Training Users to Get the Most Out of Electronic Resources

The number of electronic resources in libraries is steadily increasing, despite the fact not everything is available electronically and it is unlikely that will ever be the case. However, while books are generally easy to use, this is not always the case with online resources. Lack of consistency or clarity in interface design means that there may be content or features that are not immediately obvious to the casual user. Librarians employ a number of tools to help users to get the most of these resources, with training being one of the most important.

Training is not one size fits all; it can make sense to offer a variety of training options to library users. When deciding on the type of training to offer, there are a number of considerations:

  • In person or online training? Distance education technologies have made it much easier to offer online training. A major advantage of online training is that distance is no longer a barrier to attending training sessions. In some instances users in the same physical location as the trainer may find it easier to attend electronically than in person. However, online training does require specialized software, which increases the chance of technical glitches.
  • Hands-on training or watching a demo? Hands-on training can be resource intensive since it requires each attendee to have access to a computer, and may effectively limit the number of attendees.
  • In-house training or external trainer? Most electronic resource providers offer training, often for free. External trainers have a thorough understanding of the resource and bringing in external trainers saves library staff time. However, external trainers generally do not have the same familiarity with the needs of users as an internal trainer. Furthermore, there is less flexibility with an external trainer if training needs to be rescheduled, not an unknown problem with lawyers.
  • Recorded training or live training? Recorded training offers greater flexibility since lawyers can watch it when they like; there are no issues with last minute changes to their schedule. It also has the advantage that once recorded, the session can be reused; on the other hand, if there are changes to the electronic resource, the training may need to be re-recorded. Live training allows users to ask questions and can be changed on the fly to meet users’ specific needs; elements of the training can be dealt with in greater depth or omitted entirely.
  • One-on-one or group training? One-on-one training can be tailored to the needs of the individual user and generally covers more material than would be covered in a group training session.

Some other things to consider when trying to get the most out of training:

  • Keep the training short. Keeping training to an hour or less makes it more likely that lawyers will attend. Online training should be kept even shorter as it is easy for attendees’ attention to wander.
  • Provide materials ahead of the training. If training is in person, have additional copies to hand out at the session.
  • Remind people about attendance. Sometimes lawyers miss training simply because it was not in their calendar. To minimize the chances of that happening, send electronic calendar invitations along with a link to the training materials as well as any other relevant information, such as webinar login information.
  • If possible, offer lawyers continuing professional development credits for attending the session. If using an external trainer, check with them as they may already have approval from the relevant law society to offer CPD credits.
  • Have a backup plan for when technology goes awry. As anyone who has ever attended an online session knows, an extraordinary number of things can go wrong, including losing the internet connection. For example, one presenter I know of always has two copies of presentations: one on a USB stick and one online (in case the computer provided has issues with the USB stick).
  • Involve a second person in the training. They may be a co-presenter or a moderator. Having a second person involved is especially helpful when things go awry as it is challenging to simultaneously present and troubleshoot problems.

Mary Ellen Bates’s checklist for successful webinars provides some additional tips and tricks.

Ultimately, the biggest challenge with training is getting lawyers to attend. Since training takes up billable time, it needs to be a worthwhile investment of that time. Even if a lawyer is interested enough to sign up for training, last minute demands on their time may prevent them from attending training.

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