Applications of ICT in Libraries/Educator

This page is designed for the use of students undertaking the Level 8 PDA (Advanced Diploma ICTL) in Applications of ICT in Libraries.

These qualifications were developed by the Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) and are validated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA)

Carrying Out the Educator Role is an optional unit in the Level 8 PDA programme.

Information regarding the background to the courses, content and certification opportunities can be obtained by following the Level 7 (Diploma ICTL) or the Level 8 (Advanced Diploma ICTL) links.

Further information can be obtained from

Establishing ICT training needs for individuals or groupsEdit

Training needs analysisEdit

Before embarking on designing and delivering any training programme you must establish your precise objectives. This means determining:

  • 1. the existing skills, knowledge and competences of each of the learners
  • 2. the skills, knowledge and competences the learners require in order to operate effectively in their existing work role or to progress to a different work role
  • 3. And, from 1 and 2, the gap in skills, knowledge and competence which the training is designed to address.

It will be the objective of your training that each participant learns enough to eliminate this gap.

This process is often called a Training Needs Analysis (TNA) or Learning Needs Analysis (LNA). For Outcome 1 you must demonstrate that you can carry out a straightforward TNA for individuals and groups of learners.

The first step then is to make an accurate estimate of the learner’s current competence.

  Before proceeding, outline what may happen if you embark on delivering training without ascertaining the existing skills, knowledge and competence of your learners.

TNA problemsEdit

There are two equally damaging scenarios.

At one extreme you may have overestimated the learners’ skills and knowledge. You therefore pitch your training at too high a level. If you are lucky, the learners will point this out to you and you may be able to think on your feet and do a quick redesign of the training.

However, if you find yourself having to devote a considerable amount of time to bringing the learners’ skills and knowledge up to the point at which you thought you would be starting from, you will be unlikely to be able to achieve the final learning objectives in the original timescale.

If you have overestimated the skills of only one or two members of a learning group, it is quite likely that they will not draw your attention to this. Instead they will sit quietly, not wishing to appear foolish in front of their colleagues. In this situation they will learn little and will become demotivated and disinterested.

At the other extreme you may have underestimated the learners’ skills and knowledge. You will then find yourself delivering training which covers areas which they already know – “teaching Granny to suck eggs”.

Your learners are likely to become quickly disenchanted and possibly aggressive. If this applies to only one or two in a learning group, these learners are likely to switch off and may distract other group members.

From these examples, you can see the importance of really knowing your learners before you start.

Estimating ICT CompetenceEdit

Learners may have acquired differing levels of ICT competence through:

  • formal training in the workplace
  • experience in the workplace
  • off-the-job training such as an ICT course at school or college
  • personal development and experience outside work.

Where skills and knowledge come from non-workplace environments, it is important to make sure that they are transferable into a workplace setting. ICT skills and knowledge usually do transfer readily. Thus your TNA should relate to competences from both work and non-work environments.

The obvious place to start is with the learners themselves. However, people are, depending on their personality, often inclined to underplay or alternatively exaggerate their ICT competence and experience. So you will wish to corroborate the learner’s estimates of their competence through hard evidence or the views of other people.

  Before proceeding, think of who else, apart from the learners themselves, might be able to provide you with useful information on a learner’s ICT competence.

Sources of information regarding ICT competenceEdit

You might usefully consult some or all of the learner’s:

  • line manager or immediate supervisor
  • colleagues
  • previous tutors or trainers from within and outside your own organisation
  • clients in the library who will have received a service from the learner which is ICT related.

  Before proceeding, note down as many techniques as you can which you might use to gather information on the learner’s competence from the learner themselves or from any or all of the people listed above.

Information gathering techniquesEdit

You might use some or all of:

  • direct observation of the learner using ICT in the workplace
  • examination of work samples or work records belonging to the learner
  • practical tests and assessments of the learner’s use of ICT
  • questionnaires or checklists covering key ICT competences
  • the learner’s staff appraisal reports
  • interviews or focus groups with learner, manager, colleagues, tutors, clients

Direct ObservationEdit

This is one of the most reliable methods for you to gauge the learner’s competence. You will see for yourself exactly what they can and cannot do. You can supplement this by questioning to extend to situations which occur rarely or would be emergencies. Use questions like "What would you do if the system crashed at this point?” or “Can you think of an occasion when what you have just done would not be appropriate?”

There are a few disadvantages with direct observation. The learner may feel nervous and so under-perform. Alternatively, they may “play to the camera”, although this is usually easily spotted. The main drawback is that observation must be done on a one-to-one basis. It is therefore time-consuming. Another difficulty can be that you have to arrange a time which is convenient to both you and the learner and when work conditions allow the learner to carry out the specified tasks.

Examination of Work ProductsEdit

ICT tasks often produce printed materials or electronic records which are stored in the computer. These demonstrate clearly what a learner has been capable of.

Practical Tests and AssessmentsEdit

You may be able to devise a short pre-training assessment which all learners will undertake. Make sure that this assesses only the knowledge and skills which are directly relevant to the proposed training (and, it goes without saying, to the work to which this training is related).

Devising assessment material is a skilled task. It is always advantageous to have a dummy run with a couple of volunteers who will give you unbiased feedback and point out any ambiguities or deficiencies in the assessment. You may be able to get assistance in devising assessment materials from your Training or HR Department.

Questionnaires or ChecklistsEdit

Questionnaires or checklists can be completed by the learner themselves or by other people who can give an informed opinion as to the learner’s competence. It is important not to make these too detailed. You should home in on the key competences only.

Here’s an example of a checklist which might be used to establish a learner’s competence in using applications under Microsoft Windows.

Please tick the box which best describes your ability to carry out each of the tasks below:

Task I have done this often and am confident about my ability                I have done this quite a few times and I would probalby be able to do this in most situations      I have done this occasionally and would need some reminders about how to do it again I have never done this                            
Run an application from the desktop or by using the Start menu        
Create a new folder        
Open a document and use the Save and Save As options        
Save a document in different formats        
Print a document        
Cut, copy and paste within a document, between documents and between applications        

Staff Appraisal ReportsEdit

Staff appraisal documents are, of course, confidential. However, with the agreement of the member of staff concerned you may be shown relevant extracts relating to ICT skills.

Interviews or Focus GroupsEdit

These an take place with learners, managers, colleagues tutors or clients and may be one-to-one or group interviews. It is vital to obtain the consent of the learner before you invite opinions from others as to the learner’s ICT competence. It is equally important to reassure others that the learner has agreed to your interview with them. In some cases the learner may be able to suggest appropriate interviewees who could provide valuable insight into their ICT competence.

In all cases it is essential to start the interview by explaining the reasons why you are exploring the learner’s ICT competence. It is good practice to use a checklist to ensure that you get all the required information from each interviewee.

Areas of competenceEdit

You can use these techniques to profile the learner’s existing ICT skills in the areas of:

  • hardware
  • operating system environment (e.g.: Windows)
  • packages used (e.g.: Word)
  • the library’s own ICT management system
  • the Internet

In Outcome 1 of Unit 3 we discussed in some detail the areas which you would want to explore under each of these headings. If you want to review this material, you can click the ICTL logo near the top left of the page to return to the Unit 7 home page and navigate to the relevant Outcome from there.

Learning objectivesEdit

The next stage is to determine your learning objectives, i.e.: the skills and knowledge which it is intended all learners should possess at the end of the training. These will usually be related to:

  • improving the learners’ competence in their current job
  • preparing for planned new ICT devleopments which will impinge on the learners’ current job
  • upskilling so that the learners can move on to a different job which requires increased ICT competence.

To determine the required skills and knowledge, you can use the same or modifications of the methods for assessing existing ICT competence

  Before proceeding, look at this list again:

  • direct observation of learner using ICT in the workplace
  • examination of work samples or work records belonging to the learner
  • practical tests and assessments of the learner’s use of ICT
  • questionnaires or checklists covering key ICT competences
  • the learner’s staff appraisal reports· interviews with learner, manager, colleagues, tutors, clients

Remembering that this time you are focusing on the end product of the training, amend the list to show the methods you could employ.

Methods of gathering informationEdit

We think that this time you will lay more emphasis than previously on evidence from people other than the learner. Of course, it is still important to consult the learner in order to gain their views on the skills which they think they require. However, at this stage you are likely also to consider:

  • direct observation of others using ICT in the workplace, e.g.: staff already employed in a post to which the learner may aspire
  • examination of work samples or work records belonging to others, e.g.: a colleague in a similar job to the learner who demonstrates greater ICT competence
  • questionnaires or checklists covering key ICT competences, e.g.: completed by managerial or supervisory staff
  • interviews with managers, supervisors and colleagues in similar posts or in promoted posts
  • literature provided by suppliers of new/upgraded ICT equipment which it is intended to install in the library.

And finally having gathered all your evidence as to the existing skills and knowledge of your learners and the competence which are the end result of the training, you can design an appropriate training programme to upskill the learners to the required level.

  Before proceeding, consider what approach you might adopt if your training needs analysis establishes that the ICT skills of your small group of learners differ considerably.

Dealing with differing skill levelsEdit

Your approach might be to design individual learning programmes for each learner which they can work through independently of their colleagues.

However, it is probably more cost-effective to bring the skills of all group members up to a common base level and then provide group training from that point on. You might, for instance, arrange for three of the group to work through some basic ICT learning packages in the library before you delivered some group sessions on simple Internet searching.

Selecting a delivery approachEdit

Learning stylesEdit

We all learn in a variety of ways but each of us tends to have one learning style with which we feel most comfortable. Many educational theorists have written about learning styles and the implications of these for delivery of training. One well-accepted approach is that of Honey and Mumford who identified four main learning styles:

  • activists
  • reflectors
  • theorists
  • pragmatists

According to Honey and Mumford, different learning activities are associated with each of the four learning styles.


Activists prefer new experiences, opportunities to tackle problems and difficult tasks. They like challenges, generating new ideas, brain storming, leading others. Their philosophy is: "I'll try anything once".

They tend to act first and consider the consequences afterwards. They are gregarious and like learning in a group with other people, although they can tend to try to centre all such group activities on themselves.


Reflectors are thoughtful people who prefer to collect all the facts and data and consider every aspect of a situation before taking action.

They will listen to others’ opinions and experiences and learn from these. They are likely to adopt a low profile in group discussions but enjoy observing other people in action.


Theorists prefer a clear structure, focus and purpose and will want to know exactly what is expected of them. They like to have time to think logically about ideas and situations and try to fit these into a pattern.

They learn by thinking problems through in a step-by-step, logical way. They like to analyse and synthesise. They are uncomfortable with subjective judgements, lateral thinking and anything flippant. They are happy to learn alone without group support.


Pragmatists learn best through concrete activities which let them try out ideas, theories and techniques. They like to have the opportunity to practice what they are learning with feedback from a knowledgeable mentor.

As they are essentially practical, down to earth people who like making practical decisions and solving problems, they tend to dislike long-winded and open-ended discussions.

Although each learner is likely to have one preferred learning style, everyone can use a mixture of styles, depending on the type of learning and the occasion.

QUESTION TextEntry1: Different Learning Implications

Other approaches to learning stylesEdit

The approach of Honey and Mumford is just one way of looking at different learning styles. If you wish to explore this further, you will find some good summaries of other approaches at:

Another way of categorising learners is to measure their attributes in terms of:

  • 1. Active vs reflective
  • 2. Sensing vs intuitive
  • 3. Visual vs verbal
  • 4. Sequential vs global.

You can learn more about these learning styles and their implications for design and delivery of training at:

This also includes a short online questionnaire which you can be used to determine your own learning style.

That's the end of this section. You can review any topic by using the menu at the left-hand side of the screen, or move on to the next section: Delivery approaches …

Delivery approachesEdit

When we explored the four different learning styles, we realised that the trainer must choose appropriate delivery methods in order to accommodate the styles of the learners.

Another equally important dimension to consider is matching the delivery method to the nature and content of the learning.

  Before proceeding, list the most common types of delivery method which you might be able to include in a programme of workplace training.

Delivery methodsEdit

Among the most common delivery methods are:

  • “chalk and talk”
  • demonstration
  • group problem solving
  • role playing and simulations
  • practical activities, individually and in groups
  • individualised learning, e.g. from a book or an e-learning package
  • videos and other media.

“Chalk and Talk”Edit

This phrase is often used to describe traditional teaching. The picture it conjures up is of the trainer in front of the group of learners, giving a talk on some topic. Nowadays, the “chalk” element is more likely to be a whiteboard, flipchart or a PowerPoint computerised presentation. This method is suitable where the trainer wishes to impart theoretical knowledge to the whole group of learners.

We absorb more information from what we see than from what we hear. So it makes sense always to include visuals, either on the board, chart or screen or through handouts or posters. The learners’ attention span will be limited when they are required only to listen to someone talking. Good practice is to introduce a variation by asking questions of the learners, encouraging the learners to ask questions of you or by interspersing your talk with group discussions.


The trainer will demonstrate how to carry out a practical activity to either a group of learners or to an individual. You might be able to incorporate demonstrations from other people – experienced colleagues or one of the group who is more skilled than the others.

When group demonstrations are involved, it is crucial that every group member can observe the demonstration clearly and has the opportunity to ask questions of the demonstrator.

Group Problem SolvingEdit

Team working is one of the most highly prized skills in the workforce of today. Any training which involves group problem solving has the multiple advantage of:

  • improving the learners team working skills
  • developing the particular competences related to the training topic
  • enhancing the core problems solving skills of the learners.

Problem solving activities need to be carefully structured by the trainer. A useful approach is to encourage the learners to adopt a process of Plan–Do–Review. This ensures that they progress to the stage of evaluating their problem solving strategy and learning from it: not just designing and implementing a strategy for solving the problem.

Role Playing and SimulationsEdit

These offer the opportunity for participants to practice in a safe environment and to learn about situations which occur only rarely or which involve danger and emergency action.

However, role-playing and simulations should be used sensitively, remembering that many learners feel apprehensive in artificially constructed situations.

Practical ActivitiesEdit

Hands-on practical work has an important role to play in workplace learning. It offers the learners the opportunity to develop skills in a real situation, with the equipment they will actually use on the job. Do make sure that there is enough equipment.

In particular, it is unwise to double learners up on terminals to undertake computer-related tasks. This usually results in one (the more confident) learner carrying out all the tasks, while their partner passively watches.

Individualised LearningEdit

You may have access to commercially produced learning packages (print or electronic) which are applicable to the training you wish to deliver. The alternative is to design your own – but be warned - this requires considerable skill and time input on the part of the trainer, if a polished and professional product is to result.

Videos and other mediaEdit

It is common to use audio or video material in learning sessions. These provide the opportunity to engage the learner by introducing experiences from beyond the training room or the library service. And they can provide a welcome change from the trainer’s voice!

  Before proceeding, complete the chart below.

Which learning activity(s) would be most suitable for the training topics listed?

New health and safety regulations and their implications for the workplace Dealing with awkward clients Operating the new e-catalogue Catching up for two learners who missed the previous learning session
“chalk and talk”        
group problem solving        
practical activities        
individualised learning        
Videos and other media        

Choosing learning activitiesEdit

It is possible to think of a scenario when you might use each of the activities for any of these topics. However, we think the most fruitful choice is likely to be.

New health and safety regulations and their implications for the workplace Dealing with awkward clients Operating the new e-catalogue Catching up for two learners who missed the previous learning session
“chalk and talk” X      
demonstration   X X X
group problem solving X      
role-playing/simulations   X    
practical activities     X  
individualised learning       X
Videos and other media   X   X

Motivating learnersEdit

Motivation is the key to all successful learning. You may have designed a wonderful training programme but if the learners are not motivated to learn, your efforts are doomed to failure.

  Before proceeding, make a list of factors which can demotivate learners

Demotivating learnersEdit

We could demotivate you by giving a long list here! But instead here is a summary of what we think are the main demotivators for learners.

The training itself:

  • The training is at too high or low a level.
  • Learners have been compelled to attend the training without the reasons for their participation being adequately explained.
  • The topic appears irrelevant to the learners.
  • The trainer has not outlined clearly at the start of the training what the specific learning objectives are.
  • The training is delivered badly.
  • The learning environment is poor.

The learner:

  • Learners have had previous negative experiences at school, college or of workplace training.
  • Learners are distracted by problems unconnected with the learning.

Level of trainingEdit

If the training is pitched at the wrong level, it will result in learners who are either struggling to cope or bored. Neither category of learner will be particularly motivated to learn. If you have carried out the training needs assessment properly, this should simply not occur.

Learners for whom the training would have been at too high a level should have received preparatory training to upskill them and extend their knowledge to the competence required.

Learners for whom the training would be at too low a level should either simply not attend or could be slotted in part way through the programme at the point at which the learning becomes relevant to them.

Other demotivating factorsEdit

We will group the next three points together as they are closely linked.

  • Learners have been compelled to attend the training without the reasons for their participation being adequately explained.
  • The topic appears irrelevant to the learners.
  • The trainer has not outlined clearly at the start of the training what the specific learning objectives are.

We take it as read that the topic is relevant to the learners - otherwise there is no justification for you to deliver the training.

Reasons for attendance should be clearly explained to the learners in advance and links between the proposed training and their work demonstrated. It is especially important to outline the benefits to the learners themselves (as opposed to the library service) which will result from the training programme. You might be able to show, for instance, how learning to use a new computer program could cut down on boring, repetitive manual tasks. As the trainer you may either discuss these issues yourself with the learners in advance of the training or, alternatively, you should ensure that another person does so, most probably their line manager. In the later case you may find it helpful to construct a briefing sheet.

At the start of the training programme you will outline your specific learning objectives and how you intend to deliver the training to achieve these. At this point you should clarify what your expectations of the learners are and, conversely, what support the learners can expect from you.

Badly delivered trainingEdit

We hope that when you have completed this unit, this will not be the case! However, let us list a few common pitfalls which you should try to avoid.

  • Trying to pack too much material into a learning session
  • Poorly produced visuals
  • Irritating mannerisms on the part of the trainer, e.g.: jingling coins in pocket, fiddling with jewellery
  • Poor delivery, e.g.: mumbling, speaking too quickly
  • Lack of variation of learning activities
  • Poorly structured learning programme, e.g.: no logical flow through content (See Outcome 3)
  • Trainer does not have sufficient knowledge or skills in topic

Poor learning environmentEdit

We are using the term “learning environment” to encompass the venue, the equipment, the resources etc. You should make sure that any practical issues which might demotivate the learner are minimised.

Examples might be too high or too low temperatures in the training room, training sessions which start late or over-run, extraneous noise or distractions, technical problems with ICT equipment, interruptions from colleagues seeking information on day-to-day work. And do make sure that all mobile phones are switched off before the training commences.

Previous negative experiencesEdit

Obviously establishing a friendly, reassuring relationship with the learner is crucial here. It may also be helpful to expand on the differences between the current training programme and any previous negative experiences which the learner has had. You could emphasise for instance that your learners will be able to work at their own pace, can practice what they are learning in the workplace with support from more experienced colleagues, will not have to sit formal examinations or test etc.

One major motivator is for the learner to see that they have achieved something. Success breeds success. The implication of this for you as the trainer is that learning programmes must be broken down into small sections and the objective and sub-objectives for each section should be clearly explained to your learners. For instance, if the training relates to word processing, a sub-objective might be for the learner to become competent in left, right and full justification of text.


If a learner is worried about personal problems, they will be unable to give their full attention to learning new things. This is possibly the most difficult demotivator for a trainer to tackle. After all, you can do little if one of your learners is experiencing financial difficulties, marital problems or is concerned about their health. All you can do in these circumstances is to reassure the learner that you are sympathetic to any difficulties which they have shared with you and that you will attempt to accommodate any special requests resulting from them.

You may be able to take some action about more practical problems though. An example would be if the training occurs at the venue which is not the learner’s normal workplace, resulting in childcare problems because of long journeys by public transport. By allowing such a learner to leave ten minutes earlier, you might be able to resolve the situation.

If you wish to read more about the theory of motivation and its application to training, you will find a good summary at

Design of learning materials and programmes on ICT related topicsEdit

Defining learning objectivesEdit

You should define learning objectives in specific terms. Learning objectives usually involve a statement of:

  • the task or knowledge involved, i.e.: what must the learner be able to do or know? E.g.: save data in a spreadsheet
  • the condition, i.e.: how will it be performed? E.g.: without reference to the Help facility
  • the standard, i.e.: how well must it be performed? E.g.: correctly in 90% of cases

It is generally accepted that all learning objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timebound.) You can find more information about this at

You can find useful guides to writing learning objectives at the following locations:

A Quick Guide to Writing Learning Objectives:

Guidelines for Writing Learning Objectives:

Writing Quality Learning Objectives

Bloom's TaxonomyEdit

You may find it useful to investigate Bloom’s Taxonomy as a framework for writing learning objectives. In 1956 Benjamin Bloom wrote a book entitled “Taxonomy of Educational Objectives” which has been widely adopted within the educational community as the de facto way of classifying cognitive competence. An updated version of the book, edited by Anderson and Krathwohl was published in 2001. You can easily find it at and other online bookshops.

Bloom’s Taxonomy is a simple way of categorising cognitive skills. It has six levels:

  • 1. knowledge
  • 2. comprehension
  • 3. application
  • 4. analysis
  • 5. synthesis
  • 6. evaluation.

You can get further information at:


Choose a simple task, e.g.: “Using tables in Word” and write learning objectives for it.

(Try to choose a task which is of some relevance to you, or to one of your clients, as we’ll be using it for activities throughout this section.)

Structuring learningEdit

In structuring learning you should take account of the learning cycle. In its simplest (3 stage) form the way in which learning takes place may be expressed as plan, do and review. See for more detail.

or Kolb’s more sophisticated version:

Learning sequenceEdit

You should be able to devise a logical sequence for the learning, taking account of which parts of the learning are a precursor for others, moving from simpler to more complex concepts and grouping related topics together.

Any session should have a beginning (where the objectives are clearly stated and agreed by the candidate and the learners), a middle (where the learning activities are undertaken) and an end (where the learning is summarised and next steps agreed).

The learning plan should be made clear to the learners when the learning programme commences. In structuring the learning the candidate should ensure that a variety of learning experiences are included to prevent tedium from demotivating the learner.

You can find a lot of useful information about structuring learning from the link below. Although it is specifically aimed at teachers, most of the information given is equally applicable in other learning contexts.


Draw up a learning plan to allow a specific client to achieve the objectives you listed in the previous activity. Your plan should take account of the client’s preferred learning style.

Using ICT to create learning materialsEdit

Your approach to the use of software to create learning materials will be dependent on the availability of software within your own organisation. There are several courseware creation packages available, which can be used. Although they offer many features to include multimedia etc., the vital advantage is that they provide routing (branching and looping) through the material allowing learners to take their own appropriate path. They can also provide automated and recorded assessment.

One easy-to-use package is Course Genie, which lets you create course materials in Word and convert them automatically to HTML. This software has now been superceeded by Wimba Create:

This site also offers extensive demos on the use of the software.

Other examples of content creation software include Authorware, Director and Dreamweaver ( and products such as Lectora ( It should be noted that these are complex products and you may require specialised training to achieve maximum benefit.

If specialised software is not available, there are other ICT routes. Word processing software such as Microsoft Word can be used to author content. Graphics, animations, videos and sound files can also be included in the document, as well as text. Animations and sound files will then operate when the document is viewed on a computer.

A more polished package can be created by using presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint. The greatest advantage is that this will create a page-based approach. Additionally a common look can be created throughout the whole package. Again, sound or still and moving visual effects can be incorporated.

You should have knowledge of how both specialised and general software can be used to create a learning package and have experience of authoring with either general or specialised software.

You can use a site like: which has a range of practical units on making the most of Microsoft software aimed at designing simple learning episodes.


Use the package of your choice to create a short learning episode designed to meet one of the objectives you outlined earlier.

Selecting and merging content from internal and external sourcesEdit

You should appreciate that it is not always necessary to produce original content for learning packages. A wealth of learning material is available through the Internet and much of this is copyright free for educational purposes. You should ensure that any chosen material matches the learning objectives and style of the complete package and that the use which is made of the chosen material is fully compliant with copyright.

You can often find useful materials quickly with a search engine, but you may also like to check some of the following links:

The BBC offers a number of useful online courses on PC-related topics:

You can find useful online resources for learning about Microsoft Office products at:

If your library is an SQA centre, you may be able to get access to the PC Passport materials produced by SQA. You can get more information at:

If you have access to these materials you can download them in Word format, allowing you to modify them if you wish.

There are also a number of low-cost or open source courseware suppliers. For example, Moodle is open source software widely used by schools, colleges and universities


See if you can use a search engine to locate any resources which would be useful for meeting the learning objectives you outlined earlier.

Support individuals and groups in their use of learning materialsEdit

Types of supportEdit

We often see the terms coaching, mentoring and training used in relation to workplace learning.

  Before proceeding, can you write down a short definition of each of these terms, as you understand them?

Support rolesEdit

Although there may be some argument over the precise meaning of these terms, the following definitions bring out the key differences between them.

In coaching, the learner and the coach are active collaborators. The coach observes the learner in a real, naturally occurring workplace situation as they try to complete tasks. The coach provides hints, help, and feedback as needed.

Mentoring involves a sustained relationship between the learner and the mentor who offers support, guidance, and assistance.

Training is more formal learning, and more of a one-way process, where the trainer imparts skills and knowledge to the learner.


Coaching was originally used in business to describe support given to people who were seen as under-performing in some way. Now it is more usually seen as a means of supporting people on the job in order to help them improve their competence and achieve their maximum potential. The analogy of the sports coach developing the tennis player to improve their techniques and win more matches may be helpful.

Coaching is generally considered to be a fairly short-term activity, related to specific objectives. It consists of a one-to-one interaction between the coach and the person being coached in a relatively informal setting. The aim is to provide the learner with feedback in their performance together with suggestions on how to improve from a knowledgeable and skilled person.

Skilled coaches know when to be directive and when to be passive. They can distinguish between situations when it is appropriate to intervene to support the learner and when it is more effective to permit independent learning even though this involves the learner making mistakes.


Mentoring has become very fashionable in the last few years. Although mentoring is a relatively widespread practice there is no formal definition of what mentoring is but, generally speaking, it could be defined as a relationship between two people - the mentee (the person being mentored) and the mentor - which will positively affect the development of at least one of them. Note the phrase “positively affect the development of at least one of them”. This recognises the fact that most mentors will say that they too have gained from the experience of mentoring.


Think of people who have had a significant influence on the development, progression and direction of your career. You may come up with several. Now identify what they did which influenced you.

Significant influencesEdit

You will probably find that the people who have affected your career significantly:

  • Guided you
  • Supported you
  • Created opportunities for you
  • Provided a role model for you.

By doing one or more of these things they were fulfilling the role of a mentor in some way. Someone who is designated as a formal mentor will do all of the above. The mentoring relationship will last over a period of time. This allows mentor and mentee to get to know and trust one another.

  Before proceeding, write down the qualities which you consider a good mentor would require.

Mentor qualitiesEdit

We think that a good mentor should:

  • Provide a good role model
  • Possess excellent communication skills
  • Be able to empathise with the mentee
  • Recognise that learners have different motivations, skills, knowledge and needs and be able to capitalise on these
  • Be good at spotting learning opportunities and challenges which will assist the mentee’s development
  • Be well informed about the objectives and content of the training programme being undertaken by the mentee in order to provide maximum support
  • Provide meaningful feedback to the mentee
  • Understand that sometimes it may be necessary to push the mentee to move out of their comfort zone
  • Encourage the mentee to think for themselves and work out solutions to problems

From the above you can appreciate how useful coaches and mentors could be in supporting the learning programme which you are delivering.

To find out more about coaching and mentoring, look at:


Training is more directive than either coaching or mentoring. It involves the learners receiving input from the trainer in the form of instruction. Training is always specific and may be long or short term. The trainer is your role! This unit explores the skills you require and the methods you may use to deliver direct training to the learners.

As the trainer, you must consider the ways in which coaches and/or mentors could contribute to the progress of your learners. You must exercise care in the choice of staff to undertake the coaching/mentoring role. As well as having the necessary work-related knowledge and skills, they must be in a position to devote time to coaching/mentoring and should be able to develop a real rapport with your learners.

QUESTION TextEntry1: Coaching, Mentoring or Training

First line ICT supportEdit

You are designing and delivering training on ICT related topics. It is therefore very likely that your learners themselves will be operating ICT equipment as part of the learning programme. When a learner is using any type of computerised equipment, it is likely that from time to time some technical snags will arise.

You must be able to assist the learner with straightforward trouble shooting e.g. printing problems because the page set-up is not correct; computer “hanging”; changing screen resolution. You should also be able to assist any learner with special needs to use appropriate features of the technology.

We are not suggesting that you should possess sophisticated trouble shooting skills: this is the responsibility of ICT technical staff. You should simply be able to cope with typical, straightforward difficulties which can arise.

The next few pages summarise some of the most common problems you are likely to encounter, together with some tips on how to solve these.

The monitor appears blankEdit

  • Check to see if the computer has ‘gone to sleep’ by pressing the space bar on the keyboard.
  • Check that the monitor is switched on and connected to the mains i.e. is the power light illuminated?
  • Check that the monitor is correctly connected to the computer.
  • Check to see if the system works after the computer is reset or switched off at the mains and on again.

The computer hangsEdit

Sometimes, after using the computer for some time, it ‘hangs’; neither keyboard nor mouse appears to operate.

  • Wait a while to see if the computer is performing some intensive task and recovers.
  • Try CtrlAltDel. If you are lucky it will bring up a task manager window which will show you which application is not responding and allow you to close down only that application.
  • Use the reset button to restart the computer.
  • Switch the computer off at the mains and then on again.

Monitor text is too smallEdit

Sometimes a client has difficulty reading off the monitor because the text is too small.

  • If this is confined to a particular application, it is usually possible to adjust the zoom setting. If this does not appear in a box near the top of the window, it will be found in the menu system under View: Zoom or View: Text size.
  • If this applies to everything on the monitor, then, if you have access rights, you can change the monitor settings. Right click with the mouse on the desktop, choose Properties from the resulting menu, choose the Settings tab from the dialogue box, reduce the Screen resolution setting and OK. Unfortunately, the lower the screen resolution, the less can be displayed on the monitor. This often results in an uneasy compromise for people with problems with their sight.

Nothing comes out of the printerEdit

  • Check that the printer is switched on and connected to the mains i.e. is the power light illuminated?
  • Check that the printer is correctly connected to the computer.
  • Check that the printer has paper in it.
  • Check the ink supply.
  • Try printing a test page.
  • Check the print settings in both the operating system and the application to see that the computer is looking for the correct printer and that the correct size of paper has been selected and that manual/auto (as appropriate) is chosen.

Print layout is wrongEdit

Sometimes the printer does not seem to use the whole of the sheet of paper and the layout is not the same as on the monitor.

When using a word processor like Word, it is possible to set the paper size in the application. However there is also a setting for the printer itself. If these two settings are different, then the output will not appear correctly on the page. The driver for a newly connected printer may default to US legal for the paper size. It is normal to use A4 in this country and applications will use this as default. Go to the printer properties and check the paper size. Start: Settings: Printers: right click on the printer concerned, choose Properties and select the Device settings tab.

Disk is fullEdit

Sometimes, when saving data from an Office application like Word, the message comes up that the disk is full.

  • It may be that the client’s floppy disk or pen drive is full. This is quite likely for any sizeable word-processed document especially if it contains graphics or other embedded items.
  • A fault condition can arise concerning interaction between the application and the operating system which results in a false reporting of the disk full error. This is irretrievable and requires the computer to be rebooted. If the client will lose a fair amount of unsaved data, it is worth opening a new document and copy and pasting from the original to the new document and then trying to save that. You may be lucky!
  • Note: a similar problem can occur regarding the computer running out of memory. Again only rebooting the computer will correct the situation.

The printer jamsEdit

There is no universal solution for this problem as each printer has its own unique mechanism. The best you can do is to familiarise yourself with the various types of printer in your library and how to un-jam each.

Evaluate and revise learning materials and programmesEdit

Assessing learner progressEdit

When the learning programme is underway, you will want to review regularly how your learners are progressing towards their objectives. We should make it clear at this point that this unit is intended for library staff who find themselves in the role of educators and not for those who are required to undertake formal assessment of learners for National or Scottish Vocational Qualifications or other workplace awards. That type of assessment must be undertaken by someone who has an assessor or teacher qualification.

In this unit we are concerned only with assessment which will give feedback to the learner on his/her progress towards the learning objectives and to you, the trainer, as to how effective the learning programme has been. (You may see this referred to as “formative” assessment.) In this context you will use methods which are as non-threatening as possible to the learner.

  Before proceeding, note down any ways that you could use to assess how well your learners are progressing.

Methods of assessing progressEdit

We can think of quite a few methods of assessing learner progress. Two of the commonest are:

  • Direct observation
  • Examination of products

Direct ObservationEdit

The most immediate method is to observe directly the activities being undertaken by the learners during the learning programme. From this you will get a clear idea as to whether your learners are actually managing the tasks they have been set and how well they are coping.

While you are not in any way ‘giving marks’, you can use this information in two ways. Firstly you can use it to provide a little bit more assistance to any learners having difficulty. Secondly you can use it to assess the success of your own approach in delivering the learning.

Trainers benefit from observing the learners at all points in the learning programme, not just when they are involved in specific tasks. Their facial expressions and body language will give you feedback on how well the training is being received. If you notice a learner, yawning, fidgeting or gazing out of the window while you are explaining a topic, it is unlikely that they are absorbing the information fully.

Perhaps they know this information already, perhaps the material is too advanced for them, perhaps your explanation has confused them – in all of these cases, you need to take some action in order to re-engage them in the learning process.

Examination of productsEdit

Many of the learning activities you will ask the learners to undertake will produce a result which can be checked. This may be a printout or screen dump or perhaps a file. This is an excellent method to use for feedback purposes because, if your learning is well designed, the product will not be seen as something artificial, produced solely for assessment purposes. Also, as evidence, it should be fairly incontrovertible, either there will be a result or not.

Examining products gives you feedback without the learner really being aware that their performance is being assessed. You can simply review the product with the learner, leading naturally into a discussion of how easy it was to produce this, how it might be improved etc.

Assessment ‘lite’Edit

You may find it useful to use some methods which veer in the direction of traditional educational assessment. For example, you can carry out a quiz or use a simple tick box test. You can construct these yourself or tap into ones which experts have designed.


Go to and try the learning related quiz which explores whether your left of right side of the brain is dominant. This quiz is quick and fun to complete. Although it is simple it would give you some useful feedback on your learners if you asked them to complete it before embarking on the learning programme.

When making up simple tests, it is best to confine yourself to TRUE/FALSE or “fill in the blanks” (sometimes called CLOZE) questions. Compiling multiple-choice questions requires a great deal of skill and is best left to specialists.

True/False Test on Word ProcessingEdit

Indicate if the following statements are true or false.

1 To copy and paste, you use Ctrl C and Ctrl V True            
2 A text with a straight margin on the right hand side is called “right justified” True            
3 Pressing the Delete key removes letters to the left of the cursor.       False      
4 We change the colour of the text by highlighting it and left clicking       False      
5 Arial is the name of a font. True            
6 Left clicking on a word in the text activates the spell checker.       False      
7 The “save as” command is used to save a copy of the document as a duplicate file. True            
8 To change the style of bullet points, you must go to the format menu. True            
9 A running title along the top of pages in a document is called a tag line. True            
10 You use the thesaurus feature to find alternative spellings of a word True            

Cloze Question on Word ProcessingEdit

A text with a straight margin down the right hand side is called___________ justified.

Direct FeedbackEdit

Here you can obtain feedback from individual learners using verbal interaction. This can best be done during or perhaps towards the end of a training session.

You can also allow the learner to create direct feedback by issuing scorecards. The learner can use these to record the tasks in which they consider themselves to be competent as they progress through the learning.

A simple scorecardEdit

This illustrates a scorecard for a learner who is part way through a learning programme on training needs analysis techniques.

Training Needs Analysis Techniques
Use this scorecard to record your competence in the use of the techniques covered in the programme. You are asked to review this at the end of each weekly session.

The numerical scale represents

0 = I have no experience of this at all


5 = I am 100% competent in using this technique

  0 1 2 3 4 5
Direct observation of the learner using ICT in the workplace                                                                              
Examination of learner’s work samples or work records            
Practical tests and assessments of the learner’s use of ICT            
Questionnaires or checklists covering key ICT competences            
Examination of the learner’s staff appraisal reports            
Interviews with learner, manager, colleagues, tutors, clients            
Focus groups of learners, colleagues, managers etc.            

Computer Based AssessmentEdit

Some ICT based learning packages incorporate diagnostic tests which score and benchmark learner competence automatically as they work though the package. It is best to use a method where the learner sees the result and not something which appears secret and is suddenly sprung on the learner at the end of the course of learning.

Alternatively you can use special software such as Hot Potatoes to create your own computer based assessment tools. If you wish to read more about this, look at:

Designing feedback toolsEdit

The previous section dealt with evaluating the learning you have developed in terms of assessing the learners’ progress towards the learning objectives. It is also important to evaluate the learning you have developed by getting feedback on the learning experience. As you can imagine, the overall quality of the learning experience has a deal of effect on the rate of progress of the learner.

  Before proceeding, note down which aspects of the learning experience you would want to ask the learners about.

Aspects requiring feedbackEdit

Here is a list of issues we would expect to be included in feedback on the learning experience. You may have thought of some additional points.

  • Were the learning objectives relevant?
  • Did the content match the stated learning objectives?
  • Was the quality of the learning materials satisfactory?
  • Did the trainer provide sufficient support?
  • Was the trainer’s presentation clear?
  • Was the learning environment pleasant?
  • Were there any deficiencies or problems with the equipment?
  • Was the learning experience enjoyable?

You can see that we have included a mixture of issues relating to learning objectives and delivery/support, as well as on the learning environment and enjoyment.

Objectives related issuesEdit

  • Were the learning objectives relevant?
  • Did the content match the stated learning objectives?

This area is important because the learner’s perception of the relevancy of the objectives is what matters. If you are not getting this relevancy over to the learners, then you will have great motivational problems. Also once the learner has accepted that the objectives are relevant, they must experience the content you provide as being the correct material.

Although trainers may sometimes dismiss negative feedback from one individual learner in this area, it is clear that a low score from a significant number of learners for this area needs a serious response on your behalf.

Delivery related issuesEdit

  • Was the quality of the learning materials satisfactory?
  • Did the trainer provide sufficient support?
  • Was the trainer’s presentation clear?

This are core areas for you as a trainer because they are the areas you have most control over and input into.

If the learners consider the quality of the learning materials to be unsatisfactory, you should probe this further to find the exact cause of their dissatisfaction – were the materials at the correct level, clearly expressed, professionally presented, attractive to look at etc.

Different learners will require varied levels of support from the trainer. In this instance, negative feedback from just one or two learners is significant because it can indicate that you have tailored your level of support to suit the majority of the group and ignored the needs of those who are finding the learning more difficult than average.

Individual learners will undoubtedly have different views on the learning experience in terms of the trainer’s delivery – an element of personality is involved here. But again, if there is not a broad positive result from your learners in this area, you will have to look very closely at what you are doing.

Learning environment issuesEdit

  • Was the learning environment pleasant?
  • Were there any deficiencies or problems with the equipment?

This area is one where the trainer may have limited control. If you are allocated a dingy windowless room in which to carry out the training, or if you are given an old slow PC to carry out your ICT demonstrations on, you will have real problems in providing a good learning experience. Try to pre-empt complaints on the learning environment by resolving any such difficulties in advance of delivering the learning.

Enjoyable experienceEdit

  • Was the learning experience enjoyable?

Finally we consider an overall question as to whether the learning was enjoyable. Is this a valid question? Well, if the learners did not enjoy the experience, it is unlikely that they benefited fully from it or that they will ever come back willingly for more!

Feedback form designEdit

There are different methods of obtaining feedback. You can use paper forms handed out to the learners, or utilise a computerised approach.

Types of feedback formEdit

As we saw on the previous page, you should try to create questions which are:

  • relevant to the area to be evaluated
  • expressed in neutral terms so as not to prompt a certain answer
  • clearly phrased and non ambiguous.

In order to compare feedback from different learners or groups of learners, it is best to design feedback forms in which learners can score different aspects of the learning on a scale, by ticking the box corresponding to their choice.

You might offer five choices.

Very Poor Poor Acceptable Good Excellent

But you can apply some psychology here. If you have an odd number of possible ratings as we have here (5), there is a tendency for learners just to choose the middle one. You can try to force them to make a more measured evaluation by having an even number of possibilities which makes them positively choose.

Poor Acceptable Good Excellent

These four categories can be represented by numerical values, say zero to three.

  • Poor = 0
  • Acceptable = 1
  • Good = 2
  • Excellent = 3

Doing this, allows you to carry out some simple statistics, such as finding the average response for the whole group of learners and to compare the overall response of different groups.

Feedback statisticsEdit

Perhaps it’s easier to see this in an example. Imagine you have a group of 10 learners. Their answers to the questions on the feedback form are:

  • Poor – 0 responses
  • Acceptable – 3 responses
  • Good – 6 responses
  • Excellent – 1 response

This converts to a total of 18 (0x0 + 3x1 + 6x2 + 1x3). Dividing 18 by the number of learners (10) gives an overall score of 1.8 for the group as a whole, equating to Good.

Another way of looking at this data is to produce a graph.


You can then make a visual comparison of the results for each question.

Unstructured feedbackEdit

Of course you should allow the learners to provide some feedback on the form which is not structured by your questions. It is important to leave space for them to make comments, either throughout the form at appropriate questions or at the end under ‘any other comments’.

To analyse these, you should simply list the actual responses and note any duplicated points of view.

There are a couple of other points to note apart from question design if you are to motivate your learners to make a good job of completing the form

Before proceeding, note down anything else that you can think of that should be in the feedback form design if it is to be successful in its purpose.

Essential elements of feedback form designEdit

Well, for the form to be successful, the instructions must be easily understood and it should be easy to fill in. It should also be quick for the learner to complete. This all suggests a short questionnaire, one or two sides maximum with a limited number of questions having straightforward possible responses

Simple feedback formEdit

You can find many examples of simple course feedback forms on the internet

Commercial software and websitesEdit

You may also like to explore using commercial software such as SurveyMonkey which facilitates design of survey forms and collation and analysis of results via the Internet. See it at

There are many Internet websites offering advice on feedback form and questionnaire design. One problem is that many of them are aimed at professional researchers and thus too detailed. However, you may still benefit from looking at some of these sites, as the basic principles of questionnaire design are the same, regardless of the subject area being researched. Here are some suggested sites.

Assessing success of learning approachesEdit

The diagram shows the training cycle. It represents a continuous process of:

  • Identification of training needs
  • Design of the training and learning programme
  • Delivery of training and learning programme
  • Evaluation of training and learning programme

For more information on the training cycle see:

You have carried out the first three stages and are now about to carry out the fourth with the help of the feedback on the learning experience coupled with evidence on learner progress. In particular, the feedback will be used to assess the effectiveness of the design and delivery of the programme. This will feed into revision of those aspects of the learning programme which were judged to be less than satisfactory. With a further check on the identification of the needs and the re-design of materials and delivery, a cycle of continuous improvement is established.

You have essentially two sources of information for your evaluation:

  • the evidence of learner progress
  • the feedback on the quality of the learning experience.

Both are important and there are definite connections between the two. For instance, there could be a general reduction in learner progress not related to content and delivery issues but due to the learning taking place in a room which is always too hot resulting in the learners experiencing discomfort.

Learner progressEdit

In analysing the learner progress, in order to create improvements, you must look for trends. The first time you deliver the training to a small group, poor performance from one learner may affect your results disproportionately. Over time and a large number of learners, this random effect diminishes. So you are looking for the particular topics and outcomes where a significant number of learners have difficulty.

Of course ‘a significant number’ is a matter of opinion. But let us say that, if out of a group of fifteen learners, three had a difficulty with one topic, while excelling at all the other topics, then we would say that is significant. So you need to look for these parts of the learning and revisit the design of those parts.

Learning experienceEdit

Most of the feedback will have been converted into a set of averaged numerical data representing the learner group as a whole. You now have to interpret this data. Broadly speaking, you are having no real problems if the scores hit a point somewhere a bit above the middle value. You cannot expect every learner to think that everything is perfect. On the other hand, remember that most people tend not to give low scores unless there is a real problem. Of course different learners will have different expectations. However, again the hope is that they will apply the same expectation level to each of the facets of the learning experience and this variable will average out over all the questions and learners.

There is one danger in using the average and getting a middling score. That is, if out of a group of, say, twenty learners, ten score highest and the other ten score lowest. This gives the appearance of a just acceptable result with no great worry. A score of 50% for the learning environment could be due to one side of a room being too cold. A score of 50% for relevance of course content could be due to a group of 20 where 10 thought the training was pitched at the ideal level and 10 who found most of the content already familiar.

So remember, you have to look at both the average score and the spread of scores across the group of learners.

Looking for trendsEdit

Regarding ‘Any other comments’, you are again looking for trends. If the same type of comments comes up three or four times out of a group of fifteen learners, then you need to address it.

When you are delivering training to colleagues within your own organisation, remember that you need not be completely reliant on written feedback forms. Most of the learners will be willing to provide informal feedback and suggestions for improvement orally.

You should also consider when to gather feedback. It is useful to gather opinions immediately after the conclusion of the training, when the content and delivery are fresh in the learners’ minds. This can be supplemented by further feedback at a later date, if you wish to explore how useful the training has been to the learners in their workplace situation.

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