If 1996 was a 'landmark year for electronic networking in the EAIE' (March 1997 EAIE Newsletter, pages 9-11), then with an eye toward the theme of our 1997 Annual Conference in Barcelona, 1997 will be the year in which a new EAIE bridgehead is established on a far shore of the Information Society, across boundaries currently limiting the Association's information services.
An Independent Website for EAIE
Building on the accomplishments and challenges outlined in March's article, EAIE's 'Electronic Networks and Information Sharing' (ENIS) Committee and the EAIE Secretariat, with the support of the Executive Board, will launch EAIE's own independent World-Wide Website on 1 September 1997, as a platform toward better communication with the EAIE membership and better support of educational mobility.
The launching of an independent EAIE website is a result of the immediate success of our initial website, begun only a year ago as part of the 'International Education Forum', with the generous assistance of the Center for Scientific Computing in Finland. The new website will be hosted in Amsterdam, and will be phased in gradually during the summer months, with announcements in the Newsletter and posted to the EAIE-L list as it becomes ready for general use. The current website at CSC will continue until 1 September, and thereafter will re-direct the queries of those who are still using the former address to the new <https://www.eaie.nl> address.
Benefits of the New Website
The new website will bring several benefits, foremost of which is an opportunity for Secretariat staff to gradually assume administration of the Association's web services. A shorter and more 'EAIE-specific' address of <https://www.eaie.nl> will replace the current <https://www.csc.fi/forum/EAIE>.
The new website will also allow greater use of interactive aids, such as an EAIE-web-specific boolean search tool to quickly hunt for desired information by key word(s) only from within the EAIE website. It allows the development of on-line completion of membership application, conference registration, and/or training course registration forms, which could eventually eliminate the current need to first print from the website and then fax or post the completed form(s) to the Secretariat (although some users may still prefer to use the 'hard copy' route). Interactive web enhancements were difficult to implement at CSC due to the strict security policy that was part of its status as the Finnish national supercomputing center.
Information and Statistics
Perhaps even more important will be the capacity to obtain greater detail on what parts of EAIE's web information are most used by whom, when and how. The statistical picture of EAIE web usage that will emerge over time should enable a further refinement of information supply in response to demand, and a useful tool toward information and member service policy development generally within the Association.
A subset of usage data for EAIE's CSC website from 1 September to the present is now available at <www.csc.fi/forum/STATS>. These usage reports, updated every two weeks, have been extracted by ENIS from public usage statistics compiled for the entire CSC website, and show access numbers for individual directories and files in all parts of the 'International Education Forum'. EAIE subdirectory and file access can be seen in the "/forum/EAIE...." entries. From the reports one can see how often the EAIE website has been accessed, and what the most-accessed EAIE files have been in the various two-week increments since September 1996.
How Many 'Visitors' Have There Been to the EAIE Website?
This data is useful as such. One sees that since 1 January there has been a average of about 100 'visitors' per week to the EAIE home page alone. This is more significant than it may appear, considering the holiday and vacation periods during that period, the introductory nature of the EAIE home page itself, and the fact that there has been relatively little reference to new information having been published in the website during the period. One also notes with interest that, five months post-facto, the list of Budapest conference participants is still the most-accessed file in the website after the EAIE home page!
Data Patterns From the Website Statistics
Apparent patterns in the data are also interesting. For example, in the two-week period between 15 November and 1 December (the last full data period before the Budapest Annual Conference), there were 893 accesses of the on-line list of conference participants, compared with 554 for the EAIE home page, 448 for the 'CONF96' master index page, and 62 for the conference 'update announcements' page (during that two-week period). A profile would seem to emerge of EAIE members as precise and efficient 'information sharpshooters' who do not start with the EAIE home page and browse randomly through the wide variety of pages linked thereunder, but rather find specific items of interest, set 'bookmarks' to these, and then later return directly to these known sources of personally-useful information with little casual browsing elsewhere.
Yet is this the whole truth? From the limited CSC usage statistics available for public display (the 'limits' are a result of CSC security policy), one cannot determine who had accessed a specific file, only the total number of accesses. Questions emerge. For example, with the 893 accesses of the participant file, was this 893 separate individuals which would have been a very high percentage of conference attendees or was it instead only ten people frantically and repeatedly checking every hour of every day to see if certain colleagues had already registered?
The difference of significance is apparent. And while the truth is doubtless somewhere between the extremes, the precise answer cannot be determined at present. However, it will be possible to determine with EAIE's own customized statistical control in the new website in Amsterdam.
More Detailed Information
Other usage data should also be revealing. Was access to a certain page only a quick glimpse (perhaps an accident?), or was it a sustained, detailed reading, and/or a full file printout? Or, how much of the web usage was by EAIE members, and how much by non-member newcomers? What possible differences might the patterns show? What countries or regions were these newcomers from? How many would return to look again? What information did they find useful? What Professional Section resources did they explore? Was new access followed in due course by joining the association or attending a conference?
Such information would be far more useful than mere page access numbers in assessing the appeal and usefulness of EAIE information services and Association outreach. And this detail will now be possible with the new website, an invaluable supplement to the direct feedback that the Secretariat continually solicits from all of us on what kinds of member information we feel is most useful, and in what format we feel it should best come.
The establishment of the new website and the new options it will enable will certainly be the highlight of our 'bridgehead year'. But 1997 will bring more than just a new website. Membership training in the use of both our current and future technologies will be an ENIS priority, before and especially during the Annual Conference.
ENIS Track Sessions at the Upcoming Barcelona Conference
One of the highlights of the Ninth Annual EAIE Conference in Barcelona (20 to 22 November) will be the full ENIS track of two workshops and six sessions. ENIS will focus on the internet's impact on higher education, new academic cooperation across technological bridges, and what this portends for our roles as professional mediators in the evolution of European educational mobility.
As currently scheduled, the ENIS track in Barcelona will commence with two pre-conference workshops held simultaneously on Thursday 20 November. The first will be the now-traditional:
- "Hands-on Introduction to E-mail and the World-Wide Web" (at an introductory level), organized by Jur Schuurman and Rolf Lofstad of ENIS; and the second will be:
- "Using EAIE's Internet Information Services Effectively" (intermediate to advanced Level), organized by John Hopkins as a part of ENIS communications training which will be described further in the October issue of the Newsletter.
The six regular-conference sessions will include:
- "ENIS Forum: New Technologies and European Higher Educational Mobility";
- "The Electronic Campus";
- ."The Electronic Classroom: Telematics and Distance Education"
- "Virtual Mobility: New Technologies and Internationalisation"
- "Creating and Using a Database for SOCRATES Programme Management"
and, by popular demand, an expanded and updated version of last year's session on
- "The World-Wide Web As a Tool for International Educators".
EAIE members wishing to contribute ideas or resources to these sessions, or who would be interested in presenting in them, are encouraged to contact ENIS directly. Further details on these and sessions in other conference tracks with which ENIS is cooperating will be available in the EAIE website at <https://www.eaie.nl> later in the year.
New endeavors always bring new challenges. The new EAIE website marks a significant step forward in the maturity of the Association. It is more than mere metaphor to say that a bridge is being crossed as the Secretariat assumes both financial and increasing administrative control over EAIE's electronic information services. Bridgeheads are always first steps into new and uncertain territory. The challenge faced now is how to consolidate and expand the new bridgehead within the constraints of the financial and human resources of Secretariat staff, and the technological know-how we all will need to make this work.