Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CIL2010: Peer Training for Digital Literacy

Lisa Mages, Jennifer Manning & Rita Tehan -- all Information Research Specialists from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) at the Library of Congress.

The peer training they are talking about occurs in two divisions within CRS.  ~170 employees located on multiple floors with a variety of skills and abilities.   Some are incredibly technically proficient, while others are limited in what technology they use or feel comfortable using.  Who can train staff on things that others take for granted?

Their program was inspired by a program at National Geographics.

Peer training began four years ago as a grass roots effort, lead by 5 people.  Fixed schedule with two classes per month.  In 2.5 years, 62 classes with an average attendance of 15.  Over 40 employees have participated as speakers or instructors.

Types of sessions:
  • Tips and tricks for existing resources
  • Introduction to research tools
  • Introduction to tech concepts
  • Conference and trip highlights
Classes are repeated as necessary.

Managing the program:
  • Core group - They meet quarterly to plan the next three months - topics and speakers.  Use discussion boards in SharePoint to help with planning ans reduce email traffic.  They recruit new hires to help.  New employees can get better known by doing these. (Looks good on their annual reviews, too.)
  • SharePoint - It is a repository of documents, discussions, etc.  They use the free version.  One benefit is that handouts are available for reuse.
  • Standard operating procedures - helps to lessen administrative burden
  • SurveyMonkey is used for participant feedback
  • Increase digital literacy 
  • No financial costs
  • Minimal admin burden
  • Accessible documentation
  • Train the trainer
  • Share conference knowledge
While there are a number of challenges, they recommend that others try it.  Challenges:
  • Finding time in addition to daily work
  • Cancellations
  • Recruiting new presenters
  • Not integrated with staff development plans
  • Pressure to expand

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