Virtual training sessions Q&A with Jaya Ralph

18 November 2021 18:00

Here at LexisNexis our tailored in-person training and dial-in webinars are built around your annual plans, allowing you to map out your training strategy over a 12 to 24-month period. However, 2020 posed new challenges and our training sessions needed to adapt quickly to a completely virtual training experience. Here we talk to Jaya Ralph, Law Faculty Librarian at Curtin University about her experience and the unique challenges faced by Australian University libraries last year.

How has your workday changed over the past year?

When Covid-19 struck my workday evolved rapidly into a model with less face to face and more online interaction with most meetings and consultations conducted via Microsoft Teams or Webex. I visit the staff room and walk the faculty corridors to seek out some human interaction however there are less and less people around. They tend to be behind their own screens navigating their own new normal. I miss the value of listening to people’s experiences and anecdotes which I can always use in my role to better equip myself in the research arena. More active engagement in a real-life environment assists me to make stronger and more positive connections. My workday is more blended now in terms of virtual versus real-life interactions and engagement. This brings with it positives as well, including better flexibility to work from home and to match conflicting work schedules. I find that meetings tend to be more succinct and so finish earlier, and it is easier to get in touch with people as we can now do it online. I have had to swiftly adapt to a new daily work plan however we have a strong workplace culture which is supportive and able to adapt to change and this has led to the successful transition to all that Covid-19 has brought with it.

How has Covid-19 impacted your student training sessions?

Training was another area which had to move rapidly to the online environment, and we were forced to harness the technologies available. These were technologies which we had wanted to become familiar with for some time and now the path was cleared for this quick transition. The center of our focus was the student’s learning experience. How could we best align our online workshops to provide a dynamic program which responded appropriately to the current environment? We found that the learning objects the Library had already developed played an integral role in keeping a connection with our students and aiding information literacy skills. Drawing on a strong relationship with the faculty we could quickly adapt a workshop program and promote it successfully within both our academic and student groups. Now looking forward, we will continue to develop a sustainable online workshop program which remains student-centered. Our collaborative partnership with LexisNexis played a key role in delivering legal research training to our law students and remaining relevant in this new Covid-19 environment. We were able to harness their expertise and continue to engage students despite our reduction in face to face time with them.

Covid-19 has brought changes to the training landscape many of which
are here to stay

How has your training evolved since your collaboration with LexisNexis?

Our collaboration with LexisNexis has changed our training program from ad hoc, ‘one pot shot’ workshops to a tailored, student-centered program which runs across the three-year Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB) and includes Honours and the Practical Legal Training Program (PLT). Each workshop builds upon the previous workshop meaning that training can build upon previous knowledge and advance skills further in line with the LLB program/curriculum. This program has been formalised and shaped so that content is structured correctly to each year level using benchmarks for each year of the degree (and PLT). We are really excited about this scaffolded approach and look forward to progressing this further next year.

How have these training sessions impacted your students?

The online LexisNexis webinars provide mobility to our students meaning they can participate from home, campus, work or wherever they happen to be. The multiple dates and times for each session delivers flexibility to fit this training into their hugely different schedules. We know that students are time poor. Many students have work and family commitments, and competing timetabling with other enrolled units, not to mention their personal lives, making it near impossible to find a time that suits everyone. This flexibility allows students to choose a time and place convenient to them. It has also benefitted students by providing them with a connection to their studies, to the Library and to their courses. Covid-19 has brought with it a loss of connection in many facets of our lives and the webinars can assist to reinstate this missing link with their studies by reinforcing learning. The webinars can also provide extra support to students who may feel they are struggling or feel they have lost motivation and need to re-engage.

To upgrade my research skills. Usually I would randomly stumble through the pages until I find what I’m looking for. Because of this I often forgot or could never get back to what I was reading. I learned so many features in this one session that can help me manage my research

- Curtin University Student

How do you see these training sessions progressing in the future?

Covid-19 has brought changes to the training landscape many of which are here to stay. Our collaboration with LexisNexis has shown that their training program is easily adaptable to these changes and will stay relevant into the future. I have no doubt that this program will continue to respond accordingly to whatever 2021 and beyond throws our way, and I look forward to being part of this exciting partnership.

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