At the University of Iowa we have developed a Hypercard-based simulation/tutorial running on a Macintosh computer to teach users to search the Medline CD-ROM database on an IBM computer. This article will give a brief description of the tutorial and report on how it has been evaluated. It will also describe how other tools for bibliographic instruction (BI) have been developed as by-products of the tutorial, leading to a discussion of the general usefulness of Hypercard.(1)
A notable feature of the tutorial program is that it utilizes a Macintosh computer to teach the use of IBM computers. This was a source of uncertainty when we considered the project, since the Macintosh interface, with its reliance on the mouse, is so different from the (pre-Windows) IBM environment of the CD-ROM database in question.
We thought it would be possible to do this since HyperCard allows commands to be executed from the keyboard as well as with the mouse. The tutorial does, in fact, rely almost entirely on the keyboard rather than the mouse, to make the simulation appear as much as possible like the CD-ROM database.
The introductory module of the tutorial was completed in June 1990 with the help of a grant from the University of Iowa administration. The grant provided two Macintosh computers, one for program development, the other for public access.
The tutorial is on a Mac SE, in close proximity to our two CD-ROM stations and the reference desk. Patrons are directed by signs and by the reference staff to go through the introductory module before they use the CD-ROM for the first time. The introductory module (see Figure 1), which takes ten to fifteen minutes to complete, has five sections: Beginning a Search; Using the Limit Command; Using the Boolean AND Operator; Printing; and Changing the Print Format.
These sections are designed to be used in sequence the first time a user goes through them but can be used independently thereafter. Because the introductory module was so well-received, and also because respondents to a survey said they would use additional sections, we developed the advanced module in January 1991. It consists of four sections, each three to five minutes long: Finding Subject Headings in Difficult Cases; Limiting to Specific Journal Subsets; Changing Disks; and Using Index Medicus.
Several types of evidence indicate the tutorial is an effective teaching tool. The initial indication of its success, and still probably the most conclusive, has been the marked decline in basic questions at the reference desk on how to search the CD-ROM database. We had previously developed and made available an instructional handout on using the CD-ROM, and many users did use this to good effect. But many others did not, as we could tell from the large number of questions which could have been answered by a quick reading of the handout.
The tutorial, on the other hand, proved to be more effective. Novice CD-ROM users were willing to spend ten to fifteen minutes going through it and were able to apply its instruction when they moved to the CD-ROM station.
Another effect observed at the reference desk is that the need for regularly scheduled daily demonstrations has been virtually eliminated. Previous to having the tutorial, we had done these demonstrations for two to five people per week, but since having the tutorial, there's been little demand for these.
User Survey Result
Another indication of the success of the tutorial may be found in the results of a survey done over a six-week period in the fall of 1990. Users were asked to fill out a one-page questionnare designed to measure the effectiveness of the tutorial and other teaching tools for CD-ROM Medline. The other tools being compared to the Macintosh tutorial were a four-page handout developed by library staff, the manual supplied by the producer, a class-related fifty-minute instructional lecture given by library staff, and the help screens accompanying the CD-ROM database (see table 1). …