Assesment of Learning Experience
I was able to successfully convert all three weeks' worth of material to an eLearning format during my time at the Salt Lake City Library. The project took me four months; most weeks I spent approximately 10 hours at the library working on the project. The majority of my work time was spent designing and creating the new content for the updated instructional materials to support the library's Digital Literacy Initiative. However, the first few weeks of my internship, the project had yet to be finalized by the stakeholders (namely the library and the International Rescue Committee (IRC)). While waiting for the green light to start developing the material, I worked on some information guides on how to use the 3D printer, and supported the Creative Lab for the library patrons.
One of my biggest challenges was converting a large amount of material to an eLearning format in a short amount of time. I used Rise (a rapid authoring tool in the Storyline 360 suite) that greatly reduced the amount of time I would have spent had I only been developing material in Storyline. I wanted the courses to have as much interactive feel as possible, so I created some additional interactions in Storyline and uploaded them into Rise. I would like to continue developing the course further; there are several lessons that might prove to be too intricate as further user testing is performed. As user testing is a skill I imagine I will use in any instructional design or library capacity, I would like to continue developing my skills as a user researcher to benefit both the organization and the project itself.
While all of the project objectives were completed, there are a few areas that I have identified that could have benefited from additional time. These areas mainly revolve around the issue of the content - the content was adapted from an open educational resource, and while the quality of the content was high, it was often much too in depth to meet the learning goals of our program participants. Prior to my joining the project, it had been identified that our program participants may often be semi-literate in both digital and traditional mediums. For this reason, much of the material devoted to complex topics such as "operating systems" could be broken down a lot. With further user testing, I will be able to identify the areas that I can start to break down more with additional interactions, practice, and walkthroughs.
In addition to the complexity of the material, the content was usually not accessible to the learner unless they were sitting in a session with their technology mentor. This was simple because the content was housed in a password-protected Google Drive. The courses I have developed should theoretically be able to be accessed at any time by the learner, should they be so inclined to continue their studies on their own. Outside of the material we adapated, much of the content was in a word document. While informative, the documents did not allow for learner engagement. The interactive courses should engage learners in working with the material in ways they haven't previously.
I am thrilled with the overall outcome of this experience. I was able to convert a large amount of material to an eLearning format in a relatively short amount of time. While this was certainly a challenging (and at times, daunting) task, I was able to gain hands-on experience in a library supporting an underserved patron population. I was able to draw upon not just the skills I have learned in my MLIS, but also upon my undergraduate background (linguistics and teaching English as a Second Language) and my current line of work (instructional design). I was able to collaborate with a phenomenal project supervisor who encouraged me and offered me useful feedback and guidance whenever I needed it. Otherwise, I was given full autonomy to tackle this project. The full scope of the project was doable, yet challenging enough that it felt like an exciting, dynamic project that was worthy of a graduate school internship.
I was introduced to the concept of user-centered design, testing, and project management through my courses in User Experience Design (IAKM 60120, IAKM 60121) which gave me a wealth of tools and knowledge that I needed to completed this project in a user-centered rather than a systems-centered way of thinking. During my time as an ESL teacher, I must admit that I (like many) designed my lessons around how the students would be expected to adapt to the material, rather than how I, as the instructor, should adapt the material to meet their needs while still fulfilling the objectives of the course.
User-centered practices have changed my whole worldview and I now advocate for user-centered practices every where I have the opportunity. Prior coursework in Information Needs, Seeking & Use (LIS 60613) further helped me understand the information seeking process that all users go through. While they may not initially seem relevant to an instructional design project in a public library, my coursework in Information Storage & Retrieval Systems (LIS 60641), Content Strategy (IAKM 60106), Foundational Principles of Knowledge Management (KM 60301), and Knowledge Organizational Structures, Systems & Services (KM 60636) further provided me with rock-solid understanding of both the back and front-ends of how information seeking works. This is knowledge that I will serve me in any capacity, and will take me with into any profession.
There are many things I learned about myself as I prepare to enter the LIS profession, one being the appreciation I gained for the satisfaction of completing a large project that benefits your local community from start to finish. I would have liked to have been involved with the project during the initial stakeholder planning meetings, but as it stands, I am grateful for the incredible experience that I had to work on a needed project for an underserved population of the Salt Lake area. Because I work full time as an instructional designer, I was able to glimpse what the instructional design life might be like outside of a global corporation. I was surprised to find that I really loved being outside of a large organization - doing instructional design for a library and for a global company are two very different sides of the same coin.
While there might be a role as an instructional design librarian in the future for me, hopefully in an academic library, I gained a newfound respect for public librarians. They play an active and crucial role in the community - fostering information literacy and global citizenship on a daily basis, while putting on multiple programs, hosting local groups, events, and meetings, and engaging in the community outside of their library walls as well. Public librarians are truly stewards of our community and they amazed me every day. I might not want to spend my career in the corporate world after all.
I was surprised at the variety of minutia that public librarians handle on a daily basis, and all of the amazing programs and projects they are able to put out, but what surprised me the most is much more sobering than that.
Because of new legislation that has been passed by the current administration, refugee admittance has slowed to a trickle, if any are admitted at all. This means that, despite the IRC's best efforts, there might not be any new refugees in the Salt Lake area for the foreseeable future. This has had a huge effect on our community's efforts to support the IRC in its mission.
I would strongly encourage MLIS students to find a internship in this setting. Even if working in a public library is not your end goal, as mine is not, the experience of collaborating with librarians and community stakeholders, such as the IRC, was hugely beneficial in helping me appreciate the cooperative nature of community institutions that rely on each other to launch wide-ranging projects such as the Digital Literacy Initiative. No one organization - neither the library nor the IRC - could have managed to launch their program on their own. But through collaboration and cooperation they were able to reach so many more individuals than just their own populations. I would also encourage MLIS students to draw upon your previously earned skills to support a robust project.
For a project of this nature, I would recommend coming to the table with a solid background in writing and curriculum development, with a keen eye for a good design. Maintaining a user-centered focus will be a crucial tenet for completing a project delivered to a wide range of program participants.