A Hypertext System for Teaching
I. Trotter Hardy
This chapter describes the software technique of hypertext. The hypertext technique is appropriate both for creating information structures through which users can browse and for creating question-and-answer decision trees that provide specific advice to users. The chapter gives an example of how these two hypertext techniques can be used in legal education. The example is a system called the Paper Choice that provides knowledge and gives advice to law students about legal research.
Hypertext is a software method used for storing and providing access to information.1 In that sense, the term "hypertext" is similar to the term "database," though hypertext methods for storing and accessing information are different from typical database methods. The hypertext method depends on dividing information into discrete units, usually called "nodes" but referred to in this chapter as "topics," and establishing links among the various topics. Topics can be of any size, though for readability they are usually limited to a page or two of text or a single computer-screen-sized picture. Unlike the information stored in a database system, the information assigned to a topic in a hypertext system need not be of any special format. That is, it does not appear as a "record" containing "fields." It is just some amount of text or a picture.
The salient characteristic of hypertext systems is that each topic of information is linked to one or more other topics. "Linking" means that a user looking at a given topic on the screen can, by a key press or mouse click, quickly cause any other topic linked to the displayed topic to appear on the screen. From that____________________