Learning Resource Centres (II)
In an earlier edition of Tips and Tools this year, we looked at the role of a Learning Resource Centre, how to design an effective LRC and the provision of a user-focused service. In this edition, we pick up the subject again. This time to look briefly at selecting the media and materials to be made available. Choosing and having available learning materials which are suitable to specific organizational, industry, job or individual needs is one of the main requirements of any learning centre. There is a lot of material available from established suppliers, much of it excellent, some less so. Many generic packages are hugely valuable, some are so generic that they fit few needs sufficiently. To run an effective LRC you will need to develop your own approach to selecting the most effective learning materials, either by choosing from what is available on the market, or by producing your own material (or having it produced for you). The material chosen needs to fit some recognizable pattern. One organization with whom we work has used the main areas of its competence framework as a guide to material content.
The needs of your learners is the starting point for the selection of all media and materials. When planning an LRC, information on groups of learners or profiles of likely learners needs to be developed.
Similarly, when planning for significant business or organization changes, or carrying out a widespread training needs analysis, information can be collected which will assist with the choice of useful materials. You need information which will help you make some assessment of learners’ requirements of learning materials and media.
Useful information includes:
The information suggested above will give you some guidance about material needed and material which is likely to be effective. There is a wide range of media available for Learning Resource Centres. This mix provides for different levels of coverage, depth and usage. The range available also offers the possibility of meeting a range of learning styles. Careful mix and related choice of media/materials could offer the possibility of designing and offering more substantial or sustained learning programmes.
In terms of choosing media there are certain factors you need to bear in mind. These include, in addition to learners and learning needs:
There are several organizational factors here which need to be considered in selecting major media or material provision:
Suitability of Media
Considerations here centre on such factors as:
Almost everyone setting up an LRC has some financial limits. Some compromise may be necessary. One approach is to fit purchases to an identified budget and stop buying when spent up. A more useful system, albeit more difficult to apply, is a cost benefit approach, i.e. Where will the spend reap the greatest results/benefits?
This approach has problems in application, but can be useful at the point of initial decisions about where to invest or where to start buying.
This is often the deciding factor. A ‘normal’ LRC will have access, even if limited, to most media. You may, however, want to consider home-based access to video or DVD players or to computers for CD-Rom-based packages.
You will now also need to consider carefully any form of desktop or workbased delivery method, e.g. an intranet or LAN. To be effective material needs to be easily accessible and easily usable.
Match to Expectations
Your target audience may have previous experience or expectations of open learning packs and the media used by them. You need to be aware of, and take into account, any obvious expectations when choosing materials and equipping the LRC.
Inevitably, learning effectiveness is your main goal. All other factors affecting choice have to be considered in terms of their contribution to learning effectiveness. If in doubt about what to chose, involve potential users in real discussion about what would be useful. Better to accept budget limitations and start small but indepth rather than spreading the net so wide that no area / subject is adequately covered for any level of learning need.
Training material of any kind is not quickly produced, so even good in-house production expertise will not meet all your material needs rapidly. In-house capacity might best be used for organization or job specific materials, thereby making use of two types of expertise. It would be sensible, however, to develop your plans and shopping list first, then determine how best to use the in-house capacity, rather than allowing its existence to show the contents list for the LRC.
In a future Tips and Tools we will look at other areas of learning provision, for example e-learning.