Monday, 1 October 2012

Virtual library training in Moshi, Tanzania

Jane's desktop in London, displayed on the screen in Moshi.
On 12 & 13 September the Library ran its first virtual training session in Moshi, Tanzania. I delivered a session to the students on the East African Diploma in Tropical Medicine via Skype which was facilitated by Phil Gothard, the tutor in Moshi.

The students could see my computer desktop displayed on a screen and hear me talking through the slides and demonstrations. Phil could talk to me through the tutor's microphone and relayed questions from the students as they arose. I could hear Phil but didn't have a view of the students in the computer lab.

After the class Phil said: "We set the students the task of writing a referenced essay; its their opportunity to get under the skin of a topic of their choice relating to public health in the tropics. With 15 nationalities, and an age range spanning three decades, it wasn't surprising that some felt daunted by the task. The great thing about the Skype link with the School is that the students could log in to the library and ask an expert questions as they arose in real time. For many it was the first time they had logged on to the library website despite having passwords for a couple of weeks. Jane's presentation was excellent and other than some issues with bandwidth it almost felt like we were in Keppel Street. The feedback was very positive and we'll definitely experiment again next year."

Students in the computer lab in Moshi watching Jane's presentation
I thought it was a bit strange talking to myself in my office, but once I got used to it, I really enjoyed the class. We thought broadband capacity might be a problem, and on the second day the images were a little delayed, but not enough to derail the class. Having a good facilitator at the other end was key, as I couldn't see the students or their desktop - I was reliant on Phil letting me know what was happening and relaying questions from the students. For this reason, I'm not sure if this would work for some of the more advanced training we provide in London. However, I'm happy to explore the possibilities with any of our overseas staff.

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