Beyond the Bridgehead: Where Do We Go From Here?

John D. Hopkins
EAIE Newsletter, October 1997

As the 1997 Annual Conference in Barcelona approaches, EAIE is concluding the most intensive restructuring so far of its electronic communication services. The promise in the June 1997 EAIE Newsletter (pages 18-19) of "a new bridgehead" being established has been realised. In Barcelona a new period will begin: a refinement of these new information services, in line with membership feedback, which will determine how they will evolve in 1998 and beyond.

New EAIE Website an Immediate Success

The flagship of EAIE's electronic services is the new website at <https://www.eaie.nl>>. The ENIS committee, working in close cooperation with the Secretariat, completed the move of EAIE's pioneering website at CSC in Finland to its new location in Amsterdam a full month ahead of schedule. The website now has many new features, including a more pleasing graphical appearance, although it remains technically simple and quick in operation. New content includes sample articles from the EAIE Newsletter, overviews of the EAIE's Professional Sections and Special Interest Groups, the full range of 1997 conference information, directories of resources on information technology in higher education, references on Internet training and computer-health concerns, and much more. More importantly, the new website has been an immediate success.

Overview of Recent EAIE Website User Data

Between 1 August and 15 September, the `counter' on the opening page recorded more than 1500 log-ins, in a period during which much of Europe was still on vacation, an exceptional increase compared to earlier usage. But more significant yet are the data revealed by the website's statistical records. These show that, in the 12 days after the official launch on 1 September, visitors from 645 distinct hosts representing at least 44 countries had accessed 62,716 document pages from the 159 files then in the website, an average of 5,133 pages per day, seven days a week. Further, in answer to the question posed in the June Newsletter (pages 18-19), about how many separate users were really represented by the former CSC statistics (which only showed the number of accesses per page), EAIE's new statistical tool — which provides more specific data while still respecting the privacy of exactly who is viewing what — shows that access during these 12 days was from 645 distinct hosts representing at least 44 countries.

The Most 'Popular' Data

And what information did these people most want? Perhaps not surprisingly, given the dates in question, the sub-directory most often visited in early September was the CONF97 directory of Barcelona conference information. But it may surprise some that the second-most-visited directory was ITHE, the collection of papers on 'Information technology in higher education'. Third was the 1996 conference directory, while fourth and fifth were the directories of ENIS articles and EAIE Newsletter highlights, respectively. The five most-accessed individual pages were the collection of website links to uropean Community action programmes in education, the EAIE membership application form, the on-line map of Europe, the Professional Sections master link page, and the EAIE website search tool.

Inferences From the Data?

What might we infer from the data? First (assuming that access has been mainly by EAIE members), it is clear that the new website is being used both by a significant percentage and a representative geographical diversity of the membership. Second, the average user accessed over 20 pages per visit. From this we might extrapolate that EAIE website users are interested in a broad range of information and can easily explore that information within the website's current structure. And with the Secretariat reporting that the very first 1997 conference registrations were printouts of the web forms, it seems that members can also act on useful data once they find it in the website.

As such, all this seems positive. However, the question of balance in overall Association information in the website, as noted in the March 1997 Newsletter (pages 9-11) still arises. The development of the on-line presence of the Professional Sections, for example, should be a high priority for the new Sectional and Association leadership to be elected in Barcelona.

EAIE-L Is Also Growing

There has also been progress in other areas of EAIE's electronic services. The EAIE-L discussion list now has 1675 subscribers from at least 58 countries, and almost all EAIE members who have e-mail access are now on EAIE-L. Accordingly, ENIS training efforts toward helping members use EAIE-L more effectively are entering a new phase. The first evidence of this is the insert in this copy of your Newsletter, which has EAIE-L usage guidelines and subscription details on one side, and a review of EAIE-L's `Topics' feature on the other. This will be a handy reference to supplement the instructions which come automatically to each new EAIE-L subscriber, and the more detailed versions of the documents in the EAIE website.

Training and Feedback

Training and feedback opportunities will both be prominent during the Barcelona conference. First, in addition to the ever-popular 'Hands-on Introduction to Electronic Communication for International Educators' (Workshop XII), ENIS is offering a new workshop (XIII) on Using EAIE's Internet Information Services Effectively. Emerging from the EAIE Joint Leadership Meeting in Stockholm last March, this workshop will provide three hours of detailed training in how to access, send and process information via both EAIE-L and the EAIE website.

Second, a new 'ENIS forum' on Friday 21 November will have two objectives. It will briefly introduce the presenters and content of ENIS track sessions in Barcelona, placing into context how each will address the question of `technological literacy' for higher education generally and international education particularly. It will also provide a unique opportunity for session participants and presenters to discuss the future directions that EAIE's electronic information services could take.

The ENIS Room

ENIS hopes to launch a new resource at the EAIE conference this year: the 'ENIS Room'. ENIS intends to have its own room at the conference venue with networked computers and Internet access which can be used for follow-up to training questions from ENIS track workshops and sessions, ENIS `mini-sessions' which briefly introduce the EAIE website and EAIE-L to those who have not used them before, and possible other demonstrations. Such an ENIS Room would be staffed throughout the conference so that people could drop by to pick up training handouts, ask questions of ENIS consultants, provide feedback on EAIE electronic services (especially for those who are unable to attend the `ENIS forum' Friday morning, or who wish to expand their comments after attending other ENIS track events) or use the Internet access to check e-mail or illustrate details from session presentations at designated times that do not conflict with other use of the room.

ENIS Track Information

Finally, ENIS will have four other sessions under its own track, in addition to the two workshops and `ENIS forum' cited above. These are: 'The Electronic Campus'; 'The Electronic Classroom: Telematics and Distance Education'; 'Creating and Using an International Office Database for SOCRATES/ERASMUS Management'; and 'The WWW as a Tool for International Educators'. ENIS is also cooperating with other tracks on three more sessions: session 5.04 in the EEPC track on 'Virtual Mobility: New Technologies and Internationalisation'; session 7.03 in the LEM track on 'The Role of Technology in Language Training and Testing'; and session 11.01 in the DEN track on Interactive Instruction: Teaching and Learning Strategies'.

Further detail on the ENIS track will be available in the EAIE website from late September, along with an on-line suggestion form so that those planning on attending ENIS events can help tailor them to be as useful and relevant as possible.

Where Do We Go From Here?

EAIE's electronic services exist to serve the Association. ENIS has provided models of services we think are useful. We now need your response. While inferences can be made from tools like the website statistics on what `appear' to be your needs and preferences, the best information will always come directly from you, the Association's members, whether via on-line feedback forms, or in person in Barcelona. EAIE's new electronic bridgehead has now been established. But bridgeheads are but first steps into new and uncertain territory. What we now need to know from you is: `Where do we go from here'?

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