Learning Resource Centres

During the 1990s with the burgeoning interest in learning organizations, a move towards encouraging individual responsibility for learning and development and a growth in the use of open learning and on line learning, Learning Resource Centres have become an important way of providing and enhancing training and development for many organizations. At the World Open Learning Conference and Exhibition (WOLCE) at Birmingham in October 1999, it was fascinating to hear from a range of organizations about how they had researched, financed and established Learning Resource Centres (LRCs). Many of the LRCs described went far beyond a small back room, one computer, a few CD ROMs and open learning packages and were experimenting with such issues as 24 hour opening (to cover shift work), making learning available to employee's families and enabling employees, as a group, to dictate the shape, contents and objectives of the LRC.

Designing an Effective Learning Resource Centre

It would appear that the main difference between successful and unsuccessful LRCs is that the former are closely matched to needs. This ensures that the identified needs of the users affect everything from materials stocked, service provided, hours of opening, learning support offered.

Different reasons

There are many different reasons for establishing a Learning Resource Centre. These could include supporting mainline training and development activities, offering choice; ensuring maximum value for training and development spend, providing resources and/or location to help use and manage integrated approaches to learning. One particular value of an effective LRC is that it can help the organization to move the emphasis from 'training and development' (often perceived as owned and managed by someone other than participants) to 'learning' (where the ownership and often the impetus, comes from the learner).

The role of the LRC

There is no one perfect profile for the role an LRC plays in the provision of training and development and the meeting of learning needs. However in order to determine the how and the what of your LRC and plan it effectively, you need some picture of the approach it may take.

Before setting out to establish a Learning Resource it would be useful to:

  • identify main learning needs and their match to open learning
  • decide what is the principal aim of the LRC
  • identify specific benefits expected/hoped for
  • how benefits will be measured
  • determine the level of use that will constitute success
  • determine budget/spend level
  • decide whether/how the LRC is to be staffed
  • identify location and its suitability
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  • identify main success criteria and how they will be measured
  • agree the role technology is to play
  • canvass the ideas and opinions of all stakeholders.
  • Questions you should address include:

    Providing a user-focused service

    There is growing evidence that a user's first impression of (and often their continuing attitude towards) an LRC is affected by a number of factors. These include location, physical surroundings and facilities. Additionally, LRC staff are a major influencing factor. The guidance, support and facilitation LRC staff provide is often the deciding factor, particularly for the anxious or less committed learner. LRC staff need to be competent in three areas - managing the LRC, controlling, cataloguing and describing the resources contained and serving and supporting users.

    Technology and the LRC

    The recent, rapid explosion of technology offers options to an LRC which hardly existed a few years ago. You will want to consider the role technology is to play in your LRC. Available to you are:

    Growing in importance as a delivery method

    One-to-one support is possible so too are group meetings and 'get togethers'

    A very useful and easily accessed additional delivery method

    Offers access to a vast range of external materials and inputs

    Technology can provide much support for your LRC and help with many training and development needs. However, perhaps a note of caution needs to be considered. There are still many for whom the computer and technology is not the preferred learning method. Traditional materials may still have a major role to play in some areas. Also, too high a reliance on the corporate intranet for supplying training and development can limit learners' choice of when to learn e.g. by making it impossible to take certain things home to work on. This may be your desire and your intention, if so, fine. Like all other decisions affecting your LRC those about the role and involvement of technology need to be informed and made as part of a strategic approach.

    Learner Needs

    Successful LRCs are those based and focused on the needs of the user, the learners. To ensure your LRC is learner focused, you will need to consider:

    LRCs is a wide ranging topic. In a forthcoming Tips and Tools, we will look at other issues involved e.g:

    If you want further information or help with issues concerned with LRCs, do contact us.

    Equipping LRC Staff

    In an LRC which has several staff or where different people support the LRC as part of their other roles, it will be necessary to take steps to ensure consistency of standards and quality of advice. Questions you may want to address include:

    © Diane Bailey Associates, 2000.