Article Review #5, Bob Heath

Andrew See & Travis Stephen Teetor (2014) Effective e-Training: Using a Course  Management System and e-Learning Tools to Train Library Employees, Journal of Access Services,  11:2, 66-90, DOI: 10.1080/15367967.2014.896217,

Therefore, it seems I have found the perfect article for my purposes.

Online instruction and e-Learning tools are increasingly being used in the academic setting for faculty to deliver course content; however, most libraries have yet to apply the advantages offered by these tools to employee training. This case study from the University of Arizona Libraries (UAL) presents the challenges of sustaining traditional training approaches and the steps to develop an online training program, including identifying specific competencies needed to create effective online training, an approach to prioritizing where to start your program, and requirements for training platform selection. (See and Teetor 2014)

I suspect that most academic libraries struggle with similar versions of this problem, limited permanent staff, multiple locations, extensive hours of operation, and many part-time student employees with frequent turnover, and schedules that do not overlap with supervisors.   The work consists of customer service, technology support, providing directions, basic research assistance, and building security.

Perhaps  many instances of independent invention have occurred in academic libraries to address these issues.     Our solutions at Colby College Libraries include a variety of tactics.   We meet face-to-face at the start of each semester at each location as a staff.   New employees receive focused instruction from a permanent staff supervisor during their first shift.   Librarians likewise meet with as many student employees as possible and provide an hour of instruction on answering research questions — followed up by individual make up sessions to catch the rest.   We have a selective interview process for student supervisors and train them more extensively.   They assist with both training and administrative tasks in managing their respective staffs.   We created a peer mentor program where new employees are partnered with returning employees and so gain the benefit of their experience.   We also created a website to supplant our old training manual. We have enriched that sight with instructional videos created by student employees. We refer to that site when we answer employee questions to impress upon them that many answers are available to them through that resource.   Finally, we meet for lunch once a semester all service desk employees from all locations and while the focus is fun, we sneak some training or review into these sessions as well.  We like the authors of the article also systematically evaluate the employees’ job knowledge and retrain as necessary.  This yields good, but not great results and I am feeling increasing pressure to achieve great outcomes.

The authors first described a new position, a specific employee to create their online instruction.   They then describe the selection process for LMS.   They then describe the content areas of the LMS they use: “Checklist, Content, Quizzes, Dropbox, Grades, Classlist, Discussions, and Syllabus.’   Because these categories are facets of the particular LMS, I will not spend a lot of time summarizing the details of their curriculum.   However, their discussion of creating online content does bear some study.   They used the Desire2Learn LMS  system, but for content creation, they describe three tools: Adobe Presenter, Articulate Storyline, and Panopto.

They evaluated the results of the new training on cost savings, test results, and observation of task performance.

  • “In terms of cost savings, online training will likely result in cutting F2F time in half instead of eliminating it completely.’
  • “Similarly, UAL employees who have used the online training have been just as successful in passing tests as their counterparts who received predominantly F2F instruction.’
  • “While there has not been an in-depth comparison of performance when trained F2F versus online, employees have proven just as capable and have completed this stage of training just as quickly, regardless of how they were trained.’

Again, these conclusions are conservative as with most academic writing.   However, to my mind as an Assistant Director whose business is the same business.   I think there is plenty to go on here.   I have shared this article with my permanent staff and my student supervisors.   We will be discussing it 10/10/2014 at our supervisors meeting.

The authors’ finally end with this conclusion: “While we have received feedback from trainees about their desire to have a greater degree of F2F interaction, overall the online program has proven to save time while achieving the same degree of effectiveness in preparing employees to work at service sites. We plan to address this need by adopting a flipped classroom approach to supplement online learning with F2F activities and workshops.”

Over the last 5-6 years, we, at my work, have approached and shied away from using the LMS system for these purposes.   I decided on my way into work this morning that I was done with the indecision.   I meet with our Instructional Designer today to review the objections that have been raised in the past.   To see if these objections  still had any bearing on the matter — she convinced me that none are meaningful any longer.   In the morning, I will schedule a training meeting, next week, for my staff with this person.   Moreover, we will move aggressively into online learning in support of improved employee performance.   Another important conversation was had today with a new colleague an Assistant Director in an adjacent department.   We agreed to revisit a past initiative to create a career path for student employees in our library.   Several years ago, we did this hard work and had good success with it.   Alas, we lost track of it in our reorganization.   I think these two projects go hand in hand.

There that was the easy part.

39 thoughts on “Article Review #5, Bob Heath

  1. Owen

    “Therefore, it seems I have found the perfect article for my purposes.” I imagine a maniacal cackle follows these words, “muah ha ha”!

    I once had a similar position at Olivet College and I wonder what you mean by, “I am feeling increasing pressure to achieve great outcomes.” It already sounds to me like you’re doing a thorough job. I’m wondering what “great” outcomes look like?

    Lastly, I like your “action items” list in the final paragraph. It sounds like this article affected you in a very real way.

    1. Bob Post author

      Internally, my boss said, “It is not enough to achieve customer satisfaction I want our organization to surprise and delight.” Externally the new president has indicated that we need to become one of the top liberal arts colleges to survive. Combined with the controversy surrounding our renovation and bringing a storage facility online (moving 60% of the collection out of the main library) and the subsequent outrage and a huge hit to our reputation and credibility. Combined with the fact that I am not employing adults, professionals in customer service, but first time employees, teenagers. So, thorough cannot be enough if we are to achieve “surprise and delight” and yet I have to transform kids, into service professionals.

      So, I talked about “excellent customer service” at our kick off meeting. Today, two young women working the desk, independently got up and escorted customers to the locations they needed to go, one in the building, the other out of the building, they covered for each other when they did this. This is a moment of surprise and delight for the customer. I praised the two young ladies and thanked them for this performance. One blushed and they both were very pleased. That is some of what I am getting at when I talk about motivating employee performance. This was earning an “A” in the workplace.

  2. Owen

    Excellent. Yes, “surprising and delighting” – tough benchmarks.

    Interesting assertion that in order to survive as a small private liberal arts college, one needs to be “top”… I would agree. The implications, however, are very interesting. If a transformation is involved, this can be a very tough thing. Like changing one’s relatives or something. Very challenging.

    Wonderful customer service story. Those are valuable life-lessons regardless of one’s field. They’re about human understanding, empathy, self knowledge, all those aspects on the left hand side of Fink’s taxonomy for significant learning.

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