Usability of Web-Based Knowledge Portals to Support Educational Research Organizations: A Case Study
Kumar, Muthu, Natarajan, Uma, Hedberg, John G., Journal of Information, Information Technology, and Organizations
The Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice (CRPP) is housed within the National Institute of Education in Singapore. The Centre brings together researchers, educators and administrators for research and development of new and innovative ways of teaching and learning. The Centre's key research goal is to redesign pedagogy in order to enhance instructional practices which in turn will help students face the challenges of the global economies. With these objectives in mind, the Centre provides evidence as the basis for future educational policy and decision making in Singapore.
As part of its efforts to provide reports, the centre launched its web-based knowledge portal in August 2003, called the CRPP knowledge portal. This portal was designed to create and share research based information amongst its distributed teams of academics, researchers and school collaborators. It is based upon a business model concept--a website serving as the gateway access point to data and applications. An elemental goal of the portal development was to create a central repository that could capture, store, and disseminate the empirical findings and intellectual input of its various stakeholders. The conceptual design of the portal was done by an instructional design team, supported in its efforts by the management staff of the Centre. The portal was developed by a third party vendor. The conceptual design of the portal was based upon the heuristics of a functional framework that intended to:
a) Capture and document the knowledge generated from the Centre's more than 60 research projects.
b) Systematically organize and make accessible the different projects' proposals, its cases for support, research designs, findings and pedagogical implications.
c) Share and dispense other relevant information that is collectively for and by the teams.
Building upon this foundational knowledge management structure, the portal also has an open discussion forum where both CRPP's working staff and invited members of the public could participate in contributing ideas of mutual concern that have an impact upon the educational fraternity. Each research project has its own private collaborative work space with controlled access where team members could upload working documents, share content within these documents with fellow team members, solicit constructive feedback in improving content and ultimately have the documents assessed by project investigators or managers to ascertain if the documents can be published in the public domain for public consumption. Within each of these project workspaces, discussions forums were embedded to engender a communicative milieu, one that promotes dialogue on project updates and progress between team members who due to their busy schedules might otherwise not have sufficient time for face-to-face interactions. An additional service provided in the portal was a listing of the profiles, biographies, publications and contact details of CRPP's working staff. Yet another section in the portal disseminates information on upcoming events such as workshops and conferences hosted by CRPP. This information is vital for the general teaching community in keeping abreast of recent research developments in the education field. There is also a section that advertises career opportunities within CRPP and this can be viewed by the general public as well. The large database of information hosted by the portal is searchable using a basic search function that allows users to easily retrieve required information.
While the portal was designed so that key stakeholders could put their reports and public information directly on the publicly accessed website, the concern for data security resulted in the individual decision making facility was turned off and only the IT administrative staff could post to the public site. As a result of the overarching concern for maintaining the accuracy and appropriateness of content posted on the public CRPP portal, the initial design was modified and the portal's locus of control became largely concentrated in the hands of the small administrative IT team. …