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Authoring and Design for the WWW


Uses of the Web and the nature of HEI information

There is controversy about the nature of the Web: whether it is best considered as publishing, broadcasting or electronic conversation. Not only is the technology of the Web adaptable to many different scales and kinds of publishing', it enables us to recognise that types of information which we used to see as discrete can in fact be considered together in an overarching approach to educational information.

It is important to consider the pedagogic implications of any information strategy chosen: we should not consider documentation as though it were separate from the overall educational aims of the HEI. For example, documents should encourage skills of research in the students, not undermine them.

It is increasingly realised that the Web is useful for internal publishing, as much as for publishing to the outside world. The word Intranet has been coined for this type of use. This handbook gives as much weight to these uses as it does to the Web as international publishing mechanism.

HEI Web sites now

HEIs are rapidly developing and expanding their informational structures to include the World Wide Web. These informational structures reflect both the structure of the HEIs and their attitude towards the distribution and dissemination of information.

In many way Higher Education might be expected to hesitate in adopting this new medium and to wait until issues such as security, copyright and editorial control have clear precedents. Yet a brief review of HEI web sites reveals a culture of innovation in which the providers are beginning to explore the boundaries of the medium.

Current practice is divided between institutional information and academic information.

Common elements in many HE sites are

Public Relations

Campus wide information

Student Services


HEIs have complex information structures in which the needs of management, administration, student and academic groups are diverse and interdependent. Uses of the Web have so far tended to be piecemeal, to - perpetuate unquestioningly existing genres of information, their styles of writing and design, who contributes to them and in what ways.

Inherited discrete information types include paper prospectuses and course handbooks, library catalogues, publicity materials, computerised module catalogues, internal administrative documents such as records of meetings, and so on.

However, many kinds of information which HEIs provide can be made to converge with the help of Web technology. Electronic methods have a great deal to offer as a means of making coherent documents out of disparate parts. Information can be presented as a unified body to the reader, even though it comprises elements stored at various locations HEI information in HEI documents, faculty information in faculty documents, and so forth. This approach is explained more fully below (Transparent connections, p13).

Thorough overhaul is required of the information strategy (if any) of most HEIs. Such an overhaul may be facilitated by a change of technology and offers a valuable opportunity to rethink the modes of authoring and the styles of address of such documents, bearing in mind changes in attitude to learning and to students, and the nature of the HEI of the future.

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