Internet initiation. Learning outcomes and evaluation of training sessions by participation.

Graeme Oke, Victoria University of Technology, Werribee Campus, P.O. Box 14428, MCMC, Melbourne 8001, Australia Phone +61 3 92168255 Fax +61 3 92168208


World Wide Web, Training, Victoria University, Victoria University of Technology, Werribee Campus, Netscape, Academics, Library,


Internet access and the harnessing of the nebulas amount of information available on the Net has been available to staff and students of Victoria University for a number of years. Yet for a number of people the access to relevant information and/or the ability to "surf" the Net remains a mystery. The library has been in the forefront for the training and facilitation of the Internet through the expertise of the Subject Liaison Librarians to help navigate and clear away the mystic of this topical research tool, or toy, depending on its use! This paper presents the results, overviews and learning outcomes from four Internet Training Sessions open to University staff and research students held in 1996 at the Werribee Campus. Feedback from participants by filling in an evaluation form after the training session provide the basis for this paper, and have facilitated the trainers in establishing how the training session has come across to participants, what they have gleaned by participating, and how future sessions could be improved upon.

The Internet or World Wide Web may be viewed as a Pandora's box or unorganised chaos. It is presented in the media as an evil link to pornography, or as a chat toy facilitated by "cyber cafes" where people talk to others, through computers, around the globe. However the basis and origin of the Internet was as a research tool for communication. There are many worthwhile sites on the net, and through our training sessions we endeavour to help participants get a grasp of how to find them.

Under the Global Classroom project several thousands of students at primary and secondary schools around Australia are accessing the Internet for learning and teaching purposes (Painter, 1995). Yet many of our current teachers and academics have not had this experience. Many are uninitiated in experiencing the Internet, nor in harnessing this tool for academic or research purposes. Yet a number of their students, from what we are seeing in the library, are.

The Internet sessions we run are primarily an introduction. More advanced sessions are available on a one to one basis. There has always been an underlying implication in my mind that people learn by doing, not from being shown, and not from being told. There is more cognitive retention by hearing, learning and trying, than by just hearing, so the sessions always have a hands-on component. The exploration and expertise of searching and using a tool like the Internet is only as good as the user. A training session sets the basis for exploration, the rest is up to the individual.

Session Timing and mechanics

Timing for the sessions were strategically in intrasemester breaks to encourage participation of the maximum amount of staff and research students. (April and October). The venue and time of day for the sessions were subject to availability of computer labs, library staff to maintain service points in the library, and to have both a presenter and a helper to assist participants in the sessions. From previous experience the optimum timing for the length of the session was found to be about an hour and a half with plenty of opportunity for hands-on practice during the session.

The number of participants verses the number of people who turned up for the training session could prove an interesting study. Fifty-one (51) people said they wanted to participate and had RSVP to participate. Forty-one (41) people attended sessions.

The first semester session had a better attendance rate 87% versus second semester 71%. This was probably due in part to the method used for notification to participants. In first semester a letter was sent, in second semester notification was given on the telephone. Telephoning proved a problem as not everyone was contactable.

The Ideal ratio of 12 participants to two presenters was achieved. From previous training sessions it was found that too large a group provided less favourable outcomes for participants and a more overwhelming experience by the presenters. Individual support/assistance were specifically mentioned on three evaluation sheets as being one of the best parts of the session.

Evaluation and Results: Participants

An evaluation sheet was handed out to every participant. Attendees were encouraged to fill out and hand in their sheets as a basis of evaluation at the end of the session. Twenty-seven (27) evaluation sheets were received. Thus a small set of participants (41) and a 66 % return rate of evaluation sheets form the basis for the participants' perceptions listed below.

Fifty-five percent (55%) found the sessions relevant to their academic work, 37% found the sessions very relevant to their academic work, 4% found it not at all relevant, and 4% did not respond.

This is a fairly significant response presuming that this may have been for some their first encounter of the Internet, and could give this response after only an hour and a half.

Seventy-seven percent (77%) said the information in the session was at a level right for them. Fifteen percent (15%) felt it was too simple, and 8 % felt it was too complex.

From this result one can presume that the session was pitched at the presumed target audience. It is hard to meet everyone's needs. From previous experience appropriate handouts are given so that participants had something to refer to after the session. Appropriate sites on the Internet were suggested and the addresses given out if the participants wanted to follow up information. At the end of the session encouragement was given to participants to refer back to subject liaison librarians for assistance at any time.

As a result of the session 63% felt reasonably confident in using the internet, 22% felt quite confident, 7% felt not at all confident, 4% between not at all and reasonably confident, and 4% a little confident.

It would be interesting to follow up participants to see how confident they now are having practiced or not practiced on their own. Confidence should be achieved by practicing. One suggestion for planning for future classes stated having two sessions on consecutive days to allow time to play around on the net between sessions. Niney-two percent (92%) said they would return for a more advanced session. 4% said they would not, and 4% suggested a more basic session.

Evaluation and Results: Presenter plus suggestions for Future Classes

In evaluating the presenter, all felt the librarian was well prepared for the session, demonstrated enthusiasm, and communicated a genuine desire to help. Ninety-six percent (96%) felt material was explained clearly and understandably. Ninety-three percent (93%) felt that the librarian stimulated their interest in the internet. Ninety-six (96%) felt the purpose of the session was made clear to them.

The best parts of the session mentioned by participants were: the hands on component, individual assistance, cutting/pasting/saving/toggling/copying material, and discovering what Netscape/Internet can allow access to.

The worst parts of the session mentioned by participants included: the difficulty in seeing the overhead screen, lack of personal knowledge, finding myself where I didn't want to go, slow computers, waiting for responses, and sometimes the computers didn't work as expected.

Further comments and suggestions for future classes included: later part of the session could have been in more detail, more advanced sessions in future, I need more specific information about biotechnology, presenter should get a longer pointer or point to the overhead, not the overhead screen, requires a little more understanding of the Internet structure and how to find things without knowing the address, it would be an idea to encourage people to bring a particular topic in and assist them with that - the breadth is a bit overwhelming.


There is certainly a need and desire from academics and research students to have assistance in learning what the Internet can provide for them. Most of the campus libraries and staff in their offices have access to Netscape that allows people to access the Internet. As a result of a brief introductory session most academics and research students appear to see the value of the Internet as relevant to their academic work. After a brief session pitched at the right introductory level most academics and research students appear to feel reasonably or quite confident in using and accessing information from the Internet.

In the library we are seeing students utilising and sourcing information from the Internet. Some academics are already utilising the Internet and expecting students to utilise this tool in research assignments. It appears to be a world wide trend to utilise the Internet as a multimedia presentation tool in lecturing, assignments and as an information resource. In the library we recognise this and will continue to provide assistance to both students and staff in harnessing information and accessing information on the Internet in our role as navigators of the net. In 1997 at Werribee campus we are planning to run regular monthly lunchtime sessions for both students and staff during semesters to provide an introductory step to utilising the Internet.


Painter, J. (1995) Porn detour feared on the road to learning, The Age, Thursday 16 March , p 1


Graeme Oke, ©, 1997. The authors assigns to Southern Cross University and other educational and non-profit institutions a non-exclusive licence to use this document for personal use and in courses of instruction provided that the article is used in full and this copyright statement is reproduced. The author also grants a non-exclusive licence to Southern Cross university to publish this document in full on the World Wide Web and on CD-ROM and in printed form with the conference papers, and for the document to be published on mirrors on the World Wide Web. Any other usage is prohibited iwhout the express permission of the author.

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AusWeb97 Third Australian World Wide Web Conference, 5-9 July 1997, Southern Cross University,PO Box 157, Lisomore NSW 2480, Australia"