Creating tutorials

I am in the middle of preparing a tutorial of our children’s catalogue for our staff here at HPL.

As a cataloguer and librarian, I sometimes take it for granted that other people don’t have the information seeking skills that I have. To me, Boolean logic is like knowing how much cream to put in my coffee. Knowing how to use keyword searches and browse searches is common sense…right? Wrong.

I don’t want to say that only we cataloguers (aka information specialists) know how to search. There are a lot of talented, knowledgable staff members who can find materials in the catalogue as easily as I can. However, there are as many, if not more, who don’t. Remember, this tutorial isn’t just for librarians, it is for all levels of staff.

Having given considerable thought to how to design this tutorial, I came up with the following tips:
1. Make it fun. Staff members are taking time out of their workday to take your tutorial. It should have a fun element in it. Because this tutorial is exploring our kid’s catalogue, I decided to make it colourful, with lots of images.

2. Don’t rely on text alone. If a staff member is busy, they won’t take a tutorial that is ten pages of typed directions. Even worse, ten pages of the same font with no variation in size or structure.

3. Vary the Design/Layout to make it practical. We want staff to want to take the tutorial and retain the information. After staff work there way through it, they should be able to keep your tutorial as a guide, rather than deleting it off the computer or throwing it away. Make key points visible and keep paragraphs short. It should be easy to read. Don’t be afraid of using a larger font. Design the tutorial to flow in an organized manner. After all, the tutorial is meant to remind or teach staff how to use the catalogue, not rush through it and forget about it. If, when they are done, they have a guide to return to should they have questions in the future, then you have created a successful tutorial.

4. Keep the language plan and simple. I think this is fairly self-explanatory. Again, the tutorial is meant for all skill levels. Using advanced terms will only frustrate and discourage some staff members. This ties in with #5.

5. Don’t assume. Include even basic terms and explanations so that you can teach staff at all skill levels.

6. Set goals and objectives. Set out your objectives in the tutorial. This gives you guidelines for creating the tutorial and a clear picture to staff memebrs about what they should be learning. A sweeping goal that states “This tutorial is meant to enhance your knowledge of the kid’s catalogue” is empty. What are they expected to get out of the tutorial? Fo example, some of my objectives for this tutorial are for staff to: To learn all of the ways you can access the catalogue from the homepage, to understand why we have a separate catalogue for children, to learn new searching techniques and strategies that will assist them in their future searches, to become aware of how they can contribute to the catalogue and so on.

6. Be realistic. Not everyone is going to take the tutorial or like the tutorial. And, not all of the tutorials you create will be successful. Look at the feedback from the tutorial as an ongoing learning experience and don’t feel to hurt when you receive negative feedback.

My tutorial is being distributed in November. I haven’t gotten to the feedback stage yet. I’ll let you know what happens.


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Filed under Our Profession, The Cataloguer

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