FreE–Learning: Developing an information skills e-learning package without a budget by Alex Williams

Online learning has unique advantages, overcoming barriers of introversion and physical distance, creating new ways to communicate and shaping identity…” (Nursing Times, 2010).

Effective justification for spending time away from clinical environments and duties is a barrier for staff to attend physical information skills training sessions. Indeed, many of the healthcare professionals we work with struggle to find time to complete even their mandatory training during their working hours.

In July, I was tasked with developing an information skills e-learning module. My brief was broad and I had scope to be creative with the way I chose to create the content but, notably, without a budget. I made the decision to create four modules based on the content of the physical sessions we offer to staff. That way staff had the choice to attend or complete the e-learning, it was accessible to all regardless of job role and it could also be completed prior to or following a physical session to further cement learning.

My first port of call, prior to developing any content, was to ask the Clinical Librarians group for any advice and send out an email on the usual mailing lists. I was given the name of a contact at the NHS North West E-learning Support Group, who returned my call at record speed and put me in touch with the group’s secretary. I was put onto the mailing list, where events are shared and advice is sought, and was given the opportunity to attend a free training event for new developers. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend but the support I have received has been invaluable.

It was at the recommendation of someone from the NW E-learning group that I approached our Learning and Development (L&D) department to see what sort of support I could receive. We have a very close working relationship with our L&D department but I had assumed that modules currently available were created externally. I had the content for the first session ready on a PowerPoint and got in touch with a member of the L&D team, Phil, to put aside some time to look at how plausible it would be to develop an effective module. I did not want to just publish the slides online and leave it, I wanted to appeal to all learning styles incorporating a range of activities and recreating what we do in a physical session as realistically as possible.

The first module is called “Formulating an Answerable Question” and enables participants to read some theory and complete a range of exercises. I sent over my PowerPoint so that Phil could see the content we would be working with and then spent a couple of creative hours one afternoon, pulling the material over and coming up with some simple tasks for participants to complete. Phil is an active member of the NW E-learning group and an expert at using the software. He had finalised and launched the module in less than a day. I have included some screenshots below to give a feel for the output:

I was given the link to a pilot site containing the module prior to sharing it across the organisation and I asked my colleagues and some clinical and non-clinical staff from other teams to give me some feedback. The learning that I acquired that will inform future modules includes the following:

  • Spell check the spell checkers!
  • Check that pop-up boxes can be minimised so that content can be read alongside any answers or additional information.
  • Use a range of examples for the exercises, both clinical and non-clinical. What is even more effective, I feel, is to use examples from other fields that are relatable to all. Using different content allows the participant to remain objective applying effectively the theory learnt without being wrapped up in the intricacies of the example.
  • Present worked examples prior to expecting participants to complete tasks. That way, they will always now what the module is expecting of them and they are less likely to press Esc half way through.

What I have done is nothing new or special but I wanted to share the idea of engaging internal networks. A colleague I regularly work closely with had the equipment, software, time and interest to help me pull together this package without any additional expenditure.

It is far too soon to measure any impact and I am finding it challenging at the moment to ensure the module does not become lost in an ever-growing e-learning catalogue. I would, however, recommend making a module compulsory prior to attending a journal club!

We are currently developing the second searching module using Captivate, provided by the NW E-learning group via Phil, where participants are able to practically search alongside watching worked examples and am fully aware of how fortunate I am to have an engaged internal network that have made this possible, free of charge.

Alex Williams
Clinical Evidence Specialist
Warrington & Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

McKenzie, K. and Murray, A. (2010) E-learning benefits nurse education and helps shape students’ professional identity. Nursing Times, Available online at:, [Accessed 20th September 2015].



This entry was posted in Case Studies and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s