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Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Train Participants: How-to

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Be prepared to foster reliable data collection:


  • assess volunteers' skill levels
  • have solid, tested protocols and data sheets prepared (see Refine Protocols)
  • assure access to all necessary equipment and resources


Consider volunteers as research partners:


  • provide training in both the protocols and the technology they need to implement them
  • offer optional background training workshops 
  • explain technical terms, e.g.:
    • sampling- random, arbitrary, haphazard, etc.
    • negative or zero data
  • provide training on demonstrating data quality and communicating conclusions
  • keep protocols transparent


Be transparent and responsive:


  • provide clear instructions and guidelines for volunteers
  • address and repeat overall goals
  • conduct personal and individual communications with volunteers
  • invite feedback from volunteers

Reach more participants:


  • Explore tech-based opportunities for training
    • e.g., screen casts for training
    • see some tech tool examples
  • Entice new volunteers by using cutting-edge technologies


Keep things manageable:


  • plan for protocols that are not equipment-intensive
    • easier training and maintenance
    • better overall cost/benefit
  • plan straightforward protocols (see also Refine Protocols)


Consider diverse skills and future needs of volunteers:


  • offer a tiered system for participation, from simple to complex opportunities
  • provide new learning opportunities to meet needs of advancing participants
  • work with experienced volunteers to train/mentor new volunteers


Think ahead to program evaluation:


  • field test protocols
  • seek feedback on training
  • assess effectiveness/usefulness of training and appropriateness of protocols/data sheets
  • adapt protocols and/or training methods as necessary
  • see Measure Effects for more details on evaluation


Have any How-to ideas for this step?  Soon you will be able to share them through our discussion forum.


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