Electronic Publications and Their Methodological Advantages

Many elements of elctronic publications influence the philosphy of methodology. The article explores some of these influences and outcomes.
The use of electronic publications in teaching and training is not new, its essence stands in versatility, in the capacity of the electronic text to incorporate as much information as possible, and in the incorporation of the multimedia components, thus adding more impact on users.

The web of information, the docuverse ( a word created by the fusion of document and universe, as used by Theodor Holm Nelson, the author of Future of Information, Ideas, Connections and Gods of Electronic Literature , and promoter of the hypertext) provides a cluster of information to users, which can be selected, ordered according to requirements, accessed and tailored according to documentation needs.

Given the organization of hypertexts, that is the central blocks with the multitude of links and navigation possibilities, there is a double challenge for the instructor: the design of such a material, and the coordination of students in the use of hypertextual material. Both challenges imply methodological aspects of teaching with a multitude of requirements, such as proper selection of material, adequate design, a clear line of thinking and ordering information, the establishment of navigational options, and the overall objective of the material itself, that should meet the documentation needs of the student.

Regarding both aspects, we have to consider several characteristics of the old and new media of information, meaning here the book form media and the new, electronic media.

What makes digital media different from the old media? First of all, in comparison to the old media, the new electronic media and the hypertexts provide a continuous flow of information.

There are various opinions in the field, characterizing the new media to be procedural, participatory, spatial ( Murray). Regarding methodology, the features depicted by Murray confer more discipline to teaching and learning alike, as there are certain procedures to be established and respected. They concern all issues related to hypertextual design, to material organization, to navigation, to organization of new material based on the facts in the hypertext. Participation is further increased by continuous coordination by the instructor and on and off-line participation by the student. Space is a characteristic that individualizes instruction based on electronic publication. Students get used to a new type of space, the hyper- or cyber-space, where they establish their own freedom of movement, according to their documentation or creation needs. The instructor may render the space limitless in case multitudes of links are suggested. This dimension differs from the book-based instruction, where the flow of documentation and instruction develops in one direction, without branching away into other directions.

J.Z. Bolter finds other features of the new media, such as these being discrete, conventional, finite, isolated. Discretion refers to the choices of instructors and students to navigate at their own will, as dictated by teaching and documentation needs. Conventions are observed again, all related to the manner of navigation and material selection.