Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Monday, 28 September 2009
- Moulding the tool or the environment around the user,
- Making the users experience unique
- Giving users the ability to share and comment
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Monday, 14 September 2009
Friday, 11 September 2009
These days in this part of the world people are increasingly used to information technology in one form or another, whichever generation they belong to. Computers are used almost everywhere, not least in the College. However, while members of staff might be comfortable with their use, the same might not be said of our students – and there will even be times when we ourselves are tripped up by bad software design.
The College Library uses OCLC’s OLIB to support our catalogue, and up until recently the Library catalogue’s front-end for customers, OLIB Webview, was set up to search for items in a different way to the staff front-end. From our side, it was possible to bring back different results owing to the set defaults on Webview. When a customer attempted a search by keyword, the search options were set to ‘Exact phrase’ and ‘All exact or similar words’. These defaults made sure that only minimal results were returned and worked against the point of a keyword search…
It was always possible to change those settings for each search – taking the ticks out of the boxes each time – but this change would have to be made each and every time someone wanted to search. This might not be such a problem the first time, but having to repeat the procedure every time challenges people’s memory and works against the intuitive meaning of a keyword search – especially as the staff front-end had no such settings by default.
The problem came to our attention when a student had been assisted by a member of staff at a counter, and was asked to repeat a search on their own to see for themselves how useful the results were. Fortunately we have an Information Services team who are able to tweak our catalogue settings, and a quick e-mail to them had the default settings changed to ‘Any word of similar word’, returning the keyword search to a more useful tool. One result was replaced by a lot more!
One thing we can learn from this is that small changes can have big results – in this case making the useless useful. Part of designing front-ends – whether web-sites or software – is making sure they work for the users rather then against them, and if it is in our power to help make our services as intuitive as we can, we should. Another thing is that non-specialist staff (my own job being Library Advisor) have a role to play in helping to keep our own systems working as our own customers would wish.
"The judges felt that Impact’s work on the South East Essex College was an example of a highly innovative solution in an education environment. Students at the Student Skills Kitchen and professional Ora Kitchen are able to access practical lessons on cookery and hospitality techniques, thanks to an advanced recording system controlled by a Crestron system.
One of our students recently made a suggestion for our online services.
They suggested that we advertise information about current research projects on the student intranet pages. This would encourage participation of other students, and provide a great way of sharing ideas and good practice amongst the students themselves.
It sounds like a great idea to us, and its likely we'll be implementing it soon.
After a recent discussion with one of our Business tutors another application for the SharePoint Blog template suddenly sprung to mind.
The tutor wanted a way to capture his students’ ideas on a particular topic, display them anonymously in real time on a screen in front of the group and then be able to comment on each as a way to stimulate debate and discussion with the class as a whole. The inspiration for this had sprung from a session the tutor had attending at the University of Essex iLab, a costly, high tech, purpose built environment for electronically facilitating creative thinking and problem solving online.
How would we create this in the class room using nothing more than the student PCs, the tutor’s laptop and a large LCD screen? Easy, we set up a blog in SharePoint!
The tutor connected his laptop to the LCD screen and accessed the blog I had created for him through SharePoint. He posted his first topic to the blog and then asked his group, sitting in front of their PCs to access the same page. The group was then encouraged to post their responses/comments to the topic the tutor had posted. All comments were set to be anonymous so that no one felt anxious that their response might be ‘wrong’ or their ideas judged unfairly. The tutor could then refresh the screen at the front of the class as the ideas ‘rained’ in and comment on them.
Essentially, we had created a simple way to electronically capture the students’ thought showering process.
Indeed, the tutor had found that by using traditional question and answer techniques it would generally be the same students answering his questions while other less vocal students or those of a shyer disposition rarely participated. Using the blog as a way to anonymously capture the students’ ideas gave the whole group the confidence to express themselves without the fear of speaking in front of the whole group or feeling the anxiety of saying the ‘right’ thing.
Simple…but effective and at a fraction of the cost of the iLab!