Rethinking Records Management Training

I teach several records management workshops a year for our university. These workshops are intended to educate the university community on its record keeping obligations, Ohio’s public records law, and how to manage email and electronic records. I really enjoy teaching workshops, however I often receive feedback along the lines of, “I find your workshops so helpful and am inspired to go back to my office and make changes, but once I get back my busy schedule takes over and 6 months later I find my workshop notes underneath a pile of papers.”

A lot of this is simply reality at a large university. In addition, decentralization makes it unlikely that automated solutions are likely to be implemented across the entire system. That said, I’m thinking of ways I can make my workshops more immediately useful for those who take time out of their busy days to attend.

I received some fantastic feedback following a workshop last year — an attendee mentioned how useful it would have been to walk out with a concrete game plan of what they could do back in their office that week. This semester I’m going to try this idea out, by holding a workshop with just a few participants. We’ll go over what their challenges are, and come up with some actual plans they can implement within a reasonable amount of time.

In addition, I’m now thinking of how to make the workshops more hands-on and interactive. In a previous presentation, I did a group pop quiz titled “Is it a record?” by showing an example of handwritten notes, an email, a Word doc, etc (spoiler alert: the person who reads what’s on the document usually gets the answer right). It’s a small sample size, but I’ve heard the pop quiz was enjoyable to at least one person. Having people articulate out loud to each other why something is a record rather than getting caught up in the format issue is helpful. I have seen examples of “re-organize the file structure” exercises from data management and personal digital archiving workshops that help drive home the importance of file organization structures and naming. I see many issues of very messy shared drives on campus, so this could be a very useful workshop activity.

Have you ever re-thought your workshop or training activities? What hands-on activities did you incorporate?

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3 thoughts on “Rethinking Records Management Training

  1. Susan D Haigh

    This sounds like a fantastic idea – good luck in the planning and first round of revamped workshops! I have not done much records trainings but it is on the list, but a big concern is – like you – how to make it click for people to see RIM not as just a set of rules, but something they already do (whether they realize it or not) and that they can use to their (and their work group’s) benefit.

    I have heard the file plan exercise can be fun – get a big board and colored index cards or post-its and have people show where they would put different bits of information. This could be good with trying to help people organize their electronic files too. If you do any emergency preparedness, I attended a fun workshop in Seattle years back where we got to work with sopping wet photos, stacks of damaged papers, etc. and do ‘hands on’ recovery. Definitely more fun than bullet points and reciting regs.

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  2. Angela

    We did! The Records Management Assistance unit provides training to all of the state and local records managers in the State of Texas. Last fall we adapted our lecture-based “Managing Electronic Records” course into an interactive workshop, with games, discussions, and exercises. It was so much more fun to teach, the reviews were great, and we thought it was so successful that we started to transition our other classes to this new “facilitated” format. We shared that experience in a blog post for the most recent E-Records Day (10/10/14): https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/?p=6839

    We’ll be talking about this (and some other stuff) at CoSA/NAGARA in Austin this July….and with this title! 🙂 The session is called “Shake it up, Baby: Rethinking Records Management Training.” It’s so great to know that other people out there are working towards making records management training fun and interesting!

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  3. James Lappin

    The good thing about records management as a training topic is that it is something that everyone at any workplace has plenty of experience of. So delegates bring with them lots of relevant stories.

    I like to opening a course by inviting delegates to get into groups or turn to their neighbour and tell each other a couple of things that were going well with records management in their area and a couple of things that were not going well.

    Delegates quickly paint a very rich picture of the range of different systems that records were held in. Common patterns emerge (messy shared drives/SharePoint libraries, stuff locked in individual e-mail accounts etc.) alongside encouraging examples of teams who had really made an effort and set up an arrangement in SharePoint/shared drive/ a document management system that worked for them.

    I think it is important to discuss the messy reality of documents and records before tackling the more clearcut world of records management policy/best practice – the creative tension between the two can be interesting.

    From a practical point of view I like starting with an exercise because it means I can start on time and then integrate any latecomers without having to repeat myself, and without them feeling they have missed an important piece of information.

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