IIMS 96 contents
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Using the world wide web to improve higher education

Rainer Nyberg
Abo Akademi University, Finland
The Higher Education Development (HiED) International Web, provides links to online information for faculty developers, teachers and students in higher education. It is created in cooperation between teachers and educational developers from many countries. The goal is an international sharing of information that can be used to improve teaching/ learning. The paper presents the main content, structure and possibilities of the HiED Web. The HIED WebMaster gives a demonstration of the HiED Web, invites participants to give suggestions for future development of the presentation, and to have their publications and pages linked to HiED World Wide Web.

When you start with Internet ...

Let me start with a true Internet story about Ann, our 22 year old goddaughter from Finland. She was planning a camp organised by the Children's International Summer Villages to be held in Finland in the summer of 1995. In the preparation of the camp she was in touch by Email with some foreign camp organisers, whom she had never met. One of the boys was from Canada. One day Ann said to her mother: 1t is so nice to meet the boy from Canada by Email." When he arrived to the camp in Finland they soon found out that both of them had enjoyed meeting on the Internet. But it was still more enjoyable to meet face to face. Now both these students are at the University of Alberta, Canada, and live together in Edmonton. Conclusion: When you start with Internet, you never know how it ends!

Needs and goals

The need for HiED comes from (i) the difficulty educational developers (and lecturers) have in finding out about teaching, learning and assessment practice in HE and in finding sources of expertise and (ii) the narrowly national basis of much development and ignorance of developments internationally. There is a great need in developing countries and in East Europe to find out more about how successful university teaching/ learning ought to be organised. Many small universities and colleges do not yet have any staff working to develop teaching and learning. Teachers and students in these institutions for higher education need help to find information. There is also a need for national educational development organisations to link internationally, through ICED, and share expertise internationally.

The goals of the Higher Education Development (HiED) International Web are to share, produce and link information that can be directly used (a) by staff and educational developers for the in service training of college teachers, (b) by university teachers to help them find out how to evaluate and develop their own teaching and how to teach in new ways in order to activate the students, (c) by students to find ideas how they can learn more effectively, and (d) by students and teachers to retrieve new and challenging information via the information super highway.

At http://www.abo.fi/hied/ you find the HiED index and several subindexes, where staff/ educational developers, teachers and students can find links to information that can be used to develop and improve teaching/ learning in colleges and universities. In the middle of November there were about 200 links to information relevant for people teaching or studying in higher eduction. Almost 1000 visits were registered at the HiED home page within one month, although the HiED has not been officially advertised yet in the national networks.

HiED is designed primarily to link existing sources and to build on national networks. It is already possible to find university home pages, staff and educational development organisations and descriptions of methods for teaching and improving student learning. Separate pages with links to many resources have already been created for some topics; case method teaching, problem based learning/ PBL, teaching of computer science etc. Within some months we hope to provide rather extensive lists of links to material in many other areas relevant for teaching an learning in higher education. The links between HiED and the "FIGIT electronic magazine" make it possible for educational developers to find examples internationally of "best practice" and case studies relating to the area "preparation of teachers for higher education". There will also be links to material to be used by students and teachers in different subjects in universities and colleges.

Who are the editors and contributors?

An international team edits and writes many of the HiED pages. Most of the information will be decentralised and produced by several other contributors working as college teachers or educational developers. We invite teachers and readers to suggest links and to contribute anything that can be helpful to develop teaching or learning in any subject in the university or college. We especially invite information about links to indexes and databases useful for staff in higher education. We also hope that you who read this paper want to contribute and thus join the international group creating the HiED pages and links. Please send us an Email (address on the last page) or use a feedback form for contributors provided in the HiED Web.

Why use WWW for higher education?

At a meeting in August 1995 the rector of a department of vocational teacher education in Scandinavia said: "We do not need the Internet here. We do not need the World Wide Web, and we are not going to work for it!" The next day one of the colleagues from his organisation sent me an Email and said. "We does not know what he is talking about, since he does not have an Internet connection. But I want to be on your WWW team! "

Do we need Internet in education? Do we need the WWW in higher eduction? At least in Finland the government and the Ministry of Education want to have computers in most schools, even primary schools. They want Finland to become an information society built on networks. The Finnish universities are well equipped with computers. Almost every teacher and researcher already has one in the office and many teachers have computers at home. Finland is one of the first countries in the world to have a broadband/ ATM network between most universities. During 1996 more than 200 million FIM will be used to increase the use of computers in schools and improve the computing skills of teachers and students. The reason is that everybody is expected to master the basic skills of the information society (OpM, 1995, 3).

The Ministry of Education states that information technology has radically increased the flow of information and the availability of research results (UVM, 1995, 44). Computers should be used for all kinds of teaching and research, for searching information on the Internet and publication of research results. I want to join other researchers and authors in saying: "It is an exciting time to be in education. The Internet offers new opportunities for students and teachers alike to learn in interesting ways" (Ellsworth (1994, p. xxiii). Hundreds of electronic journals, magazines and other publications have been started, more are emerging (Kroll, 1994, 405), and anybody can retrieve them.

The Internet has broken the shell around the computer and made it a communication toolbox for thousands of university students and teachers. Many teachers use the Internet in their courses in trade issues, economic development, the European Union and second language learning. Students even take part in real time conferences with students in other countries. (Wagner, 1995). For some people who have been "Internet Dummies", it can be enough with some hours of clicking and it starts a revolution. It can lead to the most fantastic, entertaining and educating experience in their fives. It can also lead to a completely new way of working. (McCloskey, 1994) Internet has enhanced simple, fast and cheap Professional communication. Even Email, Usenet News, Gopher and other plain text Internet tools have been very helpful - and still are. With a single message you can reach hundreds of colleagues on the Internet within a few minutes. There are many advantages of using the Internet in education. It can arouse the interest of students, enhance communication between teachers and researchers for sharing ideas and it has potentials to develop new relationships all over the world. (Pool, Blanchard & Hale, 1995) Yet, too many teachers - even in the universities - still do not use the advantages that the Internet offers.

Only during the last years most people have begun to realise the immense potential that Internet has for educators and learners of all ages. Many people already learn astonishing things only through information on the Internet. And people "meet" each other through Email, Newsgorups and the World Wide Web. This is rather natural for young people. Some older persons - like teachers - expect that it is hard to learn to use the Internet. But, the new Email applications and the introduction of the World Wide Web and the user friendly browsers have made it possible and easy for anybody to communicate and to find information about almost anything on the Internet. Now the Internet surfers do not even have to learn how to write commands. All you need is to use the mouse for clicking. it is time for all college teachers to start using WWW as a tool for learning but also for international networking and cooperation. Now we can publish on the Internet and share teaching tips and material we have produced in the most different subjects. This is what the paper is about: To use the WWW to find, create, publish and link information helpful for the development of teaching and learning in universities and colleges. We will help teachers and educational developers accomplish this in international cooperation.

The beginning of the HiED Web

The International Consortium of Educational Development (ICED) and its coordinator, Professor Graham Gibbs from the Oxford Centre for Staff Development, invited the presidents (or their representatives) of national development networks to present project ideas at a working meeting in England. These representatives for staff and educational development organisations in 12 countries came together to a working meeting in Rugby for three days in April 1995. One suggestion at this meeting was to start a cooperative project for an international WWW in order to promote the development of university teaching and learning (Appendix 1).

The meeting decided to launch the Higher Education Development (HiED) International WWW presentation, as an online information service for faculty developers, teachers and students in higher education. Three persons were chosen to plan the first pages. The participating representatives of national networks promised to find people in their respective networks willing to join the HiED Web team. The first HiED Web pages were published two months later, in June 1995 at URL: http://www.abo.fi/hied/. The presentation now includes about 200 links to information useful in higher education. Yet this is only the beginning. Now the work really starts. We are now looking for people willing to cooperate with us to make the HiED a useful tool for staff/ educational developers but also for teachers and students. This is one reason for this paper. We want to find partners. You can be one of them. It is easy to contribute to this presentation as can be seen later. English is the common language of the presentation and the main search system. There will also be national pages in several other languages linked to HiED.


A goal of the HiED Web is to help faculty developers, teachers and students to find what they are looking for when they want to improve teaching or learning in colleges and universities. We try to link important information within higher education to the HiED Web pages. If readers do not find what they search we also provide links to other more general indexes and "search engines", news groups, and mailing lists (Email networks and Listservs). To make searching easier HiED has a centralised, main index with several subindexes. Most pages are decentralised - published at different WWW servers of the world - but linked to the HiED indexes. The information and links will be structured according to several principles:
  1. separate subindexes for educational developers, teachers and students:

    1. Staff developers will be able to find methods for staff development, colleagues, universities and educational development centres worldwide, conferences, publications about improving teaching/ learning, teacher training, accreditation etc.

    2. Teachers will be able to find out about teaching methods, academic subjects, conferences, mailing lists, News groups for teachers of different subjects, information about how students learn and determinants of student motivation.

    3. Students will be able to find out about learning, study skills, different subjects, student exchange programs and scholarships, programs and universities for study abroad, how to write a thesis/dissertation, how to search information etc.

  2. separate indexes in different subjects for teachers/students in higher education,

  3. alphabetical indexes of student activating methods for teaching and learning,

  4. alphabetical, geographical area, and clickable map indexes of universities and staff and development organisations worldwide,

  5. separate pages and subindexes for persons who want to link their pages to the HiED Web or publish their pamphlets, leaflets and articles, and even books, and

  6. separate pages with hints and indexed links for those who want to learn how to produce Web pages for their centres for teaching and learning and for the HiED Web.

Interactivity and contributions

When you publish an article in a journal the comments from readers may (depending on the publication frequency) be published 2-4 months later than the first article. Many readers have already forgotten the article when they read the comments from others. In a WWW presentation readers can react quickly using forms for automated email to the author. The HiED Web is also combined with a mailing list for sharing ideas. Because there are no final versions of Web pages such comments can lead to important changes in the pages and the structure of the presentation but also to interactions between authors and readers.

We try to motivate members of the national educational development networks to electronically publish ideas for teaching and learning as printed in leaflets and pamphlets and other non-copyrighted material. This material will also be linked to the HiED Web. We invite experts in different areas of Higher Education Development to publish their ideas on their university mainframe so they can be linked to the HiED Web. Everybody who visits the HiED home page is invited to contribute. By clicking "contribute" you find another page explaining different ways to contribute and a form for contributors.

Members of staff and educational development networks in member states are also invited to join mailing lists and visit conferences of ICED and educational development networks in different member states. Thus interaction through the Internet can also lead to sharing of ideas face to face and to personal friendship. The first place where you can meet other HiED contributors is the International ICED '96 Conference in Vasa (Vaasa), Finland, June 13-14, 1996. This conference, "Preparing University Teachers", is also announced at the HiED Web pages, where you can find the program of these two days, pictures of the venue and examples of the social activities. Other similar conferences will be announced later at the HiED pages.

Research and future uses

Research will be done about the HiED Web information is used and received. Online feedback forms and Email discussions will be used as ways of feedback and interaction between the readers where ever they are and the HiED web team. We can also consider to use the information in the HiED WWW in combination with other telecommunication and with contact studies in order to create interactive, multinational, multi-form in service courses for teachers and educational developers. This could help young teachers to meet good experienced teachers/mentors and with faculty developers in different countries and find expert help in order to improve teaching and learning. The results of these investigations and experiments can be published and discussed on the HiED Web pages and in the Electronic Magazine mentioned below.

In the UK a national project is under way to establish an 'electronic magazine' on teaching and learning in higher education, based at London Guildhall university under the direction of James Wisdom. Its information sources will be structured as a matrix with teaching within disciplines on one axis and topics (such as assessment) on the other. It will operate by commissioning overviews and outline frameworks on sources, case studies, key experts, etc, and 'publish' these as a prompt for viewers to react to and contribute to. Edited contributions will be added to the data base. The emphasis will be on structured organic growth controlled and edited by discipline and topic experts, rather than on random accumulation of unfiltered and unstructured material.

The pilot disciplines include Geography and the first topics include preparing university teachers. The growth of information and reader reactions and debates will be linked to other forms of communication such as journals and conferences. For example the material on preparing university lecturers has produced a debate and an accumulation of material which is being summarised as a keynote presentation at the International Consortium on Educational Development conference entitled 'preparing university teachers' in Finland in June 1996 and the outcomes of this conference are being published in a special issue of the International Journal of Educational Development. HiED can in the future contains the links to information in different countries, while the FIGIT electronic magazine will collect descriptions of good practice among educational developers. These two services will supplement one another in order to support teaching and learning in higher education all over the world.


To all those college and university teachers who have not yet understood what Internet is about I would like to say: Do not look at the Internet fans in the students' computer rooms and at your colleagues in front of their Email boxes. Meet the fans on the Internet! Exchange Emails internationally! Share your information with them on the WWW! Make friends with the former "Internet Dummies" and quit being a dummie yourself! It is fun and it is a tremendously motivating and educational adventure to meet the world behind your screen! Soon you will understand what many of your students have already experienced. Many teachers already use Internet in order to help students learn. Very soon you get caught and interested by Internet and all its possibilities for teaching and learning. When you sit at the computer you forget time and place - you just want to get deeper and deeper and further and further on the Internet. This is the "flow experience" (Czikszentmihalyi, 1982; 1990). Try it! You will never regret that you opened that window and let the ideas from the world come to you through your computer! It is a thrilling adventure. But I tell you: "When you start with Internet you never know how it ends!"


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1982). Intrinsic motivation and effective teaching: A flow analysis. In J. L. Bess (Ed), Motivating professors to teach effectively. New Directions for Teaching and Learning, No. 10. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience. New York: Harper & Row.

Ellsworth, J. H. (1994). Education on the Internet. Indianapolis, IN: Sams.

Kroll, E. (1994). The whole Internet: User's guide and catalog. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly.

McCloskey, P. (1995). Foreword. In J. R. Levine & C. Baroudi, Internet for Dummies. San Mateo, CA: International Data Group.

OpM (1995). Suornalaisen tietoyhteiskunnan kehittaminen opetusministerion toimenpideohjelma vuosiksi 1995-1999. Helsinki: Opetusministerid.

Pool, T. S., Blanchard, S. M. & Hale, S. A. (1995). From over the Internet. TechTrends, 40(1) (January- February), 24-25.

UvM (1995). Kunskapsstrategi fur utbildning och forskning. Helsingfors: Undervisningsministeriet.

Wagner, J. (1995). Using the Internet in Vocational Education. ERIC Digest No. 160. Columbus, OH: ERIC/ ACVE.

Appendix: A vision presented at the ICED meeting April 1995 Dunchurch, Rugby

I have a dream...

1) that we have an international organisation for educational development which

2) that this organisation has a WWW presentation where

Author: Rainer Nyberg, EdD
Associate Professor
Abo Akademi University
Box 311, FIN-65 101 Vasa, Finland
Fax: + 358 61 324 7302. Phone: + 358 61 324 7344
Email: Rainer.Nyberg@abo.fi

World Wide Web presentations

  1. HiED/ Higher Education Development International: http://www.abo.fi/instut/hied/
  2. Personal home page: URL: http://www.abo.fi/~rnyberg/
  3. VocWeb/ Vocational Education WWW of North Europe: http://www.abo.fi/vocweb/
Please cite as: Nyberg, R. (1996). Using the world wide web to improve higher education. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), The Learning Superhighway: New world? New worries? Proceedings of the Third International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 298-302. Perth, Western Australia, 21-25 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1996/lp/nyberg.html

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