This paper will describe the EDUCATE - End-user Courses in Information Access through Communication Technology project for end-user training in information access. EDUCATE is a CEC Libraries Programme Project which involves six Members: Limerick University, Ireland (co-ordinator) and the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussees, France, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, Imperial College and Plymouth University, United Kingdom and the University of Barcelona, Spain.
The aim of the EDUCATE project is to produce a new type of model self-paced
user education course in the selection and use of information tools.
EDUCATE courses have been produced within two subject areas: physics and
electrical and electronic engineering.
The EDUCATE project started in February 1994 and will run for a period of three years. This paper starts with by describing the need for courses in Information Retrieval and Handling in the age of the information superhighways. It continues with a presentation of the course design. The goals for the EDUCATE Project are given, together with a short description of the media developed. The use of networks in connection with EDUCATE is then discussed, followed by a presentation of tools and interfaces used. The paper concludes with a description of the potential uses of the program.
R 2. In view of the widespread ignorance of the availability of the new library research tools, libraries in academic and research institutions should routinely provide training for users and information providers in information access.
A numbers of academic libraries have seen the need to provide this formal training. During the 1970s and 1980s, many academic libraries in the United Kingdom, the United States, Scandinavia and Australia started fairly ambitious programmes of user education, bibliographic instruction, or reader education.(2) Under the latter part of the 1980s there was a feeling that the use of expert systems and computer-based tools would reduce the need for this kind of education and training, but as has been pointed out by Fjallbrant (1990)(3), the increase in complexity of both media and methods has resulted in an even greater need to teach the users of scientific, technical and biomedical systems basic concepts about their information systems and to provide training in information skills. It is interesting to note that well-known universities such as Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have recently started to emphasise the teaching role of the university library. It is apparent, however, that many academic libraries have not been able to start the types of formal training suggested in the Royal Society Report. This is partly due to lack of economic resources and partly due to inertia or an inability to change direction and divert resources from one function to another.
Learning, like communication, takes place both formally and informally. Formal learning is systematised and often organised by schools, colleges and universities. There are formal courses and examinations. Continuing education often takes the form of seminars, workshops and on-the-job training programs. Libraries play an important role in this formal education world, in that they provide access to an organised collection of information and knowledge. Much learning is, however, informal - learning from other people, learning by experience. This type of learning is rather like browsing, spontaneous and unplanned. It is user controlled and pleasant to use and often exciting. The 1990s is the decade of the information networks - the information superhighways, infobahn, cyberspace, global information infrastructure. How does this contribute to learning? The networks facilitate distance learning. Suddenly people are beginning to have the opportunity to link up to fantastic global information sources. They have the opportunity to discover information themselves, to link up to newsgroups and discussion groups, to articles and reports, to classical texts and to sets of original scientific data. The information networks are, however, still relatively unorganised, and finding your way about can be both time-consuming and frustrating. How can you relate the new sources to the traditional journal articles and textbooks? You need some kind of three dimensional map.
Within this context the EDUCATE Project - End-user Courses in Information Access through Communication Technology has been planned both as a means to provide a stimulus and help to libraries wanting to start courses on information handling, and as a support tool for people taking part in individual informal learning. A proposal was submitted to the CEC Libraries Programme (second call for proposals) in February 1993. This proposal was selected as one of 15 projects from the 97 applications, and work formally started on February 1st 1994. The project will run for a period of three years.
In planning the use of the EDUCATE courses, it was felt to be desirable to try to provide situations which would encourage deep learning rather than surface learning. The possibilities for this vary in differir immediate studies, but also throughout their working lives, it is vital that the students experience the relevance of the course. Instruction in information retrieval is likely to be successful if provided at a point when people are working on a project which requires them to acquire information.
The design of the EDUCATE courses started with the definition of the main goals and objectives, the course contents, and the teaching methods and media to be used.
The Aims of the EDUCATE courses are that after the course you should have:
Information Sources in Physics.
Information Sources in Electrical and Electronic Engineering have now been written. The first versions of this teaching material has been produced in English. This is now being translated and adapted for Spanish and French users.
Demonstrations and exercises in online information and Internet based information resources have been designed and produced at Imperial College. A selected part of this material is now being used as the basis of the EDUCATE Discovery programs.
The World-Wide Web (or WWW or W3) hypertext information system appeared to offer a very suitable tool for the development of a global information system, which could be linked to other navigational tools such as the Gopher and Archie (for locating files) as well as to database systems such as WAIS. On the WWW, any word in a hypertext document can be specified as a pointer or link to parts of the same document and to other documents. The linked documents may be located at different Internet sites. WWW merges the techniques of networked information and hypertext to provide a powerful global information system that is easy to use. Hypertext is really a system of nodes and links, in which a document can be a node that contains hyperlinks to other documents or information sources. The WWW is a set of protocols that allows for the location of any document on the networks by means of the Uniform Resource Locator - URL - which will provide a unique identifier. URLs can point to resources available for file transfer (FTP) or to the Hypertext Transfer Protocol - HTTP, or be used to route queries to WAIS servers, or documents available on Gopher servers or to News and telnet sources. How could we make the best use of these new possibilities in the EDUCATE Project?
A particularly important issue was the choice of suitable hardware and software for network applications. We wanted to use software that could be applied over many hardware platforms PCs - Macintosh and IBM-compatible, UNIX workstations, and terminals type VT100. Another important consideration was the long term availability, support and maintenance of the software. It became obvious that the creation of a WWW browser such as MOSAIC provided a powerful tool for WWW access and use.(7) So it was decided to make use of the WWW and its browsers as a platform for the EDUCATE teaching material. The plans of major software developers to include similar capabilities as part of the normal functionality of standard packages such as word processing - attests to the long term viability of the WWW and its underlying protocols and standards. There has been a rapid proliferation in WWW Browsers in recent months. These differ in detail but share the same basic functionality. The wide availability of a number of browsers means, in the EDUCATE context, that the teaching products will be available to a wide range of users, who will be able to access them from a broad range of hardware/software configurations.
It was decided to input the EDUCATE programs in Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). HTML is a subset, a Document Type Definition, of the Standard Generalised Mark-up Language (SGML). SGML which was designed in the context of print publication, is extremely powerful and particularly suited to large scale publishing activities. HTML is much more limited, particularly in the area of formatting, but it has the advantage that it is relatively easy to learn to use, and for this reason was selected for the EDUCATE WWW input. The tools used at the University of Limerick for the production of EDUCATE programs are Hotmetal Pro and Hotmetal Assistant Pro from SoftQuad. These include a spell checker, thesaurus, HTML file import filters, a document validation feature, a preview command for checking a document against a chosen WWW browser, and a publish command for the insertion of URLs. (8)
The EDUCATE Discovery programs will be available for students to access at the point and time of need, thus providing a useful tool in different situations such as when writing essays, starting project work or in the writing of a thesis. Hopefully users will be directed towards the selection of useful information handling tools. This should lead to cost-efficient information searching. EDUCATE will be ideal for distance learning, in that it will be accessible over the networks. We visualise that the EDUCATE programs can be used by both librarians and academics in their education and training programs on information literacy, as well as directly by the information users. Just as the traditional library provided support for education and teaching, the digital libraries will have an important role in both formal and informal learning - extending resources and their availability.
We have recently started to publish the EDUCATE Newsletter on the WWW. This
is available in three languages: English, Spanish and French. It contains
information on the project, and its main goals, together with recent
publications. The WWW address is:
[URL: http:// www.lib.chalmers.se/EDUCATE/eduhp.html]
2. Fjallbrant, N. & Malley, I. User education in libraries. 2nd ed, London, Bingley, 1984. pp.21-42.
3. Fjallbrant, N. "Why user education and how can user education help?" IFLA Journal Vol.16(1990)4, pp.405-413.
4. American Library Association Presidential Committee on Information Literacy . Final Report. ALA, Illinois, 1989.
5. Denning, P. J. & Rous, B. "The ACM electronic publishing plan." Communications. of the ACM. Vol.39(1995)4, pp. 97-109.
6. Laurillard, D. Rethinking university teaching. A framework for the effective use of educational technology. London, Routledge, 1993.
7. Schatz, B.R & Hardin, J.B. "NCSA Mosaic and the World Wide Web: Global Hypermedia protocols for the Internet." Science Vol.265(1994) 12th August. pp.895-901.
8. Kelly, B, "Becoming an information provider on the World Wide Web." In: Proceedings of INET'94/JENC5, Prague June 15-17.1994.pp.122-1 - 122-5.
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