Printer Friendly

HyperCard for bibliographic instruction.

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).
          Table 1. User Preference of Instructional Formats
     A                        B                        C
Tools            # of users who used    # and (%) from column B
                 this tool & at least   who chose this tool as
                 one other tool in      most helpful
                 column A
Printed Handout            45                21 (46.7)
Macintosh Tutorial         27                20 (74.1)
Help Screens               25                 5 (20.0)
Class Presentation         20                 5 (25.0)
Producer Manual             7                 3 (42.9)

There were 170 responses to the survey; sixty-seven of these had used the tutorial to learn to search CD-ROM Medline. (Many of the survey respondents had learned to use the CD-ROM before the tutorial became available.) Of the sixty-seven people who used the tutorial, fifty-eight (87 percent) said that the tutorial was "an effective tool for learning to search CD-ROM Medline." Two respondents (3 percent) said it was not effective, and seven didn't answer.

In the survey, users were given a list of the five different tools for learning to search CD-ROM Medline. They were asked to check the ones they had used, and to indicate which they had found most helpful. There were twenty-seven respondents who had use the Mac tutorial and at least one other tool, and who stated a preference for one tool over the other(s). Of these twenty-seven people, twenty (74 pecent) said that the Mac Tutorial was the most helpful learning source. None of the other tools on the list had nearly as high a percentage preference. The one that came closest was the handout.

As noted previously, a number of people filling out the survey had learned CD-ROM searching before the Macintosh tutorial became available, and many of these had used the handout that was our predominant teaching tool before the tutorial was developed. Thus, many of the respondents who chose the handout as the most helpful tool were comparing it to tools other than the tutorial.

So that we could compare the user response to the tutorial and the handout directly, a separate tabulation was done of respondents who had used both of them. This showed that, of the twenty respondents who had used both of these tools and chose one as most useful, fourteen of them (70 percent) chose the tutorial.

Measurement of usage volume is another way the tutorial has been shown to be successful. It's quite simple to write a Hypertalk script to count the number of times different screens are used, and in the twelve months since this feature was put into the turorial, parts of the original Introductory Module have been used 2,250 times, for an average of about 187 uses per month.

A particularly useful aspect of this counter feature is that it allows us to see what sections of the program people use most frequently. As expected, the first half of the introductory module is used most. Somewhat surprisingly, it's not the very first section on introductory aspects of searching that gets the most use, but the second section, which teaches how to limit searches to English language and/or human subjects that get slightly more use.

The counter feature has been especially helpful in evaluating use of the Advanced Module by allowing us to see which of the subjects are of most interest to users. Although the Advanced Module is generally not as heavily used as the Introductory Module, we have been mildly surprised to see that the section on Index Medicus has received relatively frequent use. This would indicate that users are open to the idea of learning about print sources via computer-assisted instruction.

BI Spin-off

One of the great advantages of HyperCard is that the screens is the tutorial can be used in other types of bibliographic instruction, such as transparencies and LCD projections. Actually, the first step in the process of using HyperCard for teaching CD-ROM Medline, which eventually led to development of the tutorial, was to make transparencies of simulated CD-ROM screens for classroom presentations. These transparencies could have been made from screen prints of the actual CD-ROM screens, but for presentations to large classes, the graphic capability of the Mac makes them much easier read.

In addition to transparencies, we have also used the screens created for the tutorial to create simulation to be used with an LCD projector. Once the templates were created to make transparencies, it took only a few hours to add more transitional screens to make the semi-realistic simulation used with the LCD projector.

A benefit of using HyperCard on a Mac when making transparencies and the LCD simulation is that graphic enhancements can easily be added. A prime example of this is the enlargement of subject heading terms (see Figure 2).

When doing BI presentations, one of the main objectives is to explain the importance of subject headings in searching. One way we've done this with the HyperCard simulation screens is to simply make a copy of the subject heading fields with enlarged printing or to put them in a hidden field.

To use the enlarged field with transparencies, we simply put them on the transparency with the document record being discussed. With the LCD simulation, we can superimpose the enlarged subject heading fields over the record by clicking a button during presentations. This technique has proven to be a very effective means of emphasizing the importance of using subject headings.


Our project has shown that computer-assisted instruction can work very well in teaching library and information skills, and that a Macintosh computer can be used to teach IBM computer use.

Beyond this, it is significant because it shows the general usefulness of HyperCard in BI. Rather than seeing HyperCard as simply a tool to do one particular task, it should be seen as an environment that enables library staff to create many different types of tools.

We've been fortunate to be in a library with both IBM and Macintosh computers. When more libraries gain easy access to Macs, or to graphically oriented IBMs (those with Windows or Presentation Manager capability), projects such as ours will likely become commonplace.

When this happens, we'll all benefit because we'll be able to borrow from each other's creations. This is already happening in the Macintoshed library world, where instructional stacks developed at one library are being passed around to other libraries, to be used directly or adapted for local needs.

We should note that there is a tutorial program for CD-ROM Medline available from Compact Cambridge. This might seem to diminish the need for our program, but the advantage of having developed our own tutorial in HyperCard is the great flexibility it gives us. For one thing, the Cambridge tutorial takes a somewhat different approach to searching techniques than we have taken in our user education for CD-ROM Med-line. Using our own tutorial, we are able to reinforce the use of specific techniques we teach in classroom presentations and in the written instructions we've developed

Also, local tutorial development enables us to create additional CAI tools that are based on original tools, such as our Advanced Module. Having made the time investment to create the initial program, it becomes relatively easy to add other material. And, by developing our own tutorial, we have been able to derive other tools such as transparencies and the LCD simulation discussed above.

In conclusion, we think that HyperCard has great potential as a library instructional tool. Our experience shows that its graphic and text-handling capabilities make it an excellent choice for a wide variety of instructional purposes. The fact that it's becoming the "gold standard" for instructional Macintosh computing in libraries adds greatly to its usefulness, allowing graphics and Hypertalk code to be easily exchanged between libraries.

Finally, and not to be overlooked as a point in its favor, is the ease-of-use of HyperCard. The Hypertalk language utilized by HyperCard has a "natural language" structure, making it very easy to learn, as shown by the fact that our project was completed without benefit of anyone with a formal programming background.

A copy of the HyperCard tutorial described in this paper is available upon request. Please send a blank 3.5-inch inch disk to Eric Rumsey, Hardin Library for the health Sciences, Unversity of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242.


1. For a more technical description of the Hypertalk programming used in this project, see Eric T. Rumsey, "Hypercard Tutorial to Teach use of IBM Computers: Compact Cambridge Medline at University of Iowa," Apple Library Users Group Newsletter 9 (January 1991): 112-115.

Eric Rumsey is a reference librarian at Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, University of Iowa, Iowa City.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Information Today, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Macintosh tutorial for IBM CD-ROM database
Author:Rumsey, Eric
Publication:Computers in Libraries
Date:Jun 1, 1992
Previous Article:Excel 3 and Word 5: old friends in new attire.
Next Article:Viruses: just when you thought it safe.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters