Volume 9, Number 6: February
Like Catching Waves Upon the Sand: The Challenges of Designing for the Web
by Pamela O'Donnell
Graduate Student, Department of Communication Arts, UW-Madison
2000, Phyllis Holman Weisbard, the UW System Women's Studies Librarian
and Distinguished Academic Librarian, and Helen Klebesadel, Director
of the UW System's Women's Studies Consortium, received a grant from
the Institute for Global Studies to create self-paced, "point-of-use"
tutorials for students in global and/or women's studies, as well as
fields, to learn concepts and strategies for finding quality information
in a web environment. Helen asked me, then her assistant, to work with
Phyllis on the project. Over two years later, the process of designing,
testing, and implementing four tutorial modules is finally nearing completion.
In that time databases have been redesigned, screen captures have become
obsolete, and entire examples have disappeared, all of which point to
the challenges of trying to pin down an entity as amorphous as the World
four tutorials cover a range of topics and reinforce a number of concepts
central to library instruction. The first module introduces users to
the logic of Boolean searches and concepts such as proximity, truncation,
synonyms, etc. Phyllis chose to analyze LEXIS-NEXIS Academic and
Solutions, a huge fulltext database of newspapers, magazines, and more,
because included within it is material from Contemporary Women's
Issues. This international fulltext database contains articles from
women-focused magazines, newsletters, and journals, as well as reports
and pamphlets from governments and organizations. Oddly enough, it is
accessed via the "Business News" category in LEXIS-NEXIS and
students using the tutorial find a step-by-step guide to successfully
retrieving this material.
The third module introduces users to GenderWatch, another fulltext database which indexes articles from women or gender-focused newsletters, magazines, and journals. It also includes a selection of conference proceedings, books, and reports from governments and organizations, which are useful to students interested in transnational or global issues. The module helps students identity the type of content retrieved (be it a community newsletter, academic journal, or political manifesto), delineates basic and advanced search strategies, and describes various features unique to GenderWatch.
throughout the modules are Coursebuilder "interactions." Coursebuilder,
a software component designed by Macromedia to complement Dreamweaver,
creates multiple choice and true/false quiz questions. We included a
number of quiz elements in the tutorials to ensure that students are
following the points being made, to reinforce their understanding of
the research process, and to maintain their interest. In a number of
instances we used humor to strengthen the student's retention of key
The answer, of course, is
"b" and when the student chooses the correct response, a pop-up
window appears saying, "Just because the paper is a student effort
doesn't mean that it can't be useful. Be certain to check the footnotes
or list of works consulted to see if there are any additional sources
that you could use." If the user answers incorrectly, a different
pop-up appears which emphatically states, "No, you can still evaluate
the paper and check its sources. What you can NEVER, EVER do is plagiarize
someone else's intellectual effort."
As the project nears completion, we remain convinced that the Internet, as a teaching tool, has unlimited potential, and we hope that students and professors across the UW System will find the tutorials valuable and beneficial resources. The tutorials can be accessed through the homepage of the Women's Studies Librarian, http://www.library.wisc.edu/libraries/WomensStudies/ or directly at http://www.library.wisc.edu/projects/ggfws/iwitutorials/iwiindex.htm. Although creating learning objects for the Internet can be a challenge, particularly when interfaces change overnight and material disappears without a trace, these trials can be successfully met with vigilance, flexibility, and a sense of humor.