When you have implemented your collections management system (CMS), your organization must commit to training. By establishing an ongoing CMS training program, the organization increases user acceptance and develops a common language across its departments.
When considering training needs and coordinating them with the CMS vendor, remember that colleagues have different expertise levels and will need to be trained accordingly.
Core training to use a collections management system takes about two to three days. System administration, configuration, and reporting training for a smaller group of more expert users can take additional days. Most vendors offer comprehensive training as part of the implementation to ensure the successful use of their system.
Right-Sizing the Training
Training should be arranged hierarchically with the implementation team and administrator trained at the highest level. Large institutions may require the vendor to provide high-level training for staff members who will, in turn, train others. The train-the-trainer framework teaches potential instructors or subject matter experts in the organization to train colleagues. These future trainers receive a concise training program that focuses both on specific content related to the system and on how to teach this training content to others. The outcome is that attendees will learn the new knowledge, and they will also instruct further batches of people in the institution. This approach is successful because it empowers people, customizes information to the specific organizational context, and is sustainable, as training often is not a one-time event.
Before training, consider surveying the attendees. Find out what questions they are hoping to see addressed. While using standardized training exercises is integral to ensuring consistent instruction, all training has room for flexibility. Tailoring content to participants’ needs reinforces learning and makes knowledge more accessible. When attendees see how the CMS will make their work easier and faster, they are more likely to retain information. Responsive training resolves user concerns, empowers people to help themselves, and reduces dependencies on the system administrator or internal IT resources.
Training should be hands-on and conducted in groups. Whenever possible, users should be classed according to their roles or functions, so training is targeted. Schedule follow-up sessions to address questions that arise after the initial system use.
Creating Training Materials
You may find that training materials already exist. Some archives have created their materials and make them available online. Having relationships with other repositories helps with shared resources. Documentation is essential for training. Find what documentation is already available and customize it for your institution’s system. While the focus is training current members to use the system, creating training materials and documents for future staff members will ensure the sustainability of the software and the ongoing use and access to the collection records.
Plan to train colleagues close to the date that the system goes live. If consortium members are spread geographically, use webinars and wikis. When doing training, allocate tasks. You may wish to complete tasks during training or demonstrate them and then give assignments for staff to work on independently. You might also want team members to test their software instances individually and use training sessions for problem-solving.
Reinforcement and Repetition
Organize the training to reinforce concepts by repeating information and catering to a variety of learning styles. Delivering information messages through diverse methods highlights key points and ensures the accommodation of everyone’s learning preferences. After training, consider distributing a summary of essential points to attendees or hosting a brief review session in-person or online.
The investment of time in training has many benefits. Training helps users feel comfortable with new ways of working. By encouraging creativity and curiosity about a new collections management system, trainers can maximize learning for session participants.
Margot Note, archivist, consultant, and author is a guest blogger for Lucidea, provider of ArchivEra, archival collections management software for today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities. Read more of Margot’s posts, and register here for her upcoming webinar, “Implementing Collections Management Systems”.
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