63rd IFLA General Conference - Conference Programme and Proceedings - August 31- September 5, 1997
INTO INFO (EDUCATE) WWW based Programs for Information Education, Training and Access
Rose Marie Boström
Chalmers University of Technology Library, Gothenburg, Sweden
Students and research workers face an ever growing mass of information,
which is distributed in a variety of ways: print, online, CD ROM and via
the Internet. This paper will examine the roles that libraries can play in
Education for Information Literacy. One tool which can be used in this
connection is INTO INFO, which was produced under the EDUCATE project of
the EU Telematics for Libraries programme. The INTO INFO (EDUCATE) Programs
have been designed to meet the needs of scientists, engineers, librarians
and information specialists. The programs provide a means for learning
about and accessing relevant information sources. INTO INFO includes both
indicative tools such as handbooks, reviews, encyclopaedias and databases,
handbooks as well as full text material. Information is acquired for use,
so the programs include sections on evaluation of search results, how to
construct personal reference databases, and writing abstracts, reviews and
theses. The use of INTO INFO in teaching programmes is described. This is
followed by a section on INTO INFO as a tool for information access and
quality control. There is a description of the use of satellite
transmission of the programs. Three spin off projects are presented:
MEDUCATE, INFOVISION and CHEMISTRY. The paper concludes with a discussion
on plans for the future of INTO INFO.
Students and research workers face an ever growing mass of information, which is distributed in a variety of ways: print, online, CD ROM and via the Internet.1,2 This makes it more and more difficult for people to find exactly what they are looking for. It is, therefore, extremely important to learn how to obtain and handle information efficiently.3,4
No single scientist or engineer (or librarian) can hope to have more than a minute fraction of knowledge of all the recorded information, observations, experiments, measurements, standards, diagrams and opinions of the hundreds of thousands of people working in his or her main subject area. There is a need to structure and organise information and to produce tools to assist the search and retrieval process. Above all there is a need to be able to exercise quality control in the selection of information. Users need to be able to evaluate sources of information and relate new information to their existing knowledge.
1.1. The need for information
In the world of today, information plays a key role. Information is, for example, of vital importance in research and development work. Information is needed for practical work such as technical construction, manufacturing and in the marketing of products. Engineers, medical workers and scientists also increasingly act as vectors in the transmission of relatively complex information between individuals or groups who either ask them to solve problems or tell them what is needed (society, industry, the general public, political authorities). This often involves the use of specialised systems for handling scientific, technical and economic information. There is an ever growing volume of information in every sphere of individual, professional and social life. An extensive investigation of the STM (Scientific, Technical and Medical) information system in the UK was carried out on behalf of the Royal Society, the British Library and the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers in the years 1991 1993.4 This report focused on:
- The nature of the UK scientific and medical information system;
- Users of the STM information system;
- The changing role of libraries and librarians;
- Economic aspects of the STM information system;
- Perceived problems and potential changes.
A number of recommendations were made. These included the following:
Scientific researchers should become more aware of the nature and problems of the STM system...
In view of the widespread ignorance of the availability and value of the new library and research tools, libraries in academic and research institutions should routinely provide training for users and information providers in information access.
National network providers should consider offering the benefits of focused current awareness services to academic, industrial and commercial users.
The change in nature of the STM system with emphasis on the development of electronic resources has been well documented in a number of publications, such as the issue of the Communications of the ACM in April 1995, which was entirely devoted towards this question.1 The Digital Libraries programme in the United States provides an example of the activities of libraries in these fields.2
1.3 Libraries and Education for Information Literacy
A number of academic libraries have provided various types of formal training. During the 1970s and 1980s, many academic libraries in the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Scandinavia and Australia started fairly ambitious programmes of user education, bibliographic instruction, or reader education.5,6,7,8 It is apparent, however, that many academic libraries have not so far 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.
1.4 Libraries and Distance Education
Another area in which libraries can play an important role is the development of distance education learning courses. Here libraries can play a number of important roles:
- in the area of document supply
- in the development of learning and access tools such as INTO INFO (see section 3)
- in the development of learning support programs Both academic and public libraries may be involved in distance learning programmes.9
In the field of networked distance education, it is essential to provide high quality support for the use of networked information and communication resources, and, where possible, to build in opportunities for collaborative learning activities. Research and development in Internet based curriculum design and networked learner support are being carried out in the Department of Information Studies at the University of Sheffield, through the Electronic Libraries funded project NetLinkS, and through a range of other research and curriculum development initiatives.10,11 Distance learning has, of necessity, received considerable attention at the UK Open University 12 and in Australia. 13,14
2. The EDUCATE Project
EDUCATE EnD User Courses in Information Access through Communication Technology was a project funded by the European Union. This project, in which there were six participants: the University of Limerick, Ireland (co ordinator), Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden (administrative and technical managers), Imperial College and Plymouth University, United Kingdom, the University of Barcelona, Spain and the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausses, France, was described at the 1995 IFLA Conference in Istanbul.15 The three year EDUCATE project finished in February 1997.16
2.1 The target of the EDUCATE Project
The target of the EDUCATE Project has been to help students, research workers and practitioners in the development of information literacy. The specific aim of the EDUCATE project was to produce a new type of model self paced user education course in the selection and use of information tools. It was planned to base these courses on the use of the Internet. The model courses would initially be produced within two subject areas: physics and electrical and electronic engineering. It was hoped that this would result in material which could be developed and used in other subject areas.
2.2 The outcome of the EDUCATE project
The EDUCATE project has led to the production of the INTO INFO programs. These have been, so far, produced in four subject areas: Chemistry, Physics, Energy and Electrical and Electronic Engineering. There is ongoing work on the production of modules in other subjects. The material has been produced in three languages: English, French and Spanish.
3. The INTO INFO Programs
The INTO INFO (EDUCATE) Programs have been designed to meet the needs of scientists, engineers, teachers, librarians and information specialists. The programs provide a means for learning about and accessing relevant information sources. INTO INFO includes both indicative tools such as handbooks, reviews, encyclopedias and databases, as well as full text material. Information is acquired for use, so the programs include sections on the evaluation of search results, constructing personal reference databases, and writing abstracts, reviews and theses.
INTO INFO is now available on a site licence basis to universities and colleges. A site licence fee is charged to cover maintenance and running costs. The site licence provides availability to all users with the university Internet domain address. Customised versions of INTO INFO will be available to companies, wishing to mount the programs on their own servers. This could be desirable from a security point of view. In the immediate future, Chalmers University of Technology Library will assume responsibility for the maintenance and distribution of the INTO INFO programs. The programs are now running on two pentium servers, under the NT 4.0 operating system. Reliable back up routines are in place. A number of sites are negotiating for the establishment of mirror sites. The servers will be increased as and when necessary.
Two months after the official date for the end of the EDUCATE project, INTO INFO programs are now being used in 29 universities in 11 different countries. These users pay a site licence basis fee for maintenance and help desk. Use of the programs is regularly monitored by a statistical program Web Trends on the two EDUCATE servers.
INTO INFO is based on the use of the World Wide Web (or WWW or W3) a hypertext information system which offers a very suitable tool for the development of a global education programs. WWW merges the techniques of networked information and hypertext to provide a powerful global information system that is easy to use. There is the additional advantage that the programs are available over the networks and can be used as and when required. The WWW also appears to offer a reasonably stable and reliable platform, with the probability of continued support.17,18,19 A variety of browsers such as Netscape, Explorer and Mosaic can be used to provide a flexible access to the INTO INFO programs. The networks are used, not only for the delivery of the programs, but also to provide direct links to external global information resources. Hyperlinks within the courseware itself provide an interactive and flexible learning tool. The use of a general "World Ware" platform supports general availability and maintenance. This facilitates use on a world wide basis.
INTO INFO provides alternatives designed to suit individual users. The INTO INFO programs are based on an initial hierarchic structure on three levels, with many internal and external hyperlinks, so that users are free to follow their own choices. The first level of the hierarchy offers seven choices:
Pathfinders routes to follow according to users different information needs; Information Sources direct points of access for experienced users; Course in Information Searching with goals and objectives, texts demonstrations, exercises and self assessment questions particularly useful for self study and distance learning; Texts available in html for downloading; Introduction to the Internet with links to books and courses about the Internet; IT+++ which provides access to news and general information; A Z Index to the main items. This section also includes a search engine.
Pathfinders have been designed to provide structured learning support for users who need information for different purposes. If you choose Pathfinders, you have a choice of access to a number of different tracks: Starting to use the library; Starting a project; Starting research; Keeping up to date; Searching for facts; Tools for finding references; Handling the products of your search; Learned societies and Internet resources. Each of these tracks has a further hierarchical level with relevant components.
The Pathfinder approach suits those students who like to use a structured approach to learning (or to information access). There are two alternatives for selection of route text links and a clickable map which provides access not only to the main tracks, but also to the individual stations.
3.2 Information Sources
Another access module Information Sources has been designed for users who prefer the "explorative" approach or "Test and Try." This is the type of user who, on receiving a new program, installs it directly, and tries to use it without reading any manual!
The Course includes the goals and objectives, hyperlinked text modules, a section on online searching (developed at Imperial College) with demonstrations and exercises, and self assessment questions as well as interactive form based sets of evaluation questions.
At the present time the courseware is available in its entirety in English. The texts are also available in French and Spanish, as are the top hierarchic levels. The translations and adaptations have been carried out at the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausses, Paris, and the University of Barcelona, Spain. This work will be continued. High priority will be given to the construction of appropriate French and Spanish indexes and to the provision of the self study courses in these two languages.
Full texts that are at present available include a basic text book Introduction to Scientific Communication , Guides to the Literature in a variety of subjects, Glossaries, List of Terms, Internet Terms and Abbreviations.
The Internet section includes a brief Introduction to the Internet, a link to the W3 consortium, descriptions of browsers, and a means of keeping up to date with browser developments, links to courses and books about the Internet and a list of Internet terms This section includes a selection of search engines and meta indexes which can be accessed by a quick menu route.
This is a section, included as a result of student requests, to include some links to "general" Internet resources ranging through History of Technology, Science Museums, News sources, Films, Music and Drama.
The A Z Index provides an alphabetic means of rapid access to sources within the program. This section also includes a search engine which is directed to searching on the "titles" of the various documents. In some cases additional keywords have been used to increase ease of access. This section also includes a search engine. Detailed records of use are kept. A statistics programme is used to generate monthly reports showing such things as users (according to frequency of use), the pages most frequently accessed, downloading, and activity according to day of the week and hour of the day. This is extremely valuable for planning and providing a reliable service.
4. The use of INTO INFO as a teaching programme
INTO INFO can be used for teaching information retrieval and handling in a variety of ways:
- in taught courses at universities and colleges
- in distance learning
- as a self instruction tool
- in continuing education programmes and professional development
It provides for a structured approach, while at the same time offering considerable flexibility. The structured approach is based on fundamental concepts in information handling.
The INTO INFO programs provide a useful tool for education and training of a wide variety of users: Students, Researchers, Academics, Teachers, Engineers and Librarians and Information Specialists.
Distance learning courses, based on the use of INTO INFO, have been developed in Sweden and given at three sites: Gothenburg University, Karlstad University and the Gotland College of Higher Education, during 1997. In these courses librarians have participated in the program, together with physicists and teachers. The librarians have acted as links to the library and its resources and shared the experience of subject oriented searching with physicists, teachers and technicians.
5. INTO INFO as a tool for information access and quality control
INTO INFO is however, much more than a teaching tool. Each external hyperlink is selected according to high quality and reliability. Information access is presented in a structured manner, thereby assisting users by reducing the need to remember a series of ad hoc approaches. Students are introduced to the use of critical review articles, the "refereed journal,", and the role of the learned and professional societies in the publishing process. Emphasis is placed on validated information.
INTO INFO can be used by librarians and information specialists in a variety of ways as a reference tool, which can give quick access to relevant subject sources both traditional sources and those that are net based. It provides a useful structured access to selected high quality information resources within a given subject area. In this connection, it can be used by academics as a handy desk top access tool, or by reference librarians in their daily work.
6. Satellite transmission of the programs
Experiments have been carried out by the University of Plymouth to evaluate the feasibility of using satellite technology to permit a library with no direct connection to a terrestrial network to access the Internet and the EDUCATE programs.20 These tests were successful. "The satellite system operated faultlessly throughout the demonstration and responded to the user's commands as if the PC was connected to a conventional terrestrial circuit... No data errors were experienced over the satellite link during the demonstration." The conclusion that can be drawn from these tests are that at any location within a satellite footprint, Internet access can be provided by means of a satellite communication link from a small earth station. This can be provided in the form of standard equipment costing some 320 000 per site. This could provide the means for low cost connection for demonstrating and training to areas with poor terrestrial communications. For example it would be possible to connect to Eastern Europe, South America and Africa in this way. The cost of transmission time on EUTELSAT was 370 per hour. This covers the transmission of data from point to point or point to multi point. It would not however cover the costs for the transmission of broad band images.
7. Spin off projects
The EDUCATE project has, so far, led to three spin off projects :
MEDUCATE a project where a team from three Swedish Medical Libraries: Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Linköping University and Gothenburg University, will produce, together with the technical group at Chalmers University of Technology, a MEDICINE module.21
The Department of Physics at Gothenburg University has requested the production of an ENERGY module for use in a Distance Education project INFOVISION with the University of Karlstad and the Gotland College of Higher Education. INFOVISION has been used as integral part of a credit course on the "Use of Information Sources in Energy and/or Physics." 22
A CHEMISTRY module has been released in June 1997. This work has, in part, been financed by a special grant from the School of Chemical Engineering at Chalmers university.
8. The future
A gradual increase in the use of the INTO INFO programs is planned i.e. a step by step approach. Negotiations and discussions are under way for the provision of mirror sites in Australia and South Africa and for the use of INTO INFO programs in higher education institutions in the United Kingdom.
It would be of great interest to develop Distance Learning courses, partly based on the use of the INTO INFO programs, for Library and Information Specialists. These would, if successful, facilitate the Training of the Trainers in the selection and use of information resources. In the field of networked distance education, it is essential to provide high quality support for the use of networked information and communication resources, and, where possible, to build in opportunities for collaborative learning activities. It is also important to study suitable methods for providing full text documents for the students. It is hoped to be able to find an easy way to link the EDUCATE programs to other locally available information, such as library holdings of various kinds.
A regular comment heard from users is "Why isn't there a module covering my subject?" It would be highly desirable to produce a wide variety of subject modules making use of the basic structure already developed. A project for training in the aerospace field, which would involve the development of an AEROSPACE module, has been submitted under the Telematics Libraries Fourth Framework for such a project.
In addition there has been a suggestion for the improvement of the French and Spanish language versions. This has resulted in a partial revision of these versions. Users also indicate that they would like to have the use of other languages, for example German, Italian, Portuguese and Swedish. In the Final EDUCATE Review it was suggested that "it is highly desirable that EDUCATE includes also information sources in the local languages...The information could be added to EDUCATE in an integrated form (not as a separate language set) and viewed for example by using a flag situated at the end of each page, after the English language sources of the same kind." This solution will be tested in the near future.
You can follow the progress of the EDUCATE project in the EDUCATE Newsletter which is available at the following URL: http://educate.lib.chalmers.se/
If you select the Public access to EDUCATE, you can obtain the Newsletter in three languages and have access to the top hierarchical layers of the programs.
A useful WWW site for Information Literacy Instruction (Focus on Academic and College Education) has been compiled by Paulette Bernhard, University of Montreal, May 1997. This site is produced in both French and English.
The URL is: http://tornade.ere.ca/bernh/AAFD.97/AAFD.index
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