Jones, Richard and Beckett, David and Fincher, Sally
Meeting Diverse User Needs: Implementation of a Departmental Information Strategy.
In: Franklin, S.D. and Strenski, E., eds.
Building University Electronic Educational Environments.
IFIP Advances in Information and Communication Technology, 38.
Any higher education department must provide a variety of information to several disparate audiences, recognising their diverse needs. Student expectations of learning support structures, institutional needs for quality assurance and enhancement and the demands of accountability from funding agencies continue to grow. The widespread use of IT, both at home and in schools, has led students to expect a rich networked computing environment; the widened pattern of access to higher education has simultaneously increased the level of support needed and limited access to the campus for many of them. Managing these challenges and changes demands flexibility and auditability: we must be able both to respond to new demands and opportunities and also to account for our actions. At the same time, government-imposed efficiency gains [sic] reduce the resources available to implement change. Technology can provide the mechanism to meet these information needs, educational challenges and to manage changing social and political demands. In this paper we offer pointers abstracted and generalised from our experience for organisational change in similar environments. We explain the development of a large web-based information system (CSWeb) at the Department of Computer Science at the University of Kent at Canterbury designed to meet these challenges. Our goal has been not only to improve our site but also to embed it at the heart of the department's culture. We describe the technical innovations required to manage this large-scale site and that permit the flexibility needed to respond to change. Finally we suggest measures by which the success of enterprises of this kind may be measured. We analyse quantitative data that not only includes page hit counts but also reports users' patterns of activity through the site. Staff acceptance of the system is also measured by the degree to which they have provided further content to the site. Evidence of changes in student and staff expectations, behaviour and study patterns is presented.
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