"Over-hyping the Web: Directories, Gateways, Resources, and Higher Education Pedagogy." EdMedia, Denver, June 24-29.
This paper focuses on the adequacy and role of freely
available Web resources in higher education courses, particularly, but not
exclusively, in the social sciences.
In the United Kingdom, the higher educational funding
councils and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) have
channelled extensive funding into creating subject gateways, including
SOSIG (Social Sciences Internet Gateway) and BUBL (Bulletin Board for
Librarians). They continue to fund such programmes.
These, along with other factors, particularly some relating to the
perceived change in the role of librarians in a digital world, a factor
that has application outside the UK as well, particularly respecting the
US academic community, have provided the background to the creation of
general or specialised subject gateways.
A recent report, funded by the JISC, demonstrates that students and
academic staff do not use them extensively.
(JISC User Behaviour Monitoring and Evaluation Framework. First
Annual Report. August 2000)
These subject gateways constitute lists of annotated
resources arranged by topic. The paper will illustrate that many of those
pointed to are of poor quality, and may be regarded as part of a padding
exercise to bulk up the low volume of useful resources available.
In the long run this exercise is unsustainable, as illustrated, for
instance, by the fact that the Scout Report has some time ago
dropped its specialist lists dealing with social science, and business Web
resources. The poor quality of the resources indicated is partly a
function of the poverty of the contributions made by many academic staff.
Many of these take the form of lecture notes and power point presentations
and are a form of Web pollution. They
appear on many lists due to the need to bulk them out, but are hardly
worth the effort of downloading them.
Such resources, which are directed largely at students undertaking
particular courses, would more properly be uploaded on Intranets. Many of
the resource lists maintained by academic staff are themselves
unsustainable, largely due to the input in time necessary to adequately
My conclusions are: (1) the volume of social science Web resources that are pedagogically likely to be found useful by academic staff in the context of teaching, is small, and is likely to continue to be so, for a variety of reasons; (2) pressures on academic staff to create a Web presence with minimal effort, largely because this is additional work that is not funded, has led to the uploading of poor quality resources that are of limited, if any, use; (3) the proliferation of poor quality resources constitutes a major impediment to use of the Web by academic staff and students; (4) concentration of government resources in the UK on the development of subject directories and gateways is not justified by their usage, which, for various reasons, is unlikely to change; (5) given that more than eighty-five percent of requests for pages are directed through search engines, resources should be focused on improving the searching skills of academic staff and students, whilst re-evaluating the role of subject gateways in that context.
Last update 09/03/2002 08:30:50
ęS D Stein