Different folks, different strokes: results of the STEP E-learning surveys by Tracey Pratchett and Sarah Lewis

We had an incredible response to our survey on information skills and e-learning – 139 responses from library staff and 173 from healthcare professionals. This exceeded expectations and has given us a great platform on which to build – thanks to everyone who contributed!

In some ways the results confirmed what we had already expected e.g. key concerns about literature searching included how to access resources and identifying search terms and that interactive elements and ease of access could encourage people to use e-learning. Time pressures were also seen as a potential barrier and many library staff raised concerns about the limitations of older versions of internet browsers.

Interestingly, there were some key differences in perceptions of information literacy needs between library and healthcare staff. Healthcare staff ranked concerns with finding relevant information more highly than librarians. However, library staff felt that healthcare professionals may need more training in advanced searching techniques – something which was not commonly recognised by healthcare staff themselves. Of course, this could be a case of “you don’t know what you don’t know”.

Michelle Madden analysed the survey results and made a number of recommendations which we will take forward. For those of you interested in reading the full report and recommendations, it is available here.

Here are a few selected highlights from the recommendations:

  • Search skills modules should initially focus more on introducing or reinforcing the basics of searching rather than on more advanced search skills.
  • Modules should prioritise the following topics: refining searches when too many or too few results are found, accessing full text articles and awareness of different resources.
  • Employ multiple interactive learning activities to engage different learning styles.
  • Balance accessibility due to browser capability with providing an interactive and engaging learning experience.

At our first face to face project team meeting in the impressive Manchester Central Library we started to clarify what the modules might look like. Here’s what we came up with:

  • Module 1: Introduction to searching modules. This module will outline key problems when searching and where to find help in the e-learning modules. It could also include a few basic questions to get baseline knowledge.
  • Module 2: Where should I start searching? User needs survey highlighted lack of awareness of where to start searching. This module will provide suggestions to where to start looking based on type of question, quality of evidence etc.
  • Module 3: How do I start to develop a search strategy? Will help users to break down search into different concepts but use generic concepts rather than PICO. This module will also introduce combining search terms, thesaurus.
  • Module 4: Too many results? How to narrow down your search. Searching tips such as phrase searching and truncation to help users find relevant articles in less time
  • Module 5: Too few results? How to broaden your search. Searching tips such as phrase searching and truncation to help users find relevant articles in less time
  • Module 6: Searching with thesaurus terms.
  • Module 7: How to search the healthcare databases. This will be a basic overview – perhaps with links out to Youtube videos being produced by NICE. It will allow users to apply their learning into practice.

Please let us know what you think, any comments are welcome!

Sarah Lewis
Clinical Outreach Librarian
Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

Tracey Pratchett
Knowledge and Library Services Manager
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

7 thoughts on “Different folks, different strokes: results of the STEP E-learning surveys by Tracey Pratchett and Sarah Lewis

  1. Hello
    This is a great piece of work – do we have any timescales for the completion of the modules and when they will be ready for us to use?

    1. Hi Lucy,

      We are currently finalising the learning objectives and consulting with our virtual reference group on design ideas. We hope to start creating modules within the next month or so with a view to publish by March 2017.

      Sarah and I will be posting an update on the blog within the next week or so,



  2. Great to see this robust piece of work coming through. It is so valuable to the NHS and to fellow colleagues. Thank you

    One idea – Could each module include a memorable pointer somewhere in each module that really flags for them (and allows them to quote and so champion to others) quite why it’s so worthwhile for them to make the effort?
    Maybe some interesting facts/ examples to show the value of putting in the effort? I know you will have good examples. I was thinking of things like – for module 4 No. Hits you might get from Google to show value of using databases and narrowing your search? Eg module 1 – Number of people with LTCs not receiving evidence-based care

    Again, this is going to be super useful resource and mean that straightforward information skills training becomes part of our standard offer to all healthcare professionals. ?

    1. Thanks for your comments Sue. Great idea to have a memorable pointer and thanks for some specific suggestions. We are so aware that many healthcare professionals already have so much e-learning to complete so being able to give them an ‘aha moment’ would help engage them and hopefully inspire them to promote to other colleagues!

  3. This all sounds super useful!

    Fascinating to see the areas that healthcare professionals felt unsure or unaware of – most of it really and these are people engaged enough to complete a survey.

    Is there a plan as to where to host these things? Could we potentially reuse bits in a local moodle instance for example and wrap it around in relevant local info?

    Thanks for all your work

    1. Thanks, Alan. As well as the survey, a nurse has also just joined our project team to keep us focussed on the user’s perspective and she has given us some useful insights already.

      The modules will be held centrally (where this will be is still to be confirmed) and yes, its definitely part of the plan to make elements of the modules re-usable and adaptable in local e-learning systems. We want to create something that is closely aligned to the principles of Knowledge for Healthcare and in the spirit of do once and share.

      We also hope the modules will support blended learning so that librarians have the option to use them to supplement face to face training.

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