Probably our main difficulty in using Lit-Link has been the "PEBCAK" issue (Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard) i.e. the inconsistency in data entry. Over the course of development, a variety of people entered different records so that we were not always able to get out all the correct information we needed (the garbage in, garbage out principle).
For example if someone forgot to check the newsletter box when an individual's name was entered, they would not show up on the newsletter mailing list. Or if they didn't note that someone was a donor they wouldn't show up when we wanted to send out begging letters!
Right now we are putting some time into updating some of the back records in order to correct the problem. Once this is done, we will make sure we have precise instructions for anyone entering data to ensure that it is done appropriately for our organization.
We will also restrict initial data entry to just two or three people. Anyway these are all things we've learned as we've gone along and that need to be emphasized for anyone just starting to use it
Another challenge is that, because it is quite complex (although still fairly simple to use) it is scary for people who are not highly computer literate and so I think it is not being as well used generally in the province here as it might be.
In hindsight I think we should have taken a much more individualized and hands-on approach to promoting Lit-Link than we did. Stefan did a fair number of conference presentations but this was not enough. In instances where he went out to programs and helped them to install the program and learn how to use it a little, people have been much more willing to use it and more successful in continuing to use it. So we should have done more of this, and maybe we still should do it if we can access further funding. It's more a matter of being too busy doing other major projects right now than lack of desire to do it.
It was in some ways a difficult project for me because I was too unaware about databases when I launched into the whole thing (although I know a lot more now!). So I had to take my lead entirely from Stefan and it did just seem to grow and grow and take over my life for a while. So once we had distributed it in the province I had to step back from it for a while instead of promoting it a bit more aggressively. But I think Lit-Link is a powerful tool for literacy programs and for volunteer programs generally. Given the huge amount of work that has gone into the development of this software, I believe it deserves to get more far more exposure and use.
For more information, contact: Maureen Sanders, Executive Director, Prospects Literacy Association, 9913-108 Avenue, Edmonton, AB T5H lA5, Tel. (403) 421-READ fax (403) 421-7324.
Prospects Literacy Association is a Community based volunteer organization committed to advocating and providing literacy development opportunities for adults and families.
Editor's note: Lit-Link 1.1 features a highly effective tutorial for the program and for specific tasks. Any staff member with basic computer skills should be able to use the program to enter and retrieve data. Lit-Link can be customized for specific programs or provincial information.
The developer offers on-site training, as well as ongoing support through email, fax and their Web site.
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