University of Hull
The Contextual Resource Evaluation Environment (CREE) project, funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), is exploring how users wish to make use of Internet and library-based search tools within a variety of environments. The University of Hull is working with the Universities of Oxford, Edinburgh and York, as well as Newark & Sherwood College and instructional media + magic inc. in Washington DC, to examine how search tools can be presented to the user in different contexts, offering search functionality in relation to learning, teaching and research activities.
The project is approaching this work through two tracks of activity:
• User requirements assessment
• Technical development
The user requirements assessment has so far involved a national UK survey, which received over 4000 responses, and a series of focus groups. These set out to examine what search tools are used within universities and colleges, and how users would like to use these tools. They have provided a body of knowledge on how users within post-16 education, both staff and students, currently make use of search tools ranging from Google through to specific subject-based resources. This knowledge offers valuable evidence to librarians and system developers on how such tools should be presented to users. Within CREE, the results from this work are informing the development of a series of interactive demonstrators that will be used to test user reaction to the presentation of search tools within different environments and contexts, including regular webpages, a course management system and an institutional portal. To support the latter, the technical development strand of the project is investigating the use of the JSR 168 and WSRP portlet standards to enable existing search tools to be surfaced within these environments and their functionality made available within these. The search tools, covering access to library catalogs, bibliographic databases and subject-specific resources, have previously been developed within JISC-funded projects. Google is also being presented within a portlet in order to compare usage and gain feedback on the association of this with more specific search tools.
The project hopes to establish how users wish to use search tools in different environments for their learning, teaching and research, in order to inform system developers within institutions. Technically, the experience of using the portlet standards to adapt existing search tools will also be shared to facilitate this activity elsewhere. In both cases, dissemination of the project outputs and learning is a key element of the project’s success. This presentation will report the findings of the user evaluation carried out to date and show how the technical development work is enabling interactive user testing and consideration of the long-term use of portlet standards for the presentation of search services.