Beginning in November 1997, the Alabama Health Libraries Association, under a subcontract with the Regional Medical Library at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, started a series of five full-day, hands-on beginner workshops for health professionals in the state on accessing and using the Internet. The purpose of this project was to orient health professionals (especially rural health professionals), in the usefulness of the Internet as a communication, consultation and educational source in their daily work lives. In addition practical advice in such areas as selecting an Internet service provider (ISP) and how to evaluate websites was offered. Continuing education accreditation was obtained for physicians, nurses and veterinarians. Three of the workshops, in Montgomery, Tuscaloosa, and Huntsville, were well attended and very successful; two of the workshops, in Auburn and Dothan, were cancelled due to insufficient registration.
Although the series of workshops did not reach the numbers of health professionals we had hoped to reach, we would still consider the project to have had a considerable impact on state health professionals, institutions, and medical librarians. For instance, participants in the workshops gave themselves an average rating of 2.05 or below average in their knowledge of the subject prior to the workshops. After completing the classes, their self-assessment rose to 3.55 or above average in their knowledge. Some 67% of those participants who responded to the post-survey indicated that they were now regular Internet users. Some of the comments on the post-surveys indicated that those who did not yet have Internet access at work or home were looking forward to getting it soon. It is hoped that the workshops increased their desire for such access and that they returned to their institutions resolved to lobby for the Internet at work. Other comments suggested that the participants returned to their institutions full of enthusiasm for what they'd learned about the Internet and eager to pass on the knowledge to coworkers. Finally, there is some evidence that this project heightened the profile of the Alabama Health Library Association and medical librarians in the state. As a result of this project, we were invited to speak before the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (MASA) gathering of CME directors at their annual meeting this summer on the use of the Internet for physicians. (Judy Burnham, one of the instructors for the workshops, represented ALHeLA at this gathering.)
"Overall excellent program."
"Good course, very informal and 'user friendly'. Significant stepping stone to expanding/improving Internet savvy."
"Extremely useful, practical information. This helped me understand Internet access."
"The two instructors were superior - they really helped! I gained a lot of information that will really help me when I get information on computer."
"Appreciate all the handouts for reference - I'm excited about getting Internet access at work!"
"Very well done."
"Well done and appreciated - thanks!"
"Handouts wonderful, allowing more time to listen instead of writing. Hands on a must, especially beginners."
"Both instructors are fantastic - knowledgeable and good communicators."