THE IMPACT OF NEW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ON THE LIBRARY AND INFORMATION SCIENCE CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT AT THE COMENIUS UNIVERSITY, SLOVAKIA

Sona Makulova

Department of Library and Information Science
Faculty of Arts
Comenius University
Gondova 2, 81801 Bratislava, Slovakia

E-mail: sd@fifuk

Keywords: Information Technology, Curriculum Development, Comenius Univer-sity, Slovakia, Education and Training, Hypertext, Hypermedia, Information Pro-fessionals.

Abstract: The main objective is to describe the impact of the new information techno-logy on the development of the curriculum of the Department of Library and Information Science, Comenius University, Slovakia. New information technology is an integral part of most subjects taught. In the last few years thanks to the help of the European Community the situation with the hardware as well as with the software has changed and therefore already the third year the students have possibility to create electronic docu-ments as well as to evaluate different software systems for creating hypermedia. In the paper our ideas and also recommendations for teaching new information technology for the former eastern and developing countries, where there is still a lack of the newest technology will be presented.

1. INTRODUCTION

Information technology has fundamentally affected the operations of library and information services and this has also great impact on the education and training of the users on various levels. All these developments and innovations have facilitated changes in the development of curriculum at schools of library and information studies.

The Department of Library and Information Science of the Comenius University is the only institution in Slovakia providing the university standard education in librarianship. During more than 40 years of its existence, it had more than 1000 graduates. The present curriculum is the result of the continuous development on the basis of comparisons many foreign study programs and of course reflection of the innovation of information technology. More about developments and current trends may be found in the papers of S. Kimlicka and S. Makulova (1992).

2. THE EDUCATION AND TRAINING OF THE SPECIALISTS FOR LIBRARIES AND INFORMATION CENTERS

Since the school year 1991/1992, the new curriculum for the students of library and informa-tion science was introduced. The study begins as a combination of two equal subjects, meanwhile the second subject is the foreign language (English, German, French or Latin). The study is drafted as Library and Information Science. Theoretical methodological core of the study is created by the disciplines devoted to the phenomena concerning the structure, functions, creation, transfer, affec-tion and effective utilization of documents and information with the emphasis on utilization of modern information technology. We can include here also another disciplines, e.g., sociological, psychological, pedagogical and other humanities enabling active work with the users. The core of study is connected with the disciplines of the general profile of the Faculty of Arts. There is a possi-bility to connect this core of the study with the recommended combination of another discipline that represents different study orientation, e.g. the work with the children, special sources, users educa-tion, bibliography, design of library and information systems, information marketing and manage-ment, retrieval languages, etc. This orientation will enable students to individualize their preparation according to their own interests and possibilities to do well in practice. It will also enable the Department to keep up-to-date with emerging new subjects and disciplines with practical demands. The studies with subject orientation represent approximately 30% of the entire study program of Library and Information Science. The program lasts 5 years (10 semesters). The diploma thesis must be written during the last year of the program.

3. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN THE CURRICULUM

As it was already stated, the curriculum of the Department is constantly undergoing changes. The major significant change in the new curriculum is the fact that the information technology is integral part of most subjects taught. This integrated approach has put more requirements on the teachers since, given the present economic situation, it is impossible for the Department to consider offering separate automation courses as it was done in earlier years. Similar trend is visible all over the world (Stueart and Techamanee, 1992). Our curriculum content areas may be divided into three broader categories -- knowledge, skills and tools. Each has its own importance and cannot be underestimated. More information on the history and present state of teaching modern information technology at the Department has been presented in various papers (Kimlicka 1988; Kimlicka 1991; Makulova 1988; Makulova 1992; Kimlicka and Makulova 1992).

The new element in our curriculum during the last two years is orientation towards the elec-tronic media, especially on hypertext and hypermedia. I must confess that I was influenced by this technology at NIT '91 Conference in Budapest, where I admired the work of Prof. Ching-chih Chen and her students on NIT CD-ROM and her work on the PROJECT EMPEROR-I. Untill that time, we did not have any experiences with hypertext and hypermedia applications. We understood the importance of this multimedia and so the new subject, hypertext and hypermedia, was added to our curriculum.

The main aim of this course is to explain to students development, present state and perspec-tives of using hypertext and hypermedia in library and information work. The special emphasis is given to new technologies that enable to create hypermedia, the students have to master the metho-dology of creating this kind of documents and are doing practical work with three programming tools (INTERES, GUIDE and HYPERTIES). The emphasis is given on acquiring appropriate knowledge about hypertext and hypermedia, to gain technological skills as well as to know the appropriate tools.

The description of the course may be further elaborated in the following:

1) Introductory course

- Explanation of the basic concepts (hypertext and hypermedia, navigation, nodes, types of nodes, links).

- Different approaches to defining hypertext and hypermedia, the basic theoretical works, analysis of different definitions, creation of own definition.

- Advantages and disadvantages of hypertext and hypermedia.

- Interdisciplinary research in the field of hypertext and hypermedia.

2) The history of hypertext and hypermedia - Vannevar Bush and his Memex, work of Doug Engelbart on Augment/NLS project.

- The importance of Ted Nelson and his book Literary Machines, system Xanadu.

- The development of other systems (Hypertext Editing System and FRESS) at Brown Univer-sity, Andrew Lippman and MIT Architecture Machine Group and Aspen Movie Map, etc.

3) The application of hypertext and hypermedia - Different types of application (online documentation, user assistance, software engineering, business application, dictionaries and reference books, product catalogs, intellectual applications, educational applications, entertainment and leisure applications), examples for above mentioned categories. 4) Major current hypertext systems - NoteCards, Knowledge Management System, Hyperties, GUIDE, HyperCard, Interes, Credit, etc., (basic functional characteristic, technical requirements).

- Hypertext on the IBM and on Macintosh.

5) The architecture of hypertext systems - Three levels of hypertext system according to Campbell and Goodman.

- The database level storage, shared data and network access.

- Hypertext Abstract Machine level: nodes and links.

- Presentation level: user interface.

6) The problems of standardization for hypertext interchange - Major issues in static and dynamic interchange of hypertexts.

- Dexter Hypertext Reference Model as the intermediate format in the transfer of hypertexts from Intermedia to KMS.

All theoretical lectures are accompanied by practical work with the systems INTERES, GUIDE and HYPERTIES. The emphasis is given on comparative analysis of different functions of the above mentioned systems. The criteria taken into account are user friendliness, comfort for the reader, comfort for the author, the capabilities of editor, the types of links, retrieval functions, auto-matic indexing, graphic capabilities, etc..

Each of the students attending the course gets credit. Condition for getting credit is partici-pation at the courses, passing the test and creation of electronic document in one of the above mentioned system. We know that we are only at the beginning of introducing this type of course and financial restraints still do not allow us to have proper technology (new version of GUIDE and Hyperties) as well as other software and hardware for creating hypermedia. But we are trying to implement the most from foreign experiences, many of them are presented at NIT Conferences.

4. CONCLUSIONS

As mentioned many times in my papers, people in the former Eastern Bloc countries must rely at present especially on human resources. Our wisdom and strong will help us overcome our present economical problems that have grown after the split of Czecho-Slovakia into two indepen-dent states. Unfortunately, too often our governmental authorities such as those at the Ministry of Education are not far-sighted enough to realize that cutting support for education to solve financial problems is not a solution.

Our experience tells us that there are many problems -- both conceptual and practical -- in providing education on the use of new information technology to information specialists, which we have to overcome. The most important ones include:

To find proper balance between theory and practice, most of the theory should be covered in textbooks,

Due to financial limitations for book publishing, we have to present most of the textbooks in hypermedia form,

To connect our computer laboratory to the computer network of the National Center of Infor-matics (former Institute of Applied Cybernetics),

To have access to different hosts (this is still not possible due to both financial restraints as well as technical difficulties),

To get network for the use of CD ROM's,

To have more possibilities for sharing experiences with our colleagues abroad.

We are aware of the fact that information technology is a means and not a goal. But at the same time the technology removes geographic barriers in global setting. Therefore the importance of coordinating curriculum development at schools of library and information science on both national and international level has increased.

The fast-pace of technological changes makes it very difficult for us to keep up-to-date. It means that universities and higher education establishment will have to develop much more fully the con-tinuing education axis in variety of formats. The information professionals should be aware of the fact that a basic diploma is not enough for a successful professional development, but there is necessity to up-date themselves regularly. Thus the challenge is great for library and information science education.
 
 

REFERENCES

Kimlicka, S., "Vplyv vedecko-technickeho rozvoja na inovaciu ucebnych planov studijneho odboru vedecke informacie a knihovnictvo, (The Impact of Scientific and Technological Development on the Innovations of the Information science and Librarian ship Curriculum,)" Informatika. Zbornik Filozofickej fakulty UK (SPN, Bratislava), 11/12: 49 - 60, (1988).

Kimlicka, S., (1991). "Zmeny vo vysokoskolskom studiu knihovnictva. (Changes in university study of librarian ship)," Citatel, 40 (5): 168 - 169 (1991).

Kimlicka, S. and Makulova, S., "Training and Education of the Users for the Use of Modern Information Technology at the Faculty of Arts of the Comenius University in Bratislava," in Proceedings of NIT '92, The 5th International Conference New Information Technology, Hong Kong, December 1-3, 1992. West Newton, MA: MicroUse Information, 1992. pp. 213 - 220,

Makulova, S., "Skusenosti s vyuzivanim nasich a zahranicnych baz dat v pedagogickom procese, (The Experiences with the Use of Our and Foreign databases in educational process,)" Informatika. Zbornik Filozofickej fakulty UK (SPN, Bratislava), 11/12: 55 - 62 (1988).

Makulova, S., "Education and Training for Online at the Department of Library and Information Science of Comenius University, Bratislava, Czecho-Slovakia," in Online Information 92: Proceedings of the 16th International Online Information Meeting, London, 8-10 December 1992. Oxford: Learned Information Ltd, 1992. pp. 209 - 214.

Stueart, R. D. and Techamanee, Y. (1992). "Overcoming technophobia through educational pro-grams of information studies," in Proceedings of NIT '92, The 5th International Conference New Information Technology, Hong Kong, December 1-3, 1992. West Newton, MA: MicroUse Information, 1992. pp. 325 - 334.