Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Why train? Why online? Pippa Smart explains how ALPSP blended learning came about...

photo Pippa Smart
I run quite a lot of workshops for ALPSP and other organizations, and I love the immediacy of meeting people in different companies, with different experiences and viewpoints. It is a luxury to be able to travel and meet people and learn with and from them.

However, pressures of work, costs of travel and problems of timing make physical meetings problematic – just today I had to plead off a meeting and video-in because of workload.

We work in an exciting industry where you could be speaking to people from USA, Germany, China, and Japan all in a day, and physical workshops are just not practical in such an environment – nice as they would be. This is why, about 5 years ago, there was a loud buzz about "distance learning" and I was involved in writing several courses for different organizations. They were all seeking to resolve the same problem – how to reach people anywhere, anytime. However, many of them were not successful because the model they relied on was – in effect – simply providing an online handbook for people to read in their own time.

However, there has been a recent resurgence in the idea of providing remote training opportunities with larger publishers looking at video conferences, virtual meetings, and online training resources for their staff – those in the office and those who work from home.

The new approach takes into account the following important factors, learnt from earlier experience:
  • There must be a set time for the training – a start and finish time, because people are very good at procrastinating -  anything that is not "urgent" and time-limited won’t get done
  • There must be an opportunity for discussion – contributing and sharing
  • There must be some interaction – simply reading or watching is an ineffective way to engage people.
And all this must be added to the right content – what do people NEED to know, and what is the best QUALITY that can be delivered to them?

ALPSP has been repeatedly asked about providing its training to a wider audience, and face-to-face workshops are – for all the reasons above – not scaleable (or economical).

So, when I was asked to help develop an online version of the Introduction to Publishing course we agreed that there had to be quality content delivered in an interactive, time-limited and focussed way. And so the "International Primer - Introduction to Publishing" was born. Taking all the lessons learnt, we have structured it as follows:
  1. A comprehensive handbook for reference (you can't get away from needing content!).
  2. An interactive webinar – discussing issues raised in the handbook and allowing for discussion and contribution.
  3. A quiz – to help participants check understanding of what they read and watched and discussed.
  4. Follow-up access to the trainers – for questions, comments and reactions.
We ran the part one at the end of 2016 and part two (there is a lot to cover!) runs on 24 April this year. We had some interesting discussions last time and (learning from that) we are going to devote more time to these in part two – do join us, it should be a fun event!

Pippa Smart and Simon Linacre will be presenting Introduction to Journals Publishing 2: An international primer on Monday 24 April, online, 10am EDT (New York); 3pm GMT (UK); 4pm CET (Central Europe).  You can find out more here.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Why is the business technology side of eJournals so unnecessarily complex? Tracy Gardner reflects...

eJournal technology is an essential part of the scholarly publishing industry. It is also the topic of one of our most popular training courses. Here, we spoke to Understanding eJournal Technology co-tutor, Tracy Gardner, about the challenges of keeping up-to-date in this area.

"One of the biggest challenges publishers face is making sure their content can be easily found in the various discovery resources readers use to find journal articles, and then to ensure the steps between the reader finding the content and reading it are seamless and without barrier. There are so many potential pitfalls along the way, and this issue therefore concerns people working in production, IT, editorial, sales, marketing and customer service.

The pace of change is fast, technology is evolving all of the time and the driver for much of it has come from the libraries. Libraries are keen to ensure their patrons find and access content they have selected and purchased and by keeping them in a library intermediated environment they feel they can improve their research experience overall. Ultimately the library would like the user to start at the library website, find content they can read and not be challenged along the way.

Simon Inger and I have been running the Understanding eJournal Technology course two or three times a year for ten years now and we have never run the same course twice - it constantly needs to be updated.

Those working in customer facing roles such as sales, marketing and customer service may not fully appreciate how much library technology impacts on the way researchers find and access their content. Many people are surprised to learn that poor usage within an institution is often because something has gone wrong with the way the content is indexed within the library discovery layer, how it is set up in the library link resolver, or issues with authentication.

For those in operational or technology roles, the business technology side of eJournals can seem unnecessarily complex and, especially for those new to the industry, the way the information community works can seem counter to the way many other business sectors operate. What makes sense in classic B2B or B2C environments will not make sense within the academic research community.

By helping people who work in publishing houses understand how the eJournal technology works and how they can most effectively work with libraries to maximise discovery and use of their content. Many people who have attended our course have not been aware of the impact some of their decisions have had and our course has helped them understand why they need to work in certain ways."

Tracy Gardner will tutor on Understanding eJournal Technology in March and November 2017. Book your place now.