EDUCATION VIA ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES

Final Report, MIT Committee on EVAT


Typical Uses of the Web (not necessarily educational)

The Web is a mechanism for publishing information, and thereby making it available to the world. It can also serve to communicate information within an organization. Thus there are two complementary sets of administrative uses:

Advantages

As a publishing medium, the Web has many advantages. Information can be kept up to date. It can also be arranged so that duplicate information is reduced to a minimum, and therefore inconsistencies are unlikely (if the same material is needed in two places, one can contain a hyperlink to the other). If a printed version of the material is needed, it can be produced from the Web version using automatic tools that eliminate the possibility of typographical errors. Maintenance of the information is simplified because each particular change only has to be made once.

A somewhat more subtle advantage is that recasting administrative or public relations information in a new format, in this case a set of hyperlinked pages, offers an opportunity to reexamine the material and its purpose. If the material is part of a series that was originally designed years ago, the chances are great that changes in the world have either reduced the need for the material, or changed the need so that the series should be redefined. The production of the Web pages offers a good opportunity to abandon series that are no longer needed, or redefine those that are.

Disadvantages

The Web is not the best medium for all administrative publications. Often paper copies or versions in other forms are needed. Sometimes there is little if any public interest in some information, and so there would be little benefit from Web publication. Finally, if used for internal communication, placing a page on the Web does not, by itself, tell the intended audience that there is something there to read -- a separate note is needed for that.

Cost

It is not known under what circumstances the cost of Web publication will be recovered through more efficient administration.

MIT Approach

MIT has designated Ms. Suzana Lisanti to promote and coordinate administrative and educational uses of the Web, and has given her the title "Facilitator for the Campus-Wide Information System." She is responsible for maintaining the MIT home page and coordinating all pages that logically fall under it. To that end, she has initiated a series of workshops, and has published guidelines and other resources and publishing help. MIT Information Systems provides facilities and support for this effort.

Does Anybody Read Web Publications?

Yes.

The MIT home page is accessed about 2000 times per day. Requests come from all parts of the world.

On another level, the MIT EECS home page is accessed about 1000 times per week, and related pages several thousand times. The EECS pages include such information as listing of faculty and other personnel, contact information for the various department offices, notices of current events (including four seminar series), announcements, department facts, honors and awards, last-minute changes in subject offerings, research interests of thesis supervisors, and committee memberships. In addition, the pages include a comment form, and typically two or three comments from outside MIT arrive per week. There is also a form to request graduate application forms, and in one month this form was used more than 50 times.

At another extreme, the World Wide Web Consortium pages are accessed about 400,000 times per day.

Web pages are actually heavily read, and therefore are an important face to the world. They deserve to be accurate, attractive, and useful.


This page revised June 20, 1995. Your comments about this report are welcome.
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