Lessons for the Teacher and the Student: Developing a HyperCard Tutorial

Article excerpt

CAI as an Instructional Tool

As the computer becomes an integral component of educational settings and information dissemination, professionals and educators, including librarians, must be prepared to learn new systems and teach others to use them as well. Computer-assisted instruction (CAI) is a popular teaching and learning tool in many areas because of its powerful multimedia capabilities and its user-friendly interface.

CAI enhances learning, allowing the user the discretion of content, time, place, and pace of instruction. In some sense, it is an ideal environment for teaching because the same material can be individualized according to the capability of the student (the user) and not limited by the capability of the teacher (the CAI courseware), depending only on the depth of programming.

CAI can be a valuable tool in carrying out the library's major function of information collection and dissemination. CAI programs can be used for many purposes in libraries, including tour scripts, tutorial programs, and online library guides.

Designing an Effective Program

The main goal is to develop a program that helps the user to learn a new system and utilize the program effectively in a short time. The program should provide a user-friendly interface so even an inexperienced computer user will have no trouble using it. The program should be designed to eliminate the fear of using a computer so that users can learn the system easily and effectively at their own pace. The structure of the program should be general so it can be applied to the development of other similar programs.

One advantage of having a computer-assisted tutorial is that the user may get a basic introduction to the system during hours when the reference staff is busy or not available. Another consideration, however, is the amount of staff time to be invested in developing the program and whether usage will justify time spent in development.

Initiation of a CAI Project

The Claude Moore Health Sciences Library developed a tutorial program for the various modules of the Library Information System (LIS) using HyperCard on the Macintosh. The tutorial provides patrons with an alternative means of learning the system through computer assisted instruction.

While the Library's online catalog was easy to use, the Library wanted to develop a tutorial program to give users a basic introduction to the system. HyperCard was chosen initially because it was already available in the Library and no additional funds were needed to purchase the software for the project. Once the program was chosen, the developer, who didn't have any knowledge of HyperCard at that time, gathered information on writing new programs using HyperCard and collected sample stacks.

The next steps were to review the literature, survey existing HyperCard stacks, and then complete the conceptual design. For the conceptual design, we first identified important features that should be provided by the tutorial program, such as a time-out feature and basic sample searches to show users how to search the various sections of the LIS. We designed key cards, such as the opening screen and the main menu in a notebook, and combined various features into groups that are associated with each other.

We also roughly counted how many cards would be grouped in each module. Some of the cards that could be shared by more than one stack were linked to eliminate duplication. We also decided on what kind of visual effects would be used in which parts of the program to achieve the most beneficial effect for the user. The speed at which the screen changed content was also considered for various parts of the program (see Figure 1).

Development of the Program

A Macintosh SE with 1MB RAM and 20MB hard drive memory was used to develop the program. On that platform we used HyperCard version 1. …