forums as an important extension of our learning. Even though library staff have some specific learning needs that we wanted to address within our own community, many of the group’s e-learning questions could be quickly answered by the larger Articulate user community. The Articulate forums give fast and helpful replies, plus there’s a huge repository of questions & answers that have already been asked and answered.”
What outcomes have you seen from the Course Creation Gurus group?
“A nice result was that in our recent survey, 100% of participants said they now felt more prepared to create self-paced e-learning courses. The level of confidence-building that we saw in participants certainly made the whole thing worthwhile!
“Another neat thing is that two group members, Dawne Tortorella and Lisa Barnhart, completed an e-learning course they were working on! It’s a course called ‘There Will Always Be Stories,’ and now it’s available through WebJunction for library staff across the country.
“We’re also really excited about some other e-learning projects that our group members are building. One is a tutorial that covers the InterLibrary Loan (ILL) process — hot stuff in the library world! A lot of work goes into making sure library patrons can ask for a book or other resource that lives at another library, and have it delivered to their own local library. So this tutorial will help contribute to that magic!
“Another member is working on a course that’ll help libraries with technology inventory and planning.
“And an especially nice outcome of Course Creation Gurus is that now we have each other to turn to. Whenever we need a library colleague to help generate some e-learning ideas or to review a course we’re building, we have a supportive network of Articulate users right here within WebJunction.”
Great job, Kathleen and WebJunction, for building an effective shared-practice community of Articulate users!
How about you? Have you formed an online or face-to-face group of Articulate users in your field, workplace, or geographical area? We’d love to hear about it. Contact us if you’d like to share your story!