Adding more push to an HCI learning website

Jonathan Crellin, J. Rosbottom

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

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Websites are good examples of “pull” technology. They are typically passive and students obtain information from a course website only if they choose to go to the website and navigate around it, pulling from it whatever they desire. By way of contrast the classic example of “push” technology is email. If we assume that email users always have an active email client on their local machine that is configured to flag new messages as and when they arrive, perhaps by means of a sound or a popup message, then in this situation newly arrived messages are “pushed” at the user by the intrusion on their attention. Our HCI website at Portsmouth is used in a form of hybrid learning. Students attend conventional lectures and tutorials, but the website provides lots of scaffolding designed to keep the students aware of what they need to do, plus course information including copies of materials used in lectures, coursework exercises, a schedule of events, etc. As such it is essentially pull technology. In previous years the push element has comprised old-fashioned telling the students in lectures and tutorials what, when and where to look for things on our website. This year we have supplemented the “verbal push” with a more “automated push”; by including an RSS stream in our website. Students are now able to subscribe to the RSS feed and obtain relevant notices about what’s new, and what is expected of them next. This particular push technology is predicated on the assumption that students will have running on their local machine some news reader software, or a web based reader such as Bloglines, or perhaps they regularly check their FireFox bookmark of our website. (The FireFox browser includes software to include RSS information as part of the bookmarks.) Our use of RSS is still in its infancy, but we expect it to function as a further communication channel for our local students. In a situation where remote students study by distance learning, without the benefit of regular face to face lectures, we would expect the RSS feed to be of considerable value in reminding the students about course news and what to do next. This paper examines the behaviour of students on our website in the past and compares this with recent behaviour to try and identify if the RSS feed has made any difference. We also speculate on the merits of introducing a course website in stages, with each stage preceded by an RSS fanfare. This is compared with presenting the website as a whole, fixed entity from the very start of the course.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 25 Apr 2005
Event8th Educators Workshop: Effective Teaching and Training in HCI - BCS, Covent Garden, London.
Duration: 25 Apr 2005 → …


Conference8th Educators Workshop: Effective Teaching and Training in HCI
CityBCS, Covent Garden, London.
Period25/04/05 → …


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