for Digital Library Research, University
of Strathclyde, Glasgow
of Information Science, University of Strathclyde, Livingstone Tower,
26 Richmond Street, Glasgow, UK, G1 1XH
Recent movements towards student-centred resource-based learning in
UK Higher Education have seen increasing use of Communications and Information
Technology for curriculum delivery, with initiatives such as HERON,
Project Phoenix and Eurotext improving the flow of course material and
text to students.
in particular, is proving a popular platform for the publication of
learning and teaching resources, its interactive environment seeing
the arrival of new guides, tutorials and textbooks every week, and students
are increasingly turning to these digital resources as a first port
of call when seeking material to support their studies.
and Nielsen have demonstrated that users' ability to retrieve information
from Web publications can be improved by up to 159% by altering the
on-screen design of the text, and it is probable that the usability
of existing and future electronic books could be much improved by applying
guidelines for best practice in respect of on-screen design based on
a critical examination, and subsequent extension, of their work. With
the People's Network, the National Grid for Learning and the University
for Industry aiming for seamless access to online material, it is timely
to pay attention to the internal design of the resources themselves
so that, once accessed, the required data can be retrieved as quickly
and easily as possible.
will identify and compare the variety of methods which have emerged
in the publication of learning and teaching material on the Web in order
to determine the most effective way of representing information in electronic
books, aiming to maximise usability and information intake by users.
An evaluation of texts by an appropriate mix of key stakeholders including
education professionals from Higher Education and the National Grid
for Learning and students from a range of disciplines and backgrounds
be utilised to develop guidelines for best practice in the publication
of (non-journal) educational material on the Internet. It will also
attempt to obtain access to stand alone e-books to test the applicability
of these Web-based guidelines to other media. This will enable the needs
of an emerging Higher Education community of readers and creators of
digital content to be met more satisfactorily. The work will be done
in conjunction with the University's Digital Information Office which
aims to develop and promote standards in this area, the inter-institutional
Clyde Virtual University project which jointly creates and manages electronic
material across Glasgow, and the National Grid for Learning in Scotland.
benefit the DNER for learning and teaching in the following ways:
identifying user requirements in respect of the usability of electronic
the creation and dissemination of guidelines for best practice in
respect of the creation and design of electronic books;
facilitating the creation of sets of electronic books that all conform
to recognised standards of usability; and
transferring skills and practices developed by the project to resource
creators working in the field.
The project aims to develop a set of recommendations for publishing
educational works on the Web which reflect the needs of academics and
a diversifying population of students throughout the UK. This will be
achieved through an evaluation of texts which are found to be representative
of approaches to the design of learning and teaching material on the
Internet. Styles and techniques which will be evaluated include use
of hypertext, navigation icons and indexes (a more comprehensive list
is provided on page 8).
of the quality of the content of resources, and of the use of audio
and video in Web books will not be within the scope of the project.
important to note that the set of guidelines which emerge from the evaluation
process are not intended to establish a strict uniformity of interface
for all learning and teaching resources on the Web, but rather to encourage
use of those styles and techniques which are found to be most successful
in terms of usability.
The precise objectives of EBONI are:
evaluate the different approaches to the design of learning and teaching
resources on the Web, and to identify which techniques/styles are
most successful in enabling users to retrieve, quickly and easily,
the information they require;
identify and report on the individual requirements of academics, students
and NGfL professionals in learning and teaching on the Web;
compile a set of best practice guidelines for the publication of guides,
tutorials and textbooks on the Internet for the UK Higher Education
bridge the gap between publishers of educational material on the Internet
and those who use it for learning and teaching.
would attempt to illustrate the use of the guidelines by implementing
them in the creation of project outputs, aiming to present the project
Web site in the form of an electronic book applying the guidelines produced.
objectives will be achieved by:
a survey of the range of learning and teaching material available
on the Internet, to identify the different designs and techniques
used for displaying content;
particular guides, tutorials and textbooks which are representative
of the variety of approaches to the electronic publication of such
texts. These will be used as the material for evaluation;
a methodology for evaluating selected guides, tutorials and textbooks.
This will measure both the ease with which users can retrieve the
information they need from the text, and their subjective satisfaction
with the experience of reading the material on the Internet. The two
measures will combine to produce an overall usability score for each
with representative user groups from each discipline and background
to carry through this methodology;
a means of analysing the results of the experiment;
these results to examine the extent to which students from different
disciplines and backgrounds have separate requirements for the electronic
delivery of learning and teaching resources, and identifying mechanisms
for improving the usability of such material;
companies such as NuvoMedia and SoftBook Press to obtain copies of
project results within and beyond the UK Higher Education community;
a Web site to support the programme, describing its background and
purpose, methodology and project results and containing relevant publications;
ways in which best practice guidelines can be implemented on new and
The project requires two members of staff for the 18 months of the project,
one an experienced researcher with extensive subject knowledge to act
as Project Manager, the other a suitably qualified LIS professional
to act as Research Assistant.
Manager (.2) would supervise project definition and progress, advise
on developing a methodology and conducting relevant research, supervise
the Research Assistant, advise on data analyses and dissemination, and
edit reports, papers and guidelines.
would be filled by Monica Landoni, a lecturer in the Department
of Information Science, Strathclyde University. She has completed a
PhD on the role of the paper book metaphor in electronic book design,
has several years' research experience in projects related to IR and
electronic publishing including STAMP and MultiBrowser and her special
interests include digital books and libraries and interface design and
Assistant (1.0 FTE) would research literature, devise, document
and refine procedures, recruit subjects, conduct surveys and user evaluation,
analyse data, write project reports, articles, guidelines and Web pages,
and carry out dissemination activities.
would be filled by Ruth Wilson who has recently been awarded
an MSc in Information and Library Studies from Strathclyde University.
This involved several months' research into the importance of appearance
in the design of Web books.
Information Office (DIO): The Office aims to create a metadata
repository and associated Web-based service interface for the University's
electronic resources and will develop standards associated with the
creation, description, storage, organisation, maintenance, security
and copyright of digital information.
Virtual University (CVU): Joint venture to develop and deliver
Internet-based teaching materials to students at five institutions
in the West of Scotland. CVU brings together custom-built tools and
materials such as online assessment and automated marking and a state
of the art virtual library in a unique infrastructure for the provision
of education over the Internet.
Grid for Learning (NGfL): The NGfL is the national focal point
for learning on the Internet, collecting resources brought together
by the UK Government to help raise standards in education and to support
lifelong learning. It aims to accommodate the needs of learners in
all sectors of education, both formal and informal.
for Digital Library Research (CDLR): Brings together long-standing
University research interests in the digital information area previously
spread across two University departments. Managed jointly by the University's
Directorate of Information Strategy and Department of Information
Science, the CDLR seeks to combine theory with practice in innovative
ways with the aim of being a centre of excellence on digital library
issues ranging from information policy and information retrieval to
document storage technologies and standards.
An HTML editor suitable for publishing questionnaires online will be
The Research Assistant will require a PC and appropriate software.
Relevant standards from the Open eBook Publication Structure, 1.0, September
1999 will be applied to the methodology. In all other respects the Project
Team would follow the eLib Standards Guidelines.
Date and Length
The project will take 18 months to complete. Staff have been identified
who can begin work immediately, thus ensuring an immediate start to
The Project Team, comprising the Project Manager and the Research Assistant,
will be responsible for the day to day management and will normally
meet weekly. The Project Management Committee will comprise the Project
Team together with a member of non-Strathclyde staff from the Clyde
Virtual University .
Steering Group will also be set up and will meet at the start of the
project and then at quarterly intervals. This will comprise a broad
but appropriate mix of librarians, students, representatives from the
book industry, researchers in digital information retrieval and HCI
and psychologists. The following people have shown an interest in EBONI
and have agreed to join the Steering Group:
McKnight: Professor of Information Studies, Loughborough University.
Cliff's teaching interests include hypermedia and digital libraries
and he has published widely on the usability of electronic journals
and user centred design of hypertext for education. He is Senior Editor
of the Journal of Digital Information. Email: C.McKnight@lboro.ac.uk
Mayes: Head of Academic Information Services, University of Teeside.
Paul is heading a project to monitor developments in both on-demand
publishing and e-books with the aim of establishing a regional centre
for good practice. Email: Paul.Mayes@tees.ac.uk
Anderson: Lecturer, Centre for Research into Interactive Learning,
University of Strathclyde. His research interests include computer-based
learning, collaborative learning and hypertext, and the effect of
software style on interaction around the computer. Email: Tony.Anderson@strath.ac.uk
Anderson: Managing Director, John Smith & Son Bookshops. Willie
is interested in the early setting of standards for electronic books
from a commercial perspective. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Keen: Lesley founded Scotlandís first multimedia company in 1991,
which developed a range of interactive childrenís books on CD-ROM
for publishers including Oxford University Press and Dorling Kindersley.
Her current work involves developing content for the Internet using
dynamic server technologies. Lesley is an Honorary Research Fellow
of the Computing Science Department of Glasgow University. Email:
Shiratuddin: Shuhada is studing for a PhD in ebook models and
prototypes for smart school environments at the Department of Information
Science, University of Strathclyde, prior to which she lectured at
the Department of Information Technology, Universiti Utara Malaysia.
Her research interests focus on the development of multimedia applications
specifically for training and learning. Email: email@example.com
Burton: Course Coordinator, Department of Information Science,
University of Strathclyde has assured his assistance in finding student
representatives from the Postgraduate ILS course for both years of
the project. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
we will ask the DNER to nominate someone to represent them on the Steering
Group and will work closely with this person to identify suitable members
from new and exciting electronic book related projects.
set up: completed detailed project plan and Web site in place.
Steering Group in place
survey of the range of HE material available on the Internet complete
texts selected for use as material for the experiment
for evaluating selected texts developed
scale evaluation of key texts by each user group complete
of data complete and mechanisms identified for improving usability
Best practice guidelines for publishing learning and teaching
material on the Web collated on the Web collated
for implementation of these guidelines complete
disseminated within and beyond the UK HE community
closedown activities complete and exit strategy implemented
Progress against agreed milestones will be reviewed by the Management
Committee on an ongoing basis. Other Terms of Reference for the Committee
monitor quality in respect of meeting project objectives, and completing
the evaluation process;
ensure appropriate use of JISC funded resources and value for money
to the community; and
ensure project developments are reported to JISC.
an internal mailing list for the Management Committee, and a wider list
encompassing the Steering Group, would be set up enabling information
and discussion about the project to reach all those involved on a more
The methodology employed to achieve the project's objectives will involve
four main phases:
1. Selection of material
Conduction of a survey of the range of teaching material available on
the Internet, identifying, classifying and finally selecting resources
according to use of techniques such as:
mechanisms (for searching within the text);
features of HTML such as frames, tables, coloured text and lists.
- by subject
In addition, the Web books to be evaluated will cover a number of subjects
and students from each area will be sought to participate in their evaluation.
The Project Team would look at a range of schemes for classifying resources,
including the DNER collection policy and divisions of subjects within
the RDN, to draw out a list of disciplines to be represented.
2. Selection of participants
It is anticipated that 80-100 paid subjects will be used to evaluate
these texts, mainly drawn from the HE population at the three universities
in Glasgow. They will be students in each of the subjects selected in
Phase 1 as well as:
professionals including lecturers and tutors;
students and distance and part-time learners.
All users will be involved in both quantitative and qualitative aspects
of the experiment:
feedback will be sought by asking users to search selected material
for specific information and to participate in memory tasks. Success
in answering questions correctly, time taken to complete tasks, ability
to recall information and (depending on facilities available) covert
observation of users' behaviour will be taken into account in interpreting
this feedback; and
feedback will be sought via questionnaires and interviews immediately
following the quantitative phase, and will aim to record users' subjective
satisfaction with the experience of reading the material.
4. Measurement of results
Both quantitative and qualitative feedback from tasks, questionnaires
and interviews will be analysed to determine the overall usability of
each text, and this analysis will form the basis of the guidelines for
the design of learning and teaching material on the Internet.
also be analysed on a comparative basis, to identify differences between
the needs of the representative user groups participating in the experiment.
As illustrated in Phase 3 above, the needs of the whole UK HE community
will be actively considered at every stage of the project and will be
fundamental to the evaluation procedure.
the advice of the Steering Group, which will provide subject expertise,
will continually be fed into the development of the project, from the
design of the methodology to analysis of the results. This will include
suggestions or comments by student representatives from Strathclyde's
Department of Information Science.
process of dissemination will aim to maximise awareness among creators
of learning and teaching material and producers of digital resources
and will include the following media:
- a Web
site would describe the project and its methodology, explain key developments
as they occur and contain relevant publications. Best practice guidelines
would be applied to the site once completed, to illustrate how they
might be implemented. The site would incorporate a feedback mechanism
whereby users could get in touch with enquiries or suggestions;
mailing lists would be emailed on a regular basis with key developments;
reports would be sent to relevant organisations;
- a series
of workshops would be designed to teach resource creators how to apply
would be periodically produced for submission to the appropriate professional
items would be submitted periodically to journals used by publishers
of learning and teaching material and producers of digital information;
groups participating in the evaluation process would be informed of
project results via email;
- a final
report listing recommendations and guidelines would be sent to relevant
organisations, targeting publishers of electronic material, similar
or related programmes, libraries and museums involved in digitising
collections and interested parties in the HE community in general;
would be given to collaborative dissemination with similar projects
to maximise awareness and reduce dissemination costs.
will work closely with the DNER in integrating its dissemination strategy
with the appropriate DNER mechanisms.
The Web site describing EBONI and containing the best practice guidelines
which emerge from the project would be maintained by Strathclyde's Digital
Information Assistant whose role is to manage electronic resources created
within the University and to integrate local services with the Glasgow
Digital Library, CAIRNS and aspects of SCONE (other CDLR projects).
EBONI: Electronic Books ON-screen Interface