INFO-ONE International is a company involved in electronic publishing. Prior to 1988 the company was called CLIRS (Computerised Legal Information Retrieval Systems), and provided online legal databases. INFO-ONE still maintains a number of databases (the majority being of a legal nature) but has diversified into other online services as well as other forms of electronic publication, particularly optical storage.
The online databases are divided into pacs. There is Lawpac (legal), Landpac (NSW Land Titles and conveyancing), Busipac (business and tax), Finpac (financial), Geopac (mineral resources), Mediapac (directory of performers and shot library) and Worldpac (providing gateways to several international databases). The majority of clients subscribe to Lawpac.
The training program that formed the basis of this present work relates to the Lawpac Introductory course which is regularly presented on a face to face basis. The training program receives excellent feedback from its participants, both in the short term and in the longer term. Questions asked through the Help Desk and other data gained less officially indicated to the trainer that users of the system, especially if they were irregular users, needed some way of refreshing the content of the introductory training course.
Lawpac uses the STATUS software, produced in the UK specifically for database applications. Some Lawpac databases are available as CD-ROM products. CD-ROM technology is an efficient and cost effective method of information retrieval, but it is still a new technology, and until it becomes widespread the online system will continue to be used extensively. Even for people using CD-ROM technology, it is necessary to be familiar with online systems because unreported judgments are not available on CD-ROM and they are updated regularly on the system. There are also many secondary databases which are updated regularly that are only available online. Thus, the online system is complementary to CD-ROM technology.
There is a wide range of users of Lawpac. Large law firms have their own legal librarians who search on behalf of the partners, solicitors in government departments either have librarians to conduct their research, or they do it themselves, there are many barristers who conduct their own research and of course there are smaller legal practices where the end user of the information actually carries out the search.
In order to assist clients to use the online services effectively and efficiently, several training courses are offered. The most popular is the Introductory Course which deals with the basic STATUS commands and techniques needed to search the databases. Courses are offered in all capital cities and most users are able to attend one of these. However there is a problem with users who live outside the metropolitan area who find it difficult to attend. Barristers in the CBD also have trouble attending courses at set times because of the nature of their work, when they can often have to attend court at short notice. Special after hours training in their chambers can be arranged, but it may be to their advantage to have access to disk based training. Because of this, it was decided to produce a computer based training package which could be sold to country users, to subscribers who wish training in this form and as an optional backup for clients who attended courses.
Many of the users of these particular legal databases have Macintosh computers in their offices. The widespread availability and simplicity of use of HyperCard software, together with this computer access, provided a good combination on which to base a training package.
CBT must take into account three fundamentals of effective learning. Firstly, the learners must be active, so there should be frequent questions and problems testing understandings at successive stages of learning. Secondly, the learners should be able to check the correctness and relevance of their responses to questions and solutions to problems. Thirdly, the scheme of learning should be arranged so that solutions to questions, calculations, discriminations and other problem solving activities, tend towards correctness or mastery (Dean and Whitlock, 1989).
CBT offers advantages over training in print form in three areas:
Since 1983, students at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, were offered a course on legal information systems. In this course students were introduced to the command language of a frequently used legal database (Kluwer Datalex). This database contains the full text of twenty three Law journals. Search assignments were completed manually, after which students could try out their searches online. Search costs, however, restricted these sessions to fifteen minutes per student. In addition, the database was not always 'up'. These factors resulted in students frequently being unable to complete their searches in the allotted time nor did they have the chance to learn from their mistakes.
A computer based instruction and practice program was developed by the Law School faculty to provide the students with a low cost alternative for the online database. In this program, students were allowed to obtain hands on experience with online information. In preparation for this program, students learned to search for information in the library and then given five legal cases to solve by searching for relevant information in the library.
After some general information about computers, students entered the instructional phase of the computer based program. This phase lasted two hours and introduced the students to the command language, search strategies and general aspects of database search. In the practice phase, also lasting two hours, students were given the same five cases to solve by means of an emulated database. It was implemented on a microcomputer and was accessible through a program emulating the interface of the real database.
Earlier studies had shown that computer based tutorials have been demonstrated to be more effective than their traditional counterparts: more was learnt in less time. Van Beek et al. (1989) assumed that the quality of online searching could be measured by two sets of indicators: command language mastery level and search performance. Command language mastery referred to the proficiency of using the command language (irrespective of the results). Search performance referred to the amount of total relevant information that was retrieved (recall), the amount of total retrieved information that was relevant (precision) and the time on task.
The tutorial part of the computer based program was intended as a replacement for the former introduction to online searching which consisted of some lectures and students reading the database manual. The emulation part of the program replaced the manual search assignments and the fifteen minute practice session.
Van Beek et al. (1989) formed three hypotheses:
The researchers found subjects receiving computer based instruction out performed their traditionally instructed peers in terms of recall (relating to the fraction of relevant documents that were found) and in terms of efficiency and speed of using the command language. However, no difference was apparent between these two groups regarding precision (relating to the fraction of found documents that were relevant), nor regarding time on task.
They conclude that this research provided evidence for the usefulness of computer based tutorials for teaching certain types of knowledge (concepts and skills relating to online retrieval) and that computer based practice sessions were not necessarily better than traditionally organised practice sessions (using pen and paper). They argued too that computer based instruction seemed to enable law students to become more proficient in search performance and command language usage, and helped them achieve low time on task and high speed of using the command language.
an authoring tool and an information organiser. You can use it to create stacks of information to share with other people or to read stacks of information made by other people. So it's both an authoring tool and a sort of cassette player for information.The HyperCard Course Manual (1988, p2.1) describes HyperCard as
a personal toolkit that gives users the power to use, customise and create new information using... text, graphics, video, music, voice and animation. In addition it offers an easy to use English language based scripting language (called Hypertext) that gives users an opportunity to write their own programs.HyperCard can be thought of in terms of index cards. A collection of cards is called a stack. A stack consists of a number of cards that can contain all kinds of information. The information does not have to be related, although it generally is. Stacks that are sold commercially are referred to as stackware. The cards in a stack can contain a mixture of information media, in the form of graphics, text or sound.
HyperCard provides a unique information environment. It can be used to look for or store information in the form of words, charts, pictures, digitised photographs about any subject. Any piece of information in HyperCard can connect you to any other piece of information, so that you can find as little or much detail as you want. Refer to Table 1 for HyperCard terminology.
|Card||A card is HyperCard's basic unit of information. Each card can contain information that is different to any other card.|
|Stack||A stack is simply a collection of cards.|
|Background||The physical appearance of a blank card is called its background. It is usual to have one style of background in any one stack.|
|Field||A card can have a number of fields. When HyperCard is asked to find a particular piece of information, it looks in each field during its search.|
|Button||Buttons are the devices that allow you to move from one card to another, they are the key to intelligent use of stacks; the key to the versatility and power of HyperCard.|
|Home Card||The home card is the management card, and contains a menu of stacks.|
|Help||HyperCard offers an online help facility: a stack which explains how to use aspects of HyperCard.|
HyperCard fulfils the definition given by Crowell (1988) for an authoring system. For example, in HyperCard it is simple to create, test and revise cards and stacks, but complex and sophisticated packages can be created. It has its own authoring language (Hypertext) as well as other authoring aids which make the creation and revision of packages easy. HyperCard allows the user a great deal of flexibility including the possibility of being able to be incorporated with other technology, for example CD-ROMs.
The objectives for the introductory Lawpac course are for the user to be able to:
|Stack 1: Introduction|
|Introduction to HyperCard
How to use package
|Stack 2: General information|
Computerised information retrieval
Areas of information retrieval
The MORE? prompt
Help Desk facility
|Stack 3: Conducting a search|
Using the menus
Selecting a database
Looking at the contents
Specifying particular chapter/s
Asking a question
Swap retrieved list
Displaying full text
Displaying in context
|Stack 4: Operators|
|Logical operator +
Logical operator ,
Logical operator -
Notes on logical operators
|Positional operator //|
Positional operator /n/
Brackets ( )
|Stack 5: Named sections|
Searching at named sections
|5.3||Displaying named sections|
|Stack 6: Status commands|
Three different backgrounds were used in the stacks: the first for information, the second for detailed command information and the third for command overview. Fields and standard buttons were designed for each of these backgrounds. General information cards have only two fields (title and information); command information cards have four fields (title, command name and function search example and additional notes), command overview cards have five fields (command and function, explanation, syntax, when to use and several types of examples).
Individual cards that needed to be linked to other cards were given buttons as required. Each card has a Home, next card in stack, previous card in stack, previous card and goback-to-the-start-of-this-stack button. A flow chart of all stacks and cards was made and additional relevant linkings indicated on it. Once the fields had been set up, it was simply a matter of typing in the appropriate information in the correct field and adding buttons where required.
A final feature of this HyperCard package is that at times users are asked to go online to complete a number of hands on activities (for which answers are provided). This was designed to give immediate practice and feedback for the material just covered in the tutorial.
From the authoring point of view, HyperCard is simple to use in creating training materials. The instructional design can be time consuming and involved, but the conversion to HyperCard is a simple task. HyperCard is interactive and allows for user flexibility in designing and learning. One card can be linked to several related cards to provide further information on a particular topic which the user can access easily by selecting the appropriate button. Buttons give users the ability to refresh their memories on specific aspects of the online system without having to go through the entire tutorial by allowing for a variety of entry points into the training package. HyperCard allows for complex branching in training materials: each learner could complete the training materials in a unique sequence.
From the users point of view, the training package is easy to use because it contains features common to all Macintosh applications, and because HyperCard software is easily understood. So learning takes place in a familiar environment without the imposition of learning new commands before being able to access information from the package. HyperCard offers a high level of flexibility, allowing the user to follow the tutorial as is, backtracking if necessary, or going directly to a specific section and finding information as required.
Crowell, P. (1988). Authoring Systems. London: Meckler.
Dean, C. and Whitlock, Q. (1989). A Handbook of Computer Based Training. London: Kogan Page.
Van Beek J., Been, P. and Hurts, K. (1989). Computer Based Learning for On-Line Data Base Search. Computers Educational, 13(4), 327-336.
HyperCard Course Manual (1988). MTE Management Technology Education, Sydney.
|Please cite as: Sparks, A. and Hall, N. (1990). Developing a HyperCard training package: Legal Systems. In J. G. Hedberg, J. Steele and M. Mooney (Eds), Converging Technologies: Selected papers from EdTech'90, 72-80. Canberra: AJET Publications. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/edtech90/sparks.html|