We have almost finished the final version of our first module, which looks at “Developing your search strategy”. We’re pretty experienced trainers and we thought that this would be the easiest module to start with – how wrong we were! It has been challenging working at a distance, trying to accommodate the needs of all sectors and ensuring that the resources will be applicable to the range of different professions in healthcare. That’s before we even started to think about what it means to write good e-learning materials, that are interactive, engaging, short and assessment focussed.
So what did we actually learn? Here are our top tips for writing e-learning materials and managing a large scale project:
- Version controlling our scripts – we spent a lot of time reworking our first script to get it right and gathered lots of comments along the way. We didn’t always adapt the original script so we spent a lot of time trying to pull all the comments together for a more streamlined script.
- Providing information to the developers – this follows on from the above comment as we wasted time sending individual ‘comments documents’ to our developers expecting them to work out what we wanted. We are now using a single template and getting that as polished as possible before handing it over.
- We are the experts, the developers are not – They do not have the background knowledge or understanding that we have. Things that make sense to us may not make sense to them.
- Understanding what good e-learning is – it is very different from writing a MOOC or a usual training session. We soon realised that it wasn’t going to be enough to translate existing materials into an online format in order to fulfil our objectives. E-learning needs to be succinct, visual, interactive and meet varied learning needs. You do not have the flexibility to change tack or adapt what you have in face to face training. You do not have the opportunity to interact that is provided by a MOOC.
- Envisaging what the final product would look like – it is difficult to visualise from a script what the final design might look like. Things that we had to consider along the way were colours and accessibility, Health Education England branding, style, audio and feel. It is difficult to please everyone, so compromises were made along the way.
- Project management techniques– we spent a lot of time planning in terms of consultation, communication and developing timelines but I’m not sure that we fully anticipated potential risks. Some of our challenges were around being a dispersed team, consulting with a lot of people and crucially changes to the development team when some of our key contributors left.
- Setting clear deadlines – this is always going to be challenging when the project leads are taking this on top of existing roles and responsibilities. We have also learnt to be clearer when setting deadlines for other team members to ensure we can complete on time.
- Knowing when to stop consulting and adapting – it took us a long time to get to a stage when we could sign off the first modules. Some of this is about knowing when to stop and accepting that good enough is good enough. Another part is having more confidence that our extensive consultation means that we are developing what people want.
We think the next few modules should come together quite quickly. We have signed off on the final design and we have completed a number of scripts which are ready to go. We will be presenting at EAHIL about our approach to consultation so hope to see you there!
Clinical Outreach Librarian
Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
Knowledge and Library Services Manager
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Research is firmly embedded in the NHS Mandate 2017 – 2018 (see Objective 8 “To support research, innovation and growth”). It probably didn’t need a directive to point out the importance of research to patients and patient care. Research is also core business for NHS libraries. This is a reflection on how we can make research a distinctive part of our service offering. It’s based on personal experience and best practice using the tried and tested ‘n things’ model.
- Go to the Research Committee It’s a safe bet that no one ends their career wishing they had gone to more meetings. However, in something as diverse as research in a large organisation the Research Committee can be the best place to get an overview of current and new research activity. If you are not on the committee as a member, you could ask to be an observer or to be circulated the minutes.
- Collaborate with your Research Department If you can make friends with your nearby Research Department team there are opportunities to collaborate on events or projects to make life a little easier (and fun?) for your organisation’s researchers. Mid Cheshire are planning a Research Expo for June and Wirral are coordinating a Randomsied Chocolate Trial to celebrate this year’s International Clinical Trials Day (May 19).
- Host your organization’s publications database Creating a database exists at on a continuum starting with a quick and dirty solution using freemium reference software (Zotero / Mendeley) and ends with Institutional Repository. The library is the natural home for this project. It also contributes to Knowledge Management objective viz, connecting with corporate knowledge, mapping knowledge assets; collating and enabling shared access to directories; policies, guidance and protocols. Knowledge about the usefulness of a database or Institutional Repository will vary so it may just be a case of carpe diem or getting on with it.
- Be the source of information about the research landscape Make the library the centre for information about research methods, academic writing, training courses, support for research, regional and national organisations, newsletters, research information on social media. You could add this into your social media, current awareness mix or set up a separate space for researchers. (See NWAS LKS Case Study on using Yammer).
- Be the publications expert for your trust Publication isn’t as easy as it was. There are choices and decisions to be made. Choosing Open Access (Green/Gold), avoiding predatory publishers, fulfilling funding requirements, funding Article Publication Fees (APCs), navigating journal rankings, choosing appropriate journals, copyright, promoting your research and more. Being the expert and the place to go for information for help adds real value, especially for early career researchers.
- Offer researchers a bespoke service Clearly all our users are at heart researchers from the humble diploma to post doctoral students. Even if it doesn’t change the service you offer badging part of your service as for researchers can make promoting the library to the research community easier and give you a seat at the research table. This also fits with LQAF 5.3i Library/knowledge service staff support the research activities of the organisation[s] served.
- Develop your research skills Nothing helps you to understand the viewpoint of a researcher better than being one yourself. Opportunities for librarians to get involved in research are out there, and may vary from co-authoring a systematic review to getting to grips with qualitative research methodology (as did a bunch of clinical librarians from the NW not long ago).
Matt Holland, NWAS LKS and Victoria Treadway, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. NWAS LKS is supported by HCLU North.
The Patient and Public Information Task & Finish Groups have published a new guide in partnership with NHS England and The Information Standard (TIS).
The guide has been produced to increase awareness and confidence around the standards required when producing and commissioning health information.
It presents the 6 principles of The Information Standard and gives examples of how some library and knowledge services are already supporting production or commissioning of health information in their organisations.
The guide is not intended to help you and your organisation apply for The Information Standard. It is about highlighting examples of good practice which are already in place across the NHS.
Additional resources to support best practice around health information are also available via The Information Standard website.
Comments to: Daniel.Livesey@gmmh.nhs.uk
Knowledge Service Manager, Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.