Web Magazine for Information Professionals

Book Review: Developing Web-based Instruction

Lyn Parker finds this compilation a useful overview of the issues involved in developing e-learning and a valuable addition to the literature.

Developing Web-based instruction or online information tutorials is a key interest within Higher Education libraries at present as librarians struggle to cope with increasing student numbers, evolving technology, and higher expectations of students that their materials will be delivered electronically. Therefore, it would be expected that this book would appeal not just to information students but also to practising librarians developing resources in this area. Although the title and the content relate specifically to 'Web-based instruction' with few references to Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs), the principles can be equally applied to designing materials for them.

American Bias

Although published in the UK by Facet in 2003, the book has also been released in the States, as part of the Neal-Schuman New Library Series. The editor, Elizabeth Dupuis, created TILT [1], the Texas Information Literacy Tutorial of the University of Texas-Austin, and all of the contributors are based in American universities. Not surprising then that there is an American bias among the case studies, and all the references to information literacy standards and frameworks are to those written by the American College Research Libraries Task Force [2], rather than to SCONUL's Seven Pillars of Wisdom [3].


The layout of the book follows a logical sequence with three sections: Planning and management; Evaluation and assessment; and Design and development. The editor provides a general overview of the book and introduces each section, pulling together the threads between the 14 chapters so that they link together in a meaningful way. Any potential repetition between some of the chapters, such as Pedagogy and Andragogy, and Goals and Objectives of instructional design has been kept to a minimum.

The first section covers generic project management issues and, consequently, suffers from being too general with few case studies. Potentially the most useful section for those new to project management - guidelines on writing a project proposal - is tucked away in an appendix rather than within the body of the book.

A key concern for any developer of online tutorials is to evaluate their impact on the learner, in terms of educational goals, assessment and usability. The most useful chapters, therefore, are by Dewald, Veldof and Gibson. The chapter by Dewald on Pedagogy and Andragogy outlines the various learning theories and their application within e-learning. In the chapter on Usability, Veldof focuses on designing an interface which does not get in the way of the learner, whilst Gibson concentrates on developing an instructional plan in Goals and Objectives. The chapter by Smith on Interactivity is also useful, offering ideas on how to incorporate interactive components into various learning experiences.

Some of the chapters may date more quickly than others, most notably Macklin's insight into Educational Technology and Glenn's exploration of Putting Content Online. However, both concentrate on concepts rather than particular software and give useful examples to illustrate their points.


Overall, the book is a valuable addition to any librarian working in this area. However, more specific library case studies - to break up the theory - would have been helpful.


  1. TILT http://tilt.lib.utsystem.edu/
  2. ACRL Information Literacy Task Force http://www.ala.org/ala/acrl/acrlstandards/informationliteracycompetency.htm
  3. SCONUL Advisory Committee on Information Literacy http://www.sconul.ac.uk/activities/inf_lit/

Author Details

Lyn Parker
Academic Services Development Librarian
University of Sheffield

Email: l.a.parker@sheffield.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.shef.ac.uk/library/

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