An old bit of wisdom goes something like this: if you want to teach someone something, don't tell them how to do it - show them how to do it. When it comes to online instruction, there's a lot of truth in that saying. An ideal way to provide online instruction would enlist a "hands-on" method where students have their own terminals for search practice. Few libraries can afford such luxuries. More commonly, online instruction utilizes overhead transparencies or audio-visual programs to teach search concepts and present simulated search sessions.
A better method lies somewhere between these two techniques. It relies on a live demonstration of online searching. Increasing the active participation of students is paramount in making the instruction session memorable . A combination of computer projection technology and appropriate demonstration technique promotes dynamic interaction. Both students and instructors will benefit from an online training program that integrates a live demonstration of online searching.
WHAT'S A LIVE DEMO AND WHAT'S IT GOOD FOR?
What exactly is meant by "live demo?" It means that the instructor goes online during the instructional session, either for all or part of the session, to demonstrate the techniques of searching. The live demonstration can be used to show the content of specific databases. Such a demonstration can also illustrate a locally mounted database, online public access catalog, or a CD-ROM product. But the search is live" in the sense that it is being conducted while the instructor is interactive with the search system. Demonstrations that utilize "canned" (downloaded) searches or simulated searches created with computerized audio-visual programs are not "live." Live demonstrations sound simple, but need the same thought and planning as any successful instruction method.
The Lippincott Library at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania holds an online instruction session each week. We offer additional bibliographic instruction sessions that focus on topics ranging from business research to job planning. For the past year we have integrated a live demonstration of online searching into our online instruction session. The response from both staff and students is enthusiastic. The live demonstration follows a forty-five minute introduction to databases and specific search techniques.
We also use live online searching to show specific databases for business research. For example, the job planning session mentioned above shows how DIALOG's BUSINESS CONNECTION is searched to generate a list of specific businesses in a specific geographic area. The power of online searching is communicated much more effectively with a live demonstration. This article is largely based on our Library's experience using live online demonstrations for these instructional programs.
There are two key considerations for planning an effective live demonstration. One is equipment and the other is demonstration technique.
A live demonstration is risky. There are elements over which you may have no control. Uncooperative telecommunication lines or finding that the database you planned to demonstrate is inoperable are just some of the problems that disrupt the live demonstration. There is always the potential for embarrassment or failure if the demonstration goes awry. Having the right equipment and determining the proper demonstration technique will increase the odds for a successful live demonstration.
EQUIPMENT FOR LIVE DEMOS
The required equipment includes a microcomputer, a modem, communications software, and a computer projection system. Most libraries already have the first three components. There are a variety of computer projection systems on the market, offering a range of projection sophistication and quality for the expected range in cost. While some systems are expensive, many are affordable for libraries purchasing one of these devices.
There are two different types of projection systems currently in use in most libraries: video display monitors (VDMs may also be referred to as video projectors or three-beam projection systems) and LCD plates (LCDs may also be referred to as LCD display panels or LCD projectors). The VDM is considerably more expensive. VDMs range in price from $5,000 to $15,000. Their display quality and color graphics capability is superior. They can display computer programs and videotapes, adding versatility to their usefulness in libraries. VDMs are large and not intended for easy movement. In fact, many libraries select a permanent site for the VDM and mount it on the ceiling. VDMs, by virtue of their greater sophistication, require more time for set-up and learning. Currently, there are few VDMs on the market. Sony, NEC, Panasonic, and General Electric all offer VDM equipment, but the VDM produced by Sony is especially popular with libraries and educational institutions.
LCD plates are used in combination with an overhead projector. The plate, which is wired to the microcomputer, is place on the surface of the overhead projector. The plate shows whatever the PC would display on its monitor, and projects it through the overhead and up onto a screen. Plates cost in the range of $800 to $2000. The plate is lightweight, easy to set-up, and fairly easy to learn to use. Its display quality, while not up to the standard of the VDM, is quite good. Most LCD plates project in black and white only, but one or two high-end models have color projection.
In selecting an LCD plate, be certain it has sufficient technical capability to work in an online demonstration. Some less sophisticated models may not work properly. The plate functions as the equivalent of a computer monitor. It must have the appropriate graphics capability to correctly project the software package used for the online search. The plate should also have controls to adjust for reverse video and contrast. Make sure the vendor knows what you need to do, and can assure that the plate will work in a live online demonstration. For articles that review several LCD plates, see [2, 31.
The choice of hardware and software is flexible. Almost anything will work with these projection systems. Full-size microcomputers with internal modems are good choices, although laptop models are becoming more popular for their portability. The projection equipment can interface with IBM microcomputers, their compatibles, or Apple microcomputers. Whichever communications software you choose, it is worthwhile to create auto-logons for any online systems targeted for demonstration. Instruction can continue while system logons take place, and there's no need to remember phone numbers,- logon sequences, and passwords. If several staff members serve as instructors, not everyone must be skilled at manipulating the communications software if logons are automated.
Another type of software useful for live demonstrations is remote communications software. It allows two microcomputers to work as one machine. That is, when both microcomputers are equipped with modems and are running the same remote communications software, the keyboard of either microcomputer can control operation of the other. This is particularly convenient for demonstrating CD-ROM products, which are otherwise difficult to demonstrate at remote sites since they are difficult to move and may not otherwise be reached via "dial-up" access.
When remote communications software is in operation on a CD-ROM workstation, the CD-ROM product can be monitored and manipulated from the remote microcomputer. If that remote microcomputer is equipped with a computer projection system, then it is easy for a group of students to view the CD-ROM database. Remote communications software also allows for one-on-one demonstrations and training on CD-ROM databases at remote sites, such as a faculty member's office. Common remote communications software packages include CO/SESSION, REMOTE2 and Carbon Copy. All have been reviewed in the microcomputing literature, and are worth your attention .
SEARCH DEMONSTRATION TECHNIQUES: PRE-PLANNED OR ON-THE-SPOT?
Planning should begin by determining the objectives of the live demonstration. Do you: * want to teach specific search techniques, such as Boolean operators? * want to show the content of specific databases? * want to impress the audience with the speed and retrieval power of online search systems?
Probably you will want to achieve all of these with the live demonstration. To achieve any of these objectives, first decide whether to employ a prepared search technique or a spontaneous search technique.
Think of the prepared technique as a more scripted demonstration while the spontaneous technique is improvisational. Your choice of technique, or possibly a combination of the two, should depend on what the demonstration is specifically designed to teach.
Take for example a demonstration of a specific technique in a specific database. A demonstration of how to create a list of the top twenty companies in Nebraska would require an appropriate directory database like
DUN'S MARKET IDENTIFIERS (DIALOG), and would also require explicit instructions on techniques such as field searching, sorting, and use of the DIALOG REPORT command. This level of instruction works best with advanced planning. You need to know the database, know the commands, and above all, know that the search will work. This demonstration will teach a specific search technique, and can impress an audience by showing how quickly databases can produce results that would require much greater effort if performed manually.
One element this prepared technique lacks is some spontaneity. A live demonstration is preferable to methods using transparencies or audio-visual programs because it adds the spontaneity that will excite and capture the audience's attention. A live demonstration makes online searching real. Otherwise, the audience is hearing a lecture about something they may have never seen before, and that makes online concepts difficult to absorb. Spontaneity is also good for the instructor. It is much more interesting to make things happen, and watch the audience respond to your actions. If one of your teaching objectives is to show the challenge and potential enjoyment that online searching adds to the research process, then a spontaneous technique is desirable.
Totally spontaneous demonstrations call for much improvisation by the instructor. Participants would be able to request sample searches on any topic. The instructor must select the appropriate database and formulate a search strategy on the spot. This is an exciting way to perform live demonstrations. The audience will look forward to the opportunity to challenge your skills. There is certainly greater risk of failure. You may be required to search a subject in a database you are unfamiliar with. Botching a search with wrong field tags or a lack of knowledge of display formats will probably cause the students to lose faith in your ability as an instructor. Failure is sometimes unavoidable, but you can minimize the conditions that lead to disasters.
An improvised live demonstration will be more successful when:
* the audience is more homogeneous than heterogeneous. A heterogeneous group of college students might include students from many disciplines and knowledge levels, and the odds of being asked to search a subject beyond your skills are greater. A more homogeneous group, such as a class of business students, will probably limit their search requests to business subjects, which may be your area of expertise. Also, in a heterogeneous group, one student's search request may be of no interest to other attendees, thus risking the loss of their attention.
* the audience has some basic knowledge about online searching. Not only will the audience have a better sense of the type of questions and topics best suited for online searching, but they will find the demonstration more productive if they know more about what is being shown. Try to precede the demonstration with some conceptual instruction or try to learn in advance how "literate" the audience is about online searching.
* you are able to anticipate the type of information the audience will be interested in. In some instances you may be instructing a special interest group, the members of a specific department for example. Try to understand their interests in using online searching. A pre-session interview with some participants may help determine the kinds of databases they will want to see in an improvised demonstration.
* you are firm with the audience in weeding out search suggestions as too outlandish or impractical. Do not feel as thou h a live demonstration forces you to search any and all topics. We have all been requested to search topics we know are not appropriate for any online system. Use these requests as an opportunity to explain why some topics are not worthwhile for online searching.
A demonstration technique that combines elements of both planned and improvised searching can provide a good balance for the instructor and audience. There is sufficient spontaneity to maintain audience interest while giving the instructor adequate control over direction of the session. One approach for conducting the live demonstration with this more conservative technique is to incorporate the demonstration into a group exercise. Give the audience some specific topics to choose from. Have them formulate search strategies or make suggestions for searches based on those topics.
Consider this modified approach for an online demonstration of the previous planned example involving the report on the top 20 companies. Instead of the instructor limiting the search to a specific industry or geographic area, the participants could be invited to suggest those criteria. The instructor knows which database will be used, and needs only to know the state or industry codes to use with the search. A manual with this information could be kept in the instruction room. This approach gives participants an opportunity to get involved in the search, which makes it more spontaneous for them, while the instructor is able to maintain control over the more unwieldy elements of live online demonstrations.
Here are some additional factors to consider when planning a live online demonstration:
Time: Allow more time for a live demonstration. The audience will tend to ask more questions about your searching, and may want to see variations (i.e., What If" propositions) on the examples shown. You may want to show more than one or two examples to keep the presentation varied. Allow time for unexpected problems, such as being disconnected or accidentally pulling the micro's plug from the power source. Time also goes very quickly when you are in the midst of a live demonstration. Keep a close watch on the clock so you don't exceed your time limitations.
Documentation: Anticipate searching a database you are not intimately familiar with, or the possibility of just plain forgetting something obvious, like a field tag. You may want to keep a databank's documentation close by, but use it only for quick reference. Don't waste time looking for search guidance for a file with which you are unfamiliar. This will erode the audience's confidence in your skills. The availability of online documentation (e.g., the DIALOG BLUESHEETS File 415 on DIALOG or the FILE database on BRS) is also useful if the demonstration is given at a non-library site. But these are databases just like the rest. Practice using them for quick reference before you may need them during a demonstration.
Displaying Screens: Our natural tendency is to search and watch the monitor as information scrolls by, or we may do this as the information is printed. Your audience needs to see the information displayed one screen at a time. This will enable you to focus on specific techniques and unique database features. You either need to know what display format will limit itself to one screen, or learn the key combinations to freeze and unfreeze the screen
unfreezes when searching most databanks). Some communications software packages have a reverse browse feature which can allow you to page back and forth through a search. This can also help you pinpoint specific screens.
Mistakes: How do you handle them? You are supposed to be the expert. What if you make a mistake? It need not undermine your authority. Use it as an opportunity to show the audience how easily a crucial mistake can be made while online. Relate that to the need for adequate presearch planning to reduce costly errors. Show how a knowledge of troubleshooting skills can allow for quick recovery from mistakes. Demonstrate that searchers need to maintain their composure when something goes wrong, and that panicking while online will usually result in costly waste. Some instructors consider making intentional mistakes to see if participants can identify and correct those errors. If the audience sees only perfect searching they may be left with the impression that online searching is easy and trouble-free. A live demonstration can give a much better understanding of the realities of online searching. If an embarrassing error does occur, it can be helpful to have a good excuse ready. Mentioning "line noise" or "sticky keyboard" problems can help you get past these inevitable moments more smoothly.
Cost: Since you will be online during the demonstration, some costs are incurred. If you search at regular commercial rates during live demonstrations, the high cost will probably make the sessions unfeasible.
To keep demonstration costs affordable try the following:
* Obtain a training password from the databank. They may be willing to subsidize your searching for an hour or so, but it may depend on your training program and your audience.
* Obtain an educational password from the databank. Most databanks offer educational passwords to academic libraries for student searching and the necessary training programs.
Search practice files (e.g., ONTAP files in DIALOG) during the demonstration. Let the audience know the file is only a segment of an existing file, to account for differences in actual search conditions. Lighting: Live demonstrations should be conducted with room lights off so the sharper screen images will be easier to see. This leaves you to contend with little lighting to see the keyboard or your notes. One solution is to keep a penlight nearby. If your facility has a lectern, a preferable method is to keep a small light clipped to it. Audience Participation: Try to keep the audience involved in the demonstration. There is a tendency for instructors to get caught up in their own searching and forget their objective is to keep the audience aware of what is happening. Continue asking the audience questions throughout the demonstration to keep them involved.
Another technique is to have an audience member volunteer to do the typing. This can enable the instructor to keep a closer watch over the audience and better respond to their needs. This can backfire if the volunteer has poor typing skills.
Audience Dynamics: Keep the audience better tuned to your demonstration by recognizing their newness to online searching. Practiced searchers may take for granted search features that can confuse novices. Your audience may not know what the "search prompt" is or its function. The 'source field" and its contents may be the type of jargon that leaves novices bewildered. Go over these terms slowly. Use a pointer to highlight them on the screen. Be cautious about what you choose to demonstrate. For new searchers, keep the search strategies simple. Search in a step-by-step approach. Experienced searchers tend to get excited about the many capabilities of search systems, and may demonstrate some advanced techniques for which the audience is unprepared. Be careful about introducing other techniques, such as downloading or post-processing capabilities. Inform the audience about these techniques, but demonstrating them may only cause confusion.
Equipment Failure: Think in advance about worst-case scenarios. What would you do in the event of a computer, software, projection system, or databank failure? Have some backup material so you can still give some demonstration of online search techniques. Have some "canned" searches available on a diskette, to use if the microcomputer is still functional. These previously captured searches could show some of the same search techniques and databases you would have covered. Have auto-logons for multiple telecommunications networks and baud rates. If one network isn't accessible, you can quickly try another.
Anyone who plans or provides online instruction programs should strongly consider integrating live demonstrations into these instructional programs.
Here is a summary of reasons to use live demonstrations:
* Live demonstrations give a more realistic picture of what to expect from online searching. Both the benefits and problems may be graphically illustrated.
* Live demonstrations are more likely to captivate and stimulate an audience than 'canned" or simulated search sessions, making the material more interesting and memorable.
Online searching demands creativity and quick thinking. The need for these qualities are readily demonstrated as you search and need to come up with on-the-spot revisions to search strategies.
* Since each training session offers instructors flexibility, different search topics can always be tried. This will benefit instructors who grow bored with explaining the same search example in each session. Spontaneous live demonstrations require no advance creation of overhead transparencies or other audio-visual aids so they may save you some time.
There are few reasons to oppose the use of live demonstrations in online training. The argument that the equipment is expensive may be valid, but considering the benefits accrued by the instructors and participants the cost is one well worth incurring. If you really want to show your end-users how to search online, the live online demonstration should be an important part of your online instruction program.
 Ransdell, Sara. "A dynamic duo: LCD overhead displays and laptops as instructional aids in introductory psychology" Collegiate Microcomputing 7, No. 2 (May 1989): pp. 147-150.
 Bican, Frank. "Presenting ... realtime overhead displays for the big screen." PC Magazine 7, No. 5 (March 15,1988): pp. 161-182.  Phillips, Brian. Projecting Real-Time Video Output. DATABASE 11, No. 4 (August 1988): pp. 71-73.
 Kittle, Paul. Remote Control Software: Online from Micro to Micro." ONLINE 13, No. 5 (September 1989): pp. 63-68.
Thanks to Trish Ridgeway for her helpful comments and suggestions that were used in the preparation of this article.
STEVEN J. BELL is Head, Circulation/Reserve, Lippincott Library of the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He received his MLS from Drexel University in Philadelphia. In addition to end-user searching, his interest areas include merger and acquisition research, communications software and the health care industry. He has published articles on these topics in ONLINE, Special Libraries and Medical Reference Services Quarterly.
Communications to the author should be addressed to Steven J. Bell, Lippincott Library, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, 3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6207; 215/898-5926.…