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Project staff, Management and Steering Group details
Overview of the project
Documents main page Catalogue of online learning and teaching resources
Methodology and experiments
Links to electronic book-related resources

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Proposal

 

JISC Circular 5/99: Developing the DNER for Learning and Teaching

 

 

EBONI

 

Electronic Books On-screeN Interface

 

 

Contents

 

Introduction

Scope and Purpose

Objectives

Implementation

Staffing Requirements
Other Participants
Software
Hardware
Standards


Project Development

Start Date and length
Project Management Arrangements
Milestones
Review Mechanisms
Methodology
Evaluation
Dissemination
Exit Strategy

 

Lead institution

Centre for Digital Library Research, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

 

Contact Details

Manager: Monica Landoni
Address: Department of Information Science, University of Strathclyde, Livingstone Tower, 26 Richmond Street, Glasgow, UK, G1 1XH
Tel: 0141 548 4949
Fax: 0141 553 1393
Email: monica@dis.strath.ac.uk

 

 

Introduction
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.

The Internet, 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.

Morkes 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.

EBONI 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.

EBONI will benefit the DNER for learning and teaching in the following ways:

  • by identifying user requirements in respect of the usability of electronic books;
  • through the creation and dissemination of guidelines for best practice in respect of the creation and design of electronic books;
  • by facilitating the creation of sets of electronic books that all conform to recognised standards of usability; and
  • by transferring skills and practices developed by the project to resource creators working in the field.

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Scope and Purpose
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).

Evaluation 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.

It is 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.

Objectives
The precise objectives of EBONI are:

  • to 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;
  • to identify and report on the individual requirements of academics, students and NGfL professionals in learning and teaching on the Web;
  • to compile a set of best practice guidelines for the publication of guides, tutorials and textbooks on the Internet for the UK Higher Education community; and
  • to bridge the gap between publishers of educational material on the Internet and those who use it for learning and teaching.

The project 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.

The above objectives will be achieved by:

  • conducting 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;
  • selecting 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;
  • developing 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 text;
  • working with representative user groups from each discipline and background to carry through this methodology;
  • developing a means of analysing the results of the experiment;
  • using 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;
  • contacting companies such as NuvoMedia and SoftBook Press to obtain copies of portable e-books;
  • disseminating project results within and beyond the UK Higher Education community;
  • developing a Web site to support the programme, describing its background and purpose, methodology and project results and containing relevant publications; and
  • investigating ways in which best practice guidelines can be implemented on new and existing texts.

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Implementation


Staffing Requirements

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.

The Project 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.

This position 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 evaluation.

The Research 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.

This position 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.

Other Participants

  • Digital 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.
  • Clyde 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.
  • National 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.
  • Centre 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.

Software
An HTML editor suitable for publishing questionnaires online will be required.

Hardware
The Research Assistant will require a PC and appropriate software.

Standards
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.

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Project Development


Start 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.

Project Management Arrangements
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 .

A Project 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:

  • Cliff 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
  • Paul 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
  • Tony 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
  • Willie Anderson: Managing Director, John Smith & Son Bookshops. Willie is interested in the early setting of standards for electronic books from a commercial perspective. Email:wtca@johnsmith.co.uk
  • Lesley 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: lesley@totaltrance.com
  • Norshuhada 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: shuhada@dis.strath.ac.uk
  • Paul 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: paul@dis.strath.ac.uk

In addition, 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.

Milestones

By Month Milestone
1 Project set up: completed detailed project plan and Web site in place. Steering Group in place
3 Initial survey of the range of HE material available on the Internet complete
4 Key texts selected for use as material for the experiment
6 Methodology for evaluating selected texts developed
11 Large scale evaluation of key texts by each user group complete
13 Analysis of data complete and mechanisms identified for improving usability
15 Best practice guidelines for publishing learning and teaching material on the Web collated on the Web collated
16 Recommendations for implementation of these guidelines complete
17 Guidelines disseminated within and beyond the UK HE community
18 Project closedown activities complete and exit strategy implemented

Review Mechanisms
Progress against agreed milestones will be reviewed by the Management Committee on an ongoing basis. Other Terms of Reference for the Committee will be:

  • to monitor quality in respect of meeting project objectives, and completing the evaluation process;
  • to ensure appropriate use of JISC funded resources and value for money to the community; and
  • to ensure project developments are reported to JISC.

In addition, 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 frequent basis.

Methodology
The methodology employed to achieve the project's objectives will involve four main phases:

Phase 1. Selection of material
- by design
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:

  • hypertext;
  • tables of contents;
  • navigation icons;
  • search mechanisms (for searching within the text);
  • indexes;
  • graphics; and
  • specific 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.

Phase 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:

  • education professionals including lecturers and tutors;
  • professionals from NGfL;
  • undergraduates;
  • postgraduates; and
  • mature students and distance and part-time learners.

Phase Three. Procedure
All users will be involved in both quantitative and qualitative aspects of the experiment:

  • quantitative 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
  • qualitative 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.

Phase 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.

Data will also be analysed on a comparative basis, to identify differences between the needs of the representative user groups participating in the experiment.

Evaluation
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.

In addition, 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.

Dissemination
The 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;
  • appropriate mailing lists would be emailed on a regular basis with key developments;
  • progress reports would be sent to relevant organisations;
  • a series of workshops would be designed to teach resource creators how to apply the guidelines;
  • papers would be periodically produced for submission to the appropriate professional literature;
  • news items would be submitted periodically to journals used by publishers of learning and teaching material and producers of digital information;
  • user 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; and
  • consideration would be given to collaborative dissemination with similar projects to maximise awareness and reduce dissemination costs.

The project will work closely with the DNER in integrating its dissemination strategy with the appropriate DNER mechanisms.

Exit Strategy
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).

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EBONI home pageProject staff, Management and Steering Group detailsOverview of the projectDocuments main pageCatalogue of online learning and teaching resourcesMethodology and experimentsLinks to electronic book-related resources

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