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Developing the skills of library para-professionals using a blended learning approach: Precept-Lite! by Claire Beecroft, Andrew Booth and Anthea Sutton,

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Presentation on theme: "Developing the skills of library para-professionals using a blended learning approach: Precept-Lite! by Claire Beecroft, Andrew Booth and Anthea Sutton,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Developing the skills of library para-professionals using a blended learning approach: Precept-Lite! by Claire Beecroft, Andrew Booth and Anthea Sutton, School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), University of Sheffield, Sheffield,UK Contact: Developing the blended learning concept Evaluating Precept-Lite! The Information Resources section of the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) at the University of Sheffield has developed a reputation for delivering high-quality training courses nationwide. What is Precept-Lite! ? The course was developed and delivered during Subjects covered by the course included: Basics of literature searching Developing structured search questions Planning a search strategy Simple critical appraisal and selection of search results Many para-professionals work part-time or flexible hours, meaning that the course needed to fit around these patterns of working. Thus, a ‘blended learning’ approach was adopted, with two ‘routes’ available to participants: one combining both online materials with a face-to-face workshop (where a week’s worth of online materials were adapted and delivered in a single day) and another providing an online-only option. The course materials were hosted on a wiki. Most course materials were based on Word briefings or PowerPoint presentations but other, more dynamic elements were included as well, such as quizzes, audio commentaries and online discussions. Buddy groups and blended learning All participants on both routes of Precept-Lite! were allocated to a ‘buddy group’ consisting of three/four course participants. We allocated colleagues from the same workplace to separate buddy groups, thus encouraging all participants to contribute equally to the group rather than undertaking the buddy group activities ‘off- line’. Course content The course evaluation found that overall the participants enjoyed the varied nature of the materials and that the buddy groups worked well. However, some participants felt that they were not given sufficient time by their managers to complete the course work. This raises concerns that online learning is sometimes perceived as being an ‘easier’ alternative to face-to-face learning and which can be simply added to an existing heavy workload- something which is certainly not the case. Participants reported that they were now able to conduct work by themselves which they would previously have had to pass on to more senior colleagues. This increase in confidence was an extremely pleasing outcome as it is vital that para-professionals are able to participate in higher-level tasks such as question- answering. In projecting a professional and polished image of library and information services, para-professionals can contribute to raising the profile and value of their services within their NHS trusts, helping to secure their future. Final thoughts on Precept-Lite The blended learning format worked extremely well with our group of para-professionals and the provision of a course aimed specifically at this staff group was welcomed. The experience of developing and delivering Precept-Lite! has been both a rewarding and an educational experience. Working with para-professional colleagues was a pleasure and has certainly increased our awareness of the significant workloads that they have to negotiate whilst undertaking professional development activities. Precept-Lite! aimed to fill this gap by providing a blended learning approach that would fit flexibly into the workloads of NHS library para-professionals, whilst still offering a face-to-face option. Para-professionals and professional development The course concluded with a quiz and participants were asked to identify a TV detective character who would make a good health librarian- after all, librarianship and detective work are two sides of the same coin! The winning entry was from Kate Masheder at York Hospital. She chose Prime Suspects’ DS Jane Tennison because : “she would soon drum up much needed funding and keep life-long learning high on the Trust’s agenda! ”. Kate’s answer reflected a positive attitude to professional development that was evident from the participants throughout the course.. In 2007 we became aware that there was a gap in our training provision- NHS library para-professionals require flexible, high-quality training to deliver the best service and to develop professionally. WeekDayTopicActivityExercise 131/08/07Course welcome and introductionRead Reading and buddy group introductions 13/9/07PICO/Breaking down a search query/planning a search strategy Read and briefingTurning a query into a PICO question 15/09/07Free text searching- truncation and synonymsRead and briefingNone today 17/09/07Subject Headings 1- the basicsRead briefingFind the correct subject heading quiz 210/09/07Subject Headings 2- trees, exploding and focusingRead and view PowerPointBuddy Group Exercise Extract from the Precept-Lite! course programme, including buddy group activities Participants were encouraged to work with their ‘buddy group’ via a range of tasks. The groups had time to develop relationships and act as a source of mutual support as well as a forum for completing the tasks- this is important in a virtual environment where the potential to learn from other participants could easily be missed. Acknowledgement: We acknowledge the input of Colin Lynch into early versions of the PRECEPT-Lite materials DS Jane Tennison- a heck of a health librarian? Image used courtesy of


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