Training: I'm always doing things backwards

I didn't mean to take LIS 560: Instructional and Training Strategies for Information Professionals so early in my career at the iSchool. I wasn't planning on being a teacher or a professor, and I didn't think the class would be all that interesting. I thought I'd probably leave it to one of my last semesters so I could spend time on subjects I was excited about. Yet by the time I started my second year, I had finished the class and needed to use those skills on more than one occasion.

I started my first quarter following the prescribed course, taking the required courses and doing things in numerical order. I was so busy that fall that I missed the start of the registration period for winter quarter. By the time I finally got around to registering, one of the core classes I wanted to take was already full. So, I did the next best thing and registered for a different core course, one that I had planned on taking later on in the program. This happened again when I went to register for the spring quarter, and I ended up in LIS 560. The class took me by surprise; I wasn't expecting to feel so out of my depth, or to have to do so much work to understand something that I percieved to be as trivial as teaching.

At the time, a friend had just started working as a systems administrator for a hospital. He was always complaining to me about how the nurses never seemed to learn anything about the systems they used every day no matter how many times he tried to teach them. I started to wonder why this was the case and decided to use nurses, their information needs, and the teaching strategies to meet those needs as the subject of my overarching project for LIS 560. The day I started to do research for my project I discovered that, unlike the research I had done for previous classes, none of the research I needed was available online. I wandered around campus for an hour, lost, looking for the Health Sciences Library that housed all of the journal articles that I needed. When I finally found the library, I discovered that it had closed 15 minutes before I had found it. It was not an auspicious start to my project. I went back the next day, earlier this time, and managed to lay my hands on the articles I needed. By the end of the class, I had written a detailed paper about nurses' information needs, devised a training module to help nurses learn how to search for information more effectively, and created a presentation that synthesized the two.

Shortly after I finished 560, the small startup photography company where I worked suddenly hired several new people. My boss asked me to train them all, one after another, as everyone else was too busy being creative to teach the new people to use our finicky, eccentric systems. We had previously relied on the "throw 'em in the deep end" school of training, and I only had a little time to prepare before the new people started. As quickly as I could, I put together procedures, wrote step-by-step activities, and created a structure for our new training program using the skills I had picked up in 560. I was honestly surprised at how well my first training went; with only minor tweaking to my plan, the next trainings were even better. After everyone was finally trained, I collected all of the documents I had created, stuck them in a folder on the network and in a physical binder. Thus was created the company's Employee Reference Handbook.

From that point on, it was always my job to train new employees. My co-workers would frequently consult the documents I created and would later on add some of their own. While I hadn't planned on taking 560, I'm really glad I took it when I did. I would have had no idea how to go about training my new co-workers, and I'm sure my job would have been considerably more difficult had I not had the skill set that 560 helped me to develop.

Note: The documents I created at the startup are related to the company's proprietary systems, and I cannot include links to the actual documents in my portfolio.

© 2009 Elizabeth Bair