SWIM -Streaming web-based information modules

The vision of SWIM

The vision behind the SWIM project is to develop a web-based multimedia programme that furthers the development of students' information literacy skills. The programme is designed as a contextually relevant, interactive tutorial, which is divided into well-defined modules and integrated in various web environments relevant to library users and teaching environments.

The objective of SWIM

The project objective is to support students in the acquisition of information literacy skills, particularly when using web-based information resources supported by Denmark's Electronic Research Library. The SWIM group will develop an easy to use tutorial consisting of modules that relate to relevant information resources, thus offering the user the possibility of just-in-time learning when using e.g. a specific database. Another objective is to secure the integration and use of those information resources and facilities that can be accessed through the research libraries in the teaching environments of the various educational institutions.

Background

In recent years, it has become both easier and more difficult for students to find their way around the research libraries. Today, the majority of library services can be accessed through the Internet. However, in order to get a satisfactory result, one has to have a certain amount of knowledge regarding information retrieval and the structuring of information. The libraries try to pass on this information to new students through library introductions, consisting of e.g. tours and introductions to the library's own catalogue. However, these library introductions can be problematic. Most importantly, they are of a more general introductory nature, without any reference to specific professional ways of presenting the problem(s). As many students look towards a specific professional way of presenting a problem, rather than towards the acquisition of library skills, this does not make much sense. Furthermore, the library introductions are costly in terms of staff and working-hours, and these resources may be put to better use elsewhere - e.g. assisting students writing term papers, or students at thesis level.

In 1999, Aalborg University Library launched the MILE project. MILE aimed at developing a multimedia programme, with an innovative design, consisting of a tutorial divided into modules that could be used independently. The modules were heterogeneous and were constructed with an eye towards testing various methods of instruction, such as animated demonstrations, various types of exercises, narrative and interactive film sequences, as well as testing different types of multimedia effects such as music and speaks. Results from the pilot study showed that the idea of an interactive multimedia programme seemed especially appealing to the target group (the students).

MILE takes into consideration that library users differ in terms of learning styles and pace, and as such is designed as a just-in-time tutorial, which the user can concentrate upon, when he/she has the time. Thus, the programme takes the need of the individual user as its point of departure.

Product development

SWIM begins where MILE left off in developing a tutorial, which to an even greater extent integrates the formation of information literacy in the student's information retrieval process. The modules from the MILE project are to be further developed and structured in shorter sequences. Furthermore, the visual idiom of the modules has to be reconsidered in order to make the modules more homogeneous. Then the modules can be placed, according to contextual relevance, in connection with information resources that are accessible from the research libraries' web sites.

The SWIM modules are based on streaming-server technology, which gives the user direct, quick access to video-sequences, as well as other multimedia elements, via the Internet. Accessibility via the Internet gives the user the advantage of a decentralised access, as well as the possibility of interaction and direct links to relevant information resources.

As the active engagement of the individual user is a critical factor in the formation of information literacy skills, the SWIM group aims at developing a coherent visual idiom. One of the key features of the MILE project that needs refinement, is the use of video recordings with a professional actor. However, in order to engage the user fully in the development of his/her skills, the entire form and content of the programme, as well as its narrative structure, must be further developed and refined. In the end, the user should be able to combine the different modules thereby creating a personal tutorial that fits his/her needs at any given time.

The development of the SWIM product involves purchase of assistance from external consultants for multimedia design and development in general, as well as for further development of the existing multimedia skills at Aalborg University Library.

Project organisation

Aalborg University Library is in charge of the SWIM project and its development, but works in collaboration with the Aarhus School of Business Library, The Royal Library and Roskilde University Library that function as user test environments. The project organisation can be described as follows: the SWIM group at Aalborg University Library makes the necessary pilot studies, works on product and method development and gathers experiences from the test environments for further development. It organises the collaborative work during the project period and takes care that the project partners have insight into/can comment on relevant material such as: emails, reports, working papers etc. Furthermore, it organises two project seminars for those involved and a conference at the end of the project period.

A key feature of the product development process is the involvement of students from Aalborg University for user testing. Experiences gathered from these tests will be used in the development of the individual modules. Then follows the implementation of the modules in the actual user test environments at the Aarhus School of Business Library, the Royal Library and Roskilde University Library. The modules are to be evaluated by students from the user test environments through user tests developed by Aalborg University Library. A final evaluation of all the user tests is carried out by Aalborg University Library, and is incorporated into the development of the product as it moves into its second phase.

As the work on the product progresses, the main attention will be on the functionality of the modules, the level and quality of information, as well as on certain educational aspects e.g. finding out which agents, pedagogical strategies and types of communication that further the integration of information literacy skills in the learning process, and why?

Project partners

The project partners of the SWIM group are:
· The Aarhus School of Business Library
· The Royal Library
· Roskilde University Library

Network

In order to render the project visible, secure exposure, and further the exchange of knowledge and interplay with other projects, the SWIM group has formed a number of attachments to centres and institutions both within and outside Aalborg University. The type of attachment depends on the characteristics of the individual network partner. However, it will primarily involve sparring and the exchange of experiences in connection with specific problems relating to the themes listed below. The plan for the network collaboration is structured in themes. This enables the SWIM group to draw on the experiences of each network partner as well as on the synergy arising from the simultaneous presentation of a problem to a number of partners belonging to the same theme group, and extract knowledge and experiences from the discussion that follows. Discussions between the network partners can be organised physically as well as virtually.

The network themes are:

Learning and problem-based learning
E-learning Lab Nordlylland
Learning Lab Aarhus
Learning Lab Denmark
The Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Learning (VCL), Aalborg University
Virtual Learning Environments and Learning Methods (The VILL project)
Department of Communication, Aalborg University

Learning and IT
E-learning Lab Nordjylland
Learning Lab Aarhus
Learning Lab Denmark
The Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Learning (VCL), Aalborg University
Virtual Learning Environments and Learning Methods (The VILL project)
VR Centre North, Aalborg University
IT Innovation, Aalborg University

Technology

IT Innovation, Aalborg University
Institute of Electronic Systems, Aalborg University
VR Centre North, Aalborg University

Target group

The product must be usable to a broad circle of students in higher education, including distance learners. The indirect target group is the universities' teaching environments, in connection with curriculum planning and other activities that further the integration of information literacy in the learning process. Furthermore, the target group also includes a number of different users in various web environments e.g. The Virtual University of Denmark (DVUNI) and those involved in Denmark's Electronic Research Library.

Expected results

· A web-based tutorial that is stored and distributed via a streaming server at Aalborg University, and that is accessible from the homepages of four research libraries. Parts of this tutorial will be accessible following the projects first phase, and further extended during its second phase. It will be accessible for linking and use from other web environments.

· Integration of SWIM modules in the libraries' web sites.

· Know-how regarding the evaluation of tools on the basis of user tests.

· Better use of DEF-supported licence packages among students.

· Better projects and better equipped candidates with more information literacy skills.

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