Interactive Directory of Training Resources

Ina Fourie (Lecturer, Department of Information Science, University of South Africa)

The Electronic Library

ISSN: 0264-0473

Article publication date: 1 August 2000




Fourie, I. (2000), "Interactive Directory of Training Resources", The Electronic Library, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 285-304.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

According to Gower’s press release, Interactive Directory … is a PC‐based directory that gives access to references of more than 6,200 CD‐ROMs, CDIS, computer‐based training products, open learning programs, training videos, audio tapes, games, activity manuals and business books. I had only a demonstration disk to evaluate, and therefore have to assume that this is correct.

The directory covers a range of 20 subjects, namely: communication, computer skills, finance, health and safety, office skills, personal skills, health care, languages, management, team working, small business, supervisory skills, public sector, quality, retail, sales and marketing, training and development. These are then divided into more than 200 topics. Only six of the subjects are covered on the demonstration disk.

Resources from a large number of publishers are described in the Directory. The publishers include well‐known names such as McGraw‐Hill, Kogan Page, ABC Training, HarperCollins and, of course, Gower.

The Directory should run on any PC running Windows. It will, however, be easiest and quickest to use any 486PC or above, with a monitor displaying 256 colours. A benefit, when ordering the Directory, is that you can first try out the accompanying demonstration disk to decide whether the Directory meets with your expectations.

The Directory was compiled by Open Mind, which has considerable experience in supplying learning resource materials and acting as consultants in selecting learning materials. With their kind of background, I expected more value to be added to the entries (e.g. linking to similar resources or resources in the same series, evaluating the resources and standardising the descriptions included with entries). There is also certain information that I consider would be essential to make a responsible selection of resources, which are either missing or not provided in a consistent manner. The date of publication is, for example, not indicated. The authors or compilers of resources are only sometimes indicated. Although the duration of resources are sometimes indicated (e.g. in term of hours, minutes and even pages) this is not done in a consistent manner. In the case of books or other printed material the page numbers can also be an important indication of the extent of the resource.

To illustrate the above point, I would like to refer to the following two examples: A description for the title “30 minutes to write a report”, for example, reads: “A new range of handy pocket guides which enable the reader to master a new skill in just 30 minutes”. There are no links to the other guides and the entry for duration reads: “64 pages”. For another book, “Communication skills guides – report writing”, the duration is reported as “N/A”. What about the page numbers?

The entries for each resource consist of basic information such as subject, topic, title, publisher, medium, price, level, duration (e.g. minutes, hours or pages) and a brief description. Unfortunately the quality of the descriptions varies considerably. Some are very brief and merely highlight the content. Others provide some form of evaluation. Since the descriptions are so inconsistent in their style and description, I got the impression that they are based on information provided by the publisher. The method for compiling the descriptions should be clearly indicated in the guidelines on the Directory and how to use it.

It is fairly easy to use the Directory. There are, however, a number of navigation options that left me puzzled. Some of these can be easily rectified by providing more detail in the explanations on how to use the Directory. This includes the selection (or actually deselection of media). If you want to search on videos only, you first need to deselect all the other media options. The selection and deselection of publishers are, however, very easy to handle. Search options like truncation and Boolean operators, that I would expect from a publication of this nature, should also be explained, that is if they apply.

Apart from searching on subject, topic or title of resources, keyword searches are allowed. It is, however, not clear from the online documentation what is meant by a keyword search. Does a keyword search cover all the words in the subject, topic and title fields, or does it also include the words in the brief description accompanying each entry? If the later is the case, it might be worthwhile to improve the quality and consistency of these descriptions.

A very useful feature of the Directory is the information on publishers. Each entry is linked to a detailed description of the publisher, its contact details, and where applicable a hotlink to its Web site. Although you may search more than one publisher at a time, it seems as if you can search only one topic or subject at a time.

For many potential buyers or subscribers the aspects I pointed out may not be a major stumbling‐block. The Directory is still an excellent one‐stop source for the selection and ordering of training materials. It should be very valuable for any organisation involved in large‐scale training. The compilers can, however, add to the value of the product by considering some of the comments I have made. I would also be happy to provide more detail on search features that can improve the user‐friendliness and usability of the Directory.

The Directory is recommended for any organisation involved in large‐scale training efforts. They should, however, first check the list of subjects and topics covered to ensure that it meets with their fields of interest.

Related articles