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On-line Learning For Abused Women and Service Providers In Shelters: Issues Of Representation And Design

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The challenge and potential of Internet technology to deliver learning services to increasing numbers of diverse learners who may not be included in formal continuing education settings are beginning to be addressed. VIOLET (http://www.VIOLETnet.org), a web site for abused women and their service providers, is designed to provide relevant legal information, an on-line community for support and sharing of experience and information, and on- going updates of legal information and community services. The project emerged out of a unique collaboration among women in
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On-line Learning For Abused Women and
Service Providers In Shelters: Issues Of
Representation And Design
Katy Campbell, University of Alberta
San San Sy, University of Alberta
Kathleen Anderson, University of Alberta
ABSTRACT
The challenge and potential of
Internet technology to deliver
learning services to increasing
numbers of diverse learners who
may not be included in formal
continuing education settings are
beginning to be addressed. VIOLET
(http://www.VIOLETnet.org), a
web site for abused women and
their service providers, is designed
to provide relevant legal
information, an on-line community
for support and sharing of
experience and information, and on-
going updates of legal information
and community services. The
project emerged out of a unique
collaboration among women in
RÉSUMÉ
On commence à aborder les
questions du défi et du potentiel de
la technologie de l’Internet offrant
des services d’apprentissage à un
nombre accroissant d’apprenants
divers, ne faisant peut-être pas
partie des milieux d’éducation
permanente institutionnelle.
VIOLET
(http://www.VIOLETnet.org),
un
siteWeb pour des femmes exploitées
et leurs dispensateurs de soin, est
conçu pour offrir des informations
juridiques pertinentes, une
communauté en accès direct
soutenant et partageant des
expériences et des informations
ainsi que des mises à jour continues
des informations juridiques et des
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pp 15-51
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The potential of technology to deliver information to diverse learners who
may not be included in formal continuing education settings is beginning to
be realized, but it is important for these initiatives to be structured on
evidence based practice in the fields of adult education and learning design
for the web. This paper describes one such initiative, VIOLET, a web based
learning service designed to support abused women and their service
providers, especially those who are isolated psychologically or
geographically. VIOLET: Law and Abused Women (www.VIOLETnet.org) is a
many local and national
communities and organizations
and the Legal Studies Program
at the Faculty of Extension,
University of Alberta. Together
they developed a safe space on
the Internet for abused women,
inclusive of gender, language,
cultural, and learning style
issues.
A technology that widens
access to information may also
present barriers to access. In this
paper we explore some of these
barriers and their implications
for the design of information
resources and learning
environments for abused
women. These issues are
described using an account of
the formative evaluation of the
project’s web site.
services communautaires. Ce projet
s’est dégagé d’une collaboration
unique parmi des femmes venant de
plusieurs communautés et
organismes locaux et nationaux
ainsi que du Programme d’études
de droit à la Faculté de
l’enseignement postscolaire de
l’University of Alberta. Ensemble,
ils ont développé un espace
sécuritaire à l’Internet pour des
femmes exploitées où des questions
de langue, de culture, de sexe ainsi
que de styles d’apprentissage sont
comprises.
Une technologie permettant plus
d’accès à l’information peut être
aussi un obstacle à l’accès. Dans cet
article nous explorons quelques-uns
de ces obstacles et leurs implications
sur la conception de matériel
documentaire et informationnel et
sur les milieux d‘apprentissage des
femmes exploitées. On a élaboré sur
ces questions en utilisant un compte
rendu d’une évaluation formative
du siteWeb du projet.
Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education
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On-Line Learning for Abused Women and Service Providers in Shelters 17
collaborative academic and community venture led by the Legal Studies
Program in the Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta, with funding
provided by the Office of Learning Technologies, Human Resources
Development Canada (http://www.hrdc/rdhc.ca). Although the emphasis
was on development (and redevelopment) and use of the web site, the
Internet capacity of each shelter received special attention; as a result,
funding was achieved for each member shelter of the Alberta Council of
Women’s Shelters to have an Internet station.
The design and development of the web site and the lessons learned,
through formative evaluation, about implementing such a site in shelters
are described. The site design process incorporated web based learning
theory, the women’s ways of knowing framework, and adult learning
theory. The strategies that women in non-formal learning environments use
when seeking information on the web are discussed; this contributes to the
growing body of literature on the use of the web, capitalizes on its unique
qualities for learning in a such an environment.
Ironically, a technology that widens access to information may also
present barriers to access for women. Some of these barriers and tensions,
and their implications for the design of information resources and learning
environments for abused women are also explored.
THE INFORMATION NEEDS OF ABUSED WOMEN
Abused women have a wide array of needs, expectations, and perspectives
when seeking information and they encounter an equally diverse set of
barriers to obtaining relevant information. Harris and Dewdney (1994) cited
three main reasons for “information transfer failure,” especially for battered
women. They found that information-seekers typically encounter
inefficiency in searching due to lack of communication skills, lack
of preparation, lack of self-confidence, and lack of experience
delays in retrieving information once found
poor alternatives for courses of action, because the information
retrieved is erroneous or incomplete.
Additional problems included uncertainty about which help agency to
contact; social barriers such as ethnicity, language, isolation, and fear of
being “caught”; emotional factors such as stress or depression; financial
costs; inappropriate expectations; and institutional barriers (Banyard &
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Graham-Bermann, 1993; Campbell, Sullivan, & Davidson, 1995; Harris &
Dewdney, 1994). These problems contributed to the growing sense of
frustration, alienation, and endangerment felt by information-seeking
clients and were further exacerbated by long waiting lists at available
agencies and lack of support at others once they were located. Increasing
access to reliable, current information via the Internet could reduce some of
these pressures.
VIOLET presents three different approaches to information retrieval and
learning (described in detail in the section titled “Learning Design”).
Grounded by principles of adult education and instructional design for web
based resources (Hill, 1997; Jonassen, 1999), learners are encouraged to
develop their own understanding based upon their personal experiences
and needs. By naming their own experience, women realize they can plan
successfully for the future, and this learning increases their repertoire of
cognitive skills, going beyond simply being able to understand a legal
definition to using the tools embedded in the design to build on and share
insights from new understanding in a sociopolitical community.
Collectively, this type of learning facilitates personal growth and self-
empowerment.
Technology, however, has often been a barrier to learning and to access
for women around the world, conceivably contributing further to the stress,
anxiety, and depression of women who are experiencing abuse (Ayerson &
Reed, 1995–96; Igbaria & Chakrabarti, 1990; Okebukola, 1993). Aware that
many computer based resources are gender-biased and have marginalized
women technology-users (Campbell, 1999), the VIOLET project partners
were determined to develop a plain language, woman-friendly, safe space
on the Internet, inclusive of gender, language, culture, and diverse learning
styles. To this end, the site design was guided by five intended project
outcomes:
1. develop an Internet based learning service to support abused
women and their service providers;
2. provide learning opportunities in the area of relevant legal
information;
3. develop an on-line community for support and sharing of
experience and information;
4. raise awareness of an increasingly knowledge based economy and
society;
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5. introduce women to, and enable them to work with, Internet
technology.
These project outcomes were identified with different wording in the
above mentioned monograph (Sy & Anderson, 1999).
WOMEN LEARNING WITH TECHNOLOGY:
B
ARRIERS AND DESIGN ISSUES
The abilities and skills of learners are defined based on their perceived role
in society (Magolda, 1992). As the predominant experience in our society
has been characterized by the term “malestream,” the ways in which
women learn may not always coincide with what is deemed to be the norm
(Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, & Tarule, 1986; Merriam & Caffarella, 1999;
Stalker, 1996). The literature suggests that most technology-mediated
environments are gender-biased and may ultimately exclude the female
experience (Culley, 1993; Knupfer, 1997; Moore, 1986). This process of social
domination is an issue of power—power of the representation of, and
access to, information. Thus ways of learning and knowing that are not
reflected in the design of the learning environment may lead to stress and
alienation from the learning experience.
Stress and Technology
Studies completed in the 1990s (Elkjaer, 1992; Reed & Overbaugh, 1993;
Shade, 1997; Taylor & Mounfield, 1994) concluded that women experience
more anxiety than men in technological learning contexts due to a lack of
experience, unequal access, low self-efficacy and motivation, and cognitive
and learning styles ill-supported by traditional learning designs. These
factors may be attributed to patterns of socialization at home, school, and
the workplace, and in the political views and values that they represent. For
example, studies of school-age boys and girls have demonstrated important
differences in how they approach new learning with computers. Boys
persist with a trial-and-error method that encourages manipulation of the
keyboard; girls work in groups in a cooperative mode and are less
persistent in attempting to learn the new technology (Culley, 1993). Girls
and women either appear to see the computer as a practical tool or develop
a more holistic view of learning (Anderson, 1998; Spender, 1995), although
they tend to have higher anxiety related to computer use.
Abused women have high levels of stress and depression (Campbell,
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Sullivan, & Davidson, 1995); introducing them to technology-mediated
experience in a shelter could increase their stress. Campbell, Sullivan, and
Davidson note that “ . . . at any given period of time, both intraindividual
variables such as self-esteem, and more contextual variables, such as social
support, are related to battered women’s depression” (p. 239), an
observation that relates to the work on women’s lack of self-efficacy in
technological environments (Anderson, 1998).
Stress and Learning
Attempting to learn under conditions of acute psychological and
physiological stress may lead to “emotions . . . [that] are felt as fear, anxiety,
anger and pain leading eventually to a state of distress” (MacKeracher,
1996). Because victims may not be in a state of mind to learn and may find
it difficult to communicate verbally, learning in this condition may be
distorted or negligible. Abused women may also be characterized as “silent
knowers” (Belenky et al., 1986). Having little confidence in their own
abilities to make decisions, they “feel passive, reactive and dependent,
[and] they see authorities as being all-powerful, if not overpowering”
(p. 27).
In this state, the additional and/or prolonged stress of learning may lead
abused women to delete or distort new informatio, or to withdraw from
the learning environment. A well-structured, guided learning environment,
incorporating a variety of modes and experiences with repetition and
variations on a similar theme, can encourage patterns of learning to emerge
even in stressful situations (Clariana, 1993; Cognition and Technology
Group at Vanderbilt, 1993; Santiago & Okey, 1992). Learning strategies that
support “multiple channel learning” present information and knowledge-
making from different approaches (MacKeracher, 1996). Accordingly, the
VIOLET Project focused on stimulating learning by changing the
organization and presentation of content, rather than by increasing stress.
Stress notwithstanding, an argument can be made for the introduction of
technology as a coping strategy for abused women. Because battered
women are often in relationships characterized by extreme imbalances in
power and control, access to legal and support information in a safe, non-
evaluative context may, in fact empower them. Banyard and Graham-
Bermann (1993) note that “there is impressive evidence that access to
resources, such as education and income, influences coping, particularly as
it is traditionally measured” (p. 308) and that women seem to employ
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On-Line Learning for Abused Women and Service Providers in Shelters 21
coping strategies based on negotiation and forbearance, consciousness-
raising and conscientization. Therefore, an “emancipatory anticipatory”
environment (Chovanec, 1993, p. 72) may support women’s ways of
knowing that are connected, inter-relational, and collaborative. Inaccessible
information sources can be embedded in on-line support structures, and
hypertext writing and computer-mediated communication (CMC) may
encourage social activism and the building of on-line, activist communities
for social justice. These environments may be safer for women than face-to-
face environments as they are asynchronous, do not depend on social cues,
and can be anonymous (Beaulieu, 1995; Herring, 1994; Herring, 1996a;
Herring, 1996b). Accordingly, a number of design guidelines for VIOLET
were identified, including:
a site that protects women users and does not resemble a formal
learning setting;
well-structured information architecture with an intuitive interface
design;
use models that relate to prior experience and knowledge;
assist women to name their circumstances and, thus, better
understand their situation;
strongly align the task with identified learning outcomes for the
project;
encourage knowledge building that is neither compulsory nor
competitive, but enhances the learner’s self-esteem and sense of
empowerment.;
provide bias-free, inclusive, multiple forms of representation
through several choice points and self-selected paths;
recognize the varying degree of literacy without losing the context
and accuracy of the information;
present opportunities for early interaction, and self-reflection.
The challenges for VIOLET included overcoming women’s early
socialization away from technological tools and contexts; exploiting these
tools for empowerment and action; developing support structures for
individual and group learning and for personal issues of anxiety, stress,
fear, low self-esteem, etc.; designing of environments that enhance women’s
learning and cognitive styles and account for socialization factors; and,
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finally, a plan for sustaining the information/activism needs of women in
crisis as they return to their communities.
THE LEARNING DESIGN
Figure 1: Just the Facts. The title screen for Approach 1.
VIOLET incorporates three design approaches designed to support the
information needs of abused women. Each one includes interconnected
links to layers of information about wife abuse, legal remedies, and sources
of assistance. Just the Facts (Approach 1), which is linear and procedurally
based, allows the user to review or renew the information as she gains a
better understanding of legal terminology and possible remedies. Mary’s
Story (Approach 2) encourages the client to name her experience through a
case study format. It’s Your Story (Approach 3) embeds the information in
an authentic narrative that simulates a dialogue between an abused woman
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and a service provider in a women’s shelter; representing a woman’s own
understanding of the situation may encourage both deep and new learning.
Just the Facts is based on principles of didactic, procedural learning and
provides a rich needs based, referential source of legal information that
serves as a resource rather than as a problem requiring action (see Figure 1).
Procedural learning is highly structured, individual, sequenced, has a fixed
pace, and reflects the instructor’s or designer’s understanding of learner
needs. In this model, “tasks” are fixed, there are right and wrong
“answers,” and learning takes place at a low level of cognitive complexity.
Although it may be necessary as a building block for higher-level learning,
in general, learning is more effective if it is practical, situated, context-
dependent, and self-paced (Sherry & Wilson, 1997).
Figure 2: Mary’s Story. An excerpt from Approach 2 that shows the information
retrieval process.
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A procedural approach is best suited to a learning style that is verbal and
autonomous, or “separate” (Belenky et al., 1986; Mackeracher, 1996), but
research tells us that women prefer to learn in connected, cooperative,
holistic ways. Mary’s Story) tries to resolve this tension by providing
structured information in a familiar hierarchical interface within a typical
story in which semantic links are strategically embedded in the narrative,
thus supporting both collaborative and independent work (Hill, 1997). This
narrative design may be more effective with women (Inkpen, 1998), as
learners can choose to be exploratory and self-paced, and can navigate
according to need and interest (see Figure 2).
In VIOLET, Just the Facts provides information in a detached, referential
context, while Mary’s Story presents relevant information within a narrative
that may or may not relate to the client’s situation. It’s Your Story) however,
reflects a situated cognition strategy in which the client may adopt a role
within a context that she admits may parallel her own (see Figure 3). In
situated cognition, learning occurs as a function of the activity, context, and
culture in which it occurs or is situated (Cognition and Technology Group
at Vanderbilt, 1993). That is, learning activities are presented in an authentic
context. In this case, the learner works through the task in a role that
requires a degree of social interaction and collaboration (“I am this person,
interacting with another in a meaningful conversation”). As learners engage
with the “experts,” they build on their own knowledge and understanding
until they become experts themselves in the community of practice.
Ultimately, a design based on situated cognition fully integrates
communication strategies such as the sharing of personal experiences of
abuse through a listserv or threaded discussion (CMC). A fledgling on-line
community has tentatively put down roots as VIOLETForum, Where
women can share their stories and discuss their thoughts about partner
abuse. To date, service providers are posting information and asking for
feedback on legal and administrative policy issues, and abused women are
coming on-line to ask legal questions related to their situations. As more
women participate, they will encounter multiple perspectives and
responses that will extend and elaborate the community and provide
support for personal and social action. Social negotiation, according to
theorists such as Vygotsky (1978), is essential for this type of deep learning.
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Figure 3: It’s Your Story. The title screen for Approach 3.
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EVALUATING VIOLET
Evaluation Components and Process
This paper details the formative evaluation of VIOLET and concomitant
design implications. Since VIOLET reflects a framework of critical feminist
pedagogy (Weiler, 1991), the evaluation was designed as a process of
participatory action research. In other words, the participants and the
project collaborators worked together to identify intended project
outcomes, several of which are embedded in social and political action, to
examine their own contexts and form personal learning objectives, and to
create opportunities to develop a sustained community. This process is
progressing in several ways—through VIOLETForum, the redesign of
VIOLET, and the evolving design of ROSENet.
In a formative evaluation, data is gathered on the effectiveness and
efficiency of instructional materials in order to provide feedback for
revision, before the product is released. A traditional formative evaluation
process involves three stages:
1. one-to-one evaluation, to test segments or prototypes of the
materials. This stage determines if the approach is suitable,
identifies early mistakes in interface design, etc.
2. small-group evaluation with a larger, more diverse group,
occurring after the first revisions are completed. At this stage, the
designers seek to eliminate bias, get a more accurate picture of the
target user group, and to test delivery assumptions and
appropriateness of interface, interactions, and pacing, and
determine learner support needs.
3. field evaluation, with a larger target population, in the actual
learning environment. This stage is often referred to as the pilot
stage, in which the intended instructional, delivery, and assessment
approaches are reflected.
Formative evaluation of the learning design of VIOLET took place in
three stages: one-to-one interviews with representative women (not
currently in shelters) after they had explored all the approaches; an external
review by a design expert; and on-site or field testing with the target users
in shelters. In the shelters, the participants/informants were both shelter
workers and abused women (or clients), considered as subsets of the
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“abused women.” Most of the shelter workers had been abused women,
and were both empathetic to their clients’ information and learning needs
and sensitive to issues of power and control. For these reasons, and because
of confidentiality agreements, participant comments remained anonymous.
Together, these women not only provided insights about design, content,
and implementation of the current site, but also identified areas for revision
within the sociopolitical context of this project. The project designers are
currently involved in a collaborative relationship that includes the
Department of Legal Studies at the University of Alberta, the Status of
Women and the Office of Learning Technologies on a national level, and the
Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) and other associations and
individuals involved with the problem of domestic violence at the
provincial and local levels. This group negotiates content, interactivity,
access, dissemination, instructional purposes, and the resource implications
for continued development of the site.
Formative evaluation of VIOLET occurred at seven shelter sites and three
non-shelter sites, which dealt with family violence, between February 4 and
June 14, 1999, and in individual sessions with the external evaluator.
Informants/participants were as diverse as the project’s target audience
and included shelter clients, shelter workers, administrators, legal interns,
educators, and government representatives. A typical evaluation session
involved an initial orientation for shelter participants, followed by
opportunities to work individually or in groups on the site (participation
was voluntary). Project evaluators worked actively with the participants;
narrative comments, recorded either in writing or by audiorecording, were
subsequently annotated by observers. In most cases, an informal focus
group was conducted immediately after the working session. The women’s
remarks were provided where appropriate, or for purposes of illustration.
Given the sensitive nature of these environments, the evaluation team
rejected the idea of a formal survey.
Materials were examined for the “rightness of fit” of the design to
intended outcomes, that is, for the information/data elements incorporated
to support learning, the cognitive and metacognitive skills and strategies
included; the learner control and support mechanisms provided, the degree
of interactivity allowed, and the tools available to the learner for navigation
and use of the site. For each component, evaluation feedback was followed
by its implications for redesign. This information is summarized in Table 1.
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Table 1: A summary of the evaluation feedback and implications for
redesign
Feedback Design Implications
Diverse learning needs Multiple representations of content
Low readability score (5–8)
Learner options
Minimal cognitive load
Workstation is in public space; Headphones necessary if
distractions hypermedia used
Activities should not require intense
concentration
Cooperative activities, child-oriented
or family tasks
Choice to work privately
Minimal use of large images or
media
Highly engaging material and
elements
Contained activities
Access to Internet Users need to be aware of download
times
“Cover” activities during loading
Navigation directions
Browser default to VIOLET
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Inexperienced users Scaffolding
Manuals, help available
Worked examples, models
Robust design elements
Time constraints Reduced information load
Annotations
Shallow site architecture
No technical assistance Ways to recover made apparent
Clear directions written for novices
Short chunks of information
High stress Activities designed for success
No jargon
Minimal use of technological “frills”
Headphones
Orientation before use
Cooperative use
Well-structured problems
Evaluative Feedback and Implications for Design
Instructional or Learning Design: Descriptive Feedback
Instructional design is both a process and a description of the pedagogical
decisions that structure the learning experience and the materials being
developed. The VIOLET project focused on learners’ responses to content
presentation strategies; type of learner interaction, including opportunities
to manipulate and transform information; inclusion of tools and support for
cognitive strategies, such as decision-making; adequate opportunities to
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practise information skills; and support for individual learning needs and
preferences.
Interacting with content is key to learning with hypermedia, because
interactivity underlies active learning. Active-learning strategies require the
learner to manipulate and transform information (e.g., text) into new
knowledge. Cognitive strategies that encourage active learning include
discrimination and/or elaboration exercises; embedded questions;
manipulating models; applying learning to a new problem or situation;
evaluating information, writing, and/or annotating; asking questions; and
organizing information into new forms such as databases or semantic maps
(Jonassen, 1996). This learning is a desirable outcome for VIOLET because it
implies the critical use of information and resources to effect change at
personal and political levels.
Since the target audience for VIOLET usually has immediate and specific
information needs, an immediately apparent benefit is necessary to
convince this group to use technology. A flat, static web site provides no
added value over print materials, thus, VIOLET must meet information
needs in other ways. Functionality that encourages responsiveness and
learner engagement is key to longer-term use, while engagement is
enhanced by interactivity related to learner choices and needs.
VIOLET’s learning interactivity is found mainly within It’s Your Story,
which contains an ordering exercise based on a role-play and other
activities. During the formative testing, participants were intrigued with
this approach, although all found the interface somewhat difficult to use.
Still, the interface required negotiation and prompted discussion as
participants became more confident using it. Participants commented that
they learned about alternative ways of assisting clients and enjoyed
working with colleagues to answer inquiries from the virtual client.
Comments about this approach reflected the increased commitment of
time and cognitive engagement required by active-learning activities. One
participant stated she would work on this only at home, without
interruptions. Other participants were not satisfied with the activity’s
limits—they wanted to challenge the “expert’s” rankings, seek more
information, and ask “Why.” Although learners have many opportunities
here to go beyond the information given and engage in concept learning,
ill-structured, associative environments (i.e., hypermedia) pose challenges
and increase stress for adult learners (Cognition and Technology Group at
Vanderbilt, 1993), perhaps particularly for non-traditional women learners.
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Design Implications
Typically, adults are task-oriented and expect to receive clear directions for
completing the task, guided by a hierarchical structure-defined path
through the information. A design and cognitive strategy known as “learner
control with advisement” provides advice about the optimal path through
the lesson, the appropriate lesson sequence, or the optimal amount of
instruction (Clariana, 1993; Santiago & Okey, 1992). Advisement may be
more frequently sought and more effectively used by females than by males
(Clariana, 1993), since there seems to be a relationship between
achievement and motivational effects for women. This strategy might have
increased the effectiveness of the more open-ended It’s Your Story.
Schank and Cleary (1994) described the importance of scaffolding
through expert coaching in designs like It’s Your Story. A roster of lawyers
and other related practitioners and service providers will perform this
function in VIOLETForum, initially reviewing important items for
inclusion.
Contextual Components: Descriptive Feedback
In the field evaluation stage, the following conditions were expected: users
would have diverse educational backgrounds and learning style
preferences; they would work on a computer station at the shelter; Internet
access would be by dial-up modem; neither the women nor the workers
would be experienced computer or Internet users; users would be under a
great deal of stress; the learning environment would not be protected from
distractions; and the time available to use the resources would be
constrained, both in the short and long terms. In other words, the field
evaluation context would reflect the authentic learning environment.
Shelter environment and working context: The test sites, both rural and urban,
reflected community needs and resources. Access to VIOLET ranged from
relatively open and unrestricted, to controlled and secure. In one shelter, the
computer was placed in the entryway; at another, it was in a dedicated
education room; in a third, it shared space with the room from which the
Food Bank operated on Tuesdays. If these shelters are representative,
women cannot expect “anytime” access at them. Also, the policy of shelters
may reflect discomfort with open access to information. One shelter
director felt that unsupervised Internet use could lead to identifying
inappropriate sites. Educating for information literacy, (e.g., issues of
authorship, currency, and ethics of information) could be an important
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outcome for the VIOLET project, especially as it relates to barriers to
appropriate information use identified by Harris and Dewdney (1994).
The evaluators observed that public settings are often distracting and
intimidating. Clients with low self-efficacy or anxiety related to technology
may feel threatened if forced to work in view of others. Indeed, one worker
noted that some clients might consider the shelter environment a respite
from violence and stress might not want to “think” and decide right away.
The variety of working contexts in the shelters was a design challenge
for VIOLET. Clients stay anywhere from overnight to three weeks (or
longer) in a shelter, and during that time, they may be involved in
counselling sessions, legal consultation, group support activities, individual
activities, etc. They may have children with them and be obligated to
participate in activities outside the shelter. Their information needs vary
during their shelter stay and afterwards. For example, they may urgently
need advice about child custody, be under a great deal of stress upon
entering the shelter, and be able to endure only very short Internet sessions.
At the same time, shelter workers need VIOLET for their own information
needs, to use with a client in formal or informal counselling sessions, for
community education, and with telephone clients. Sometimes, workers
might be able to devote significant time to VIOLET, but at other times be
able to commit only short bursts of attention between intakes or other
responsibilities.
Training Sessions: Training sessions varied from shelter to shelter; they were
at different times during the day, week, or month, depending on the
location and access to the workstation, the staffing depth and expertise, etc.
In one shelter, two training sessions were held for the workers as part of a
staff meeting. Although the women had been on shift all day and were tired
and initially difficult to engage in the training, the evaluator and the
participants felt they had managed to learn. In another shelter, workers
were continually called out of the training session to provide assistance to
clients. Training in these environments is likely best done in group
meetings, a rare common time when a large group of workers is available.
There was general agreement that the site was valuable, but finding time
to become comfortable with the technology and the site design and to
facilitate its use with clients could be problematic. One worker wondered
whether “there will be time for the workers because of the way the shelters
are run and the time to share with a client . . . [because] we are at war.”
Time was also a concern in a second group: “We all work under so much
time pressure that we’re not going to sit down . . . we can’t sit down and do
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this on our own.” This group observed that when the phone is ringing or
there is an emergency training time, working with the site would have “low
priority.”
Another participant described the Internet as “scary,” especially for those
who hadn’t used a computer before. As with all innovations, users must be
convinced of the added value that justifies their commitment of time and
energy. For example, one participant commented that she would “spend a
couple of hours . . . just to see what was there,” because it would improve
her effectiveness and efficiency when counselling clients. Most workers
agreed they would want to become familiar with the site before
recommending it to their clients. It is important that innovations are
introduced as learning needs arise, and that their use is consistently
coached.
In many of the groups, the women—clients or workers—explored the
site together. Likely a logistical decision, the data nonetheless revealed
support or preference for a cooperative experience. Several workers
commented that, despite taking longer, the experience “got richer because
we were discussing and all that,” and the site was “a better learning tool as
a group.” They also noted that learning together reduced the stress levels
associated with innovations: “Something interesting happens that I noticed
when one person is operating the equipment and if they put their guard
down for a moment, somebody else will reach over . . . and you really
watch when one person feels comfortable, the other person that’s sitting
there [begins to feel more comfortable].”
Technical Readiness of Users: Experience working with computers generally
ranged from “no exposure” to “expertise” with the technology; many had
not used a mouse before. The women in the training sessions supported
each other in their learning, and the collaborative atmosphere set a very
positive tone. The session leader noted that non-users approached the
exercise with obvious self-doubts, which is consistent with the research on
self-efficacy, but, most of them emerged from the sessions feeling positive
about their new skills. Initially, the content of the site is secondary as “the
women learn to use the mouse and ‘read’ the screens.”
Design Implications
Individual terminals could increase privacy and relieve the potential stress
of revealing personal needs, but this encourages autonomous learning. As
women seem to prefer to work in relational ways (MacKeracher, 1996), we
recommend a flexible arrangement that allows more than one person to
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work with the site at a time (for example, temporary carrels with removable
three-sided “borders”). Since physical surroundings may influence
women’s attitudes towards computers (Canada & Brusca, 1991), shelters
should consider locating workstations in aesthetically pleasing, non-
technological surroundings. In the end, the learning environment is the
natural and continuing environment in which these women work, and
ways must be found to shape the information and the technological support
around these continuing realities.
This challenge can be met by chunking and sequencing the information
content appropriately. A client should be able to achieve her information
goal, whether in 15 minutes or in 90 minutes, through evaluating strategies
such as modularization, short information bursts, and scaffolded activities.
One focus of the formative testing was to assess the preferred or typical
working contexts of shelter participants and to evaluate the related scope
and sequence of the site (as reported above). Just the Facts met immediate
information needs best, as specific information could be located and
absorbed very quickly, but, users had to locate information within designer-
defined categories. A search engine or personal assistant could maximize
their time on-line. More complex needs and activities need longer dedicated
periods, especially when working in role as in It’s Your Story. For this
approach to be effective, users need to be trained, coached, and supported,
which requires a significant and sustained time commitment.
Training and working sessions therfore need to be timed for periods of
low activity. Alternatively, one worker might be delegated to deal with
emerging shelter needs, or a train-the-trainer solution could be
implemented. One participant suggested individual or self-paced
orientations in the shelter’s office as an alternative. Training designs could
range from short introductory sessions to longer sessions devoted to using
VIOLET as an education tool. Just-in-time training relates to emerging needs
and could be streamlined with job aids such as manuals, training tapes, etc.
As learner support is critical for success in technology-mediated learning,
developing self-paced, off-line and/or on-line training for maximizing
VIOLET could be effective. Access would be improved by wiring the
shelters for portable Internet access (a “plug and play” solution) and by
maximizing working space. At a minimum, log-on procedures should be
streamlined, clearly outlined, and posted. Directions for accessing the
Internet and for standard computer operation (e.g., mousing) should be
available, if just-in-time assistance is not. Very simple, graphical directions
should either be posted or packaged in a robust user manual. The site could
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be made the default homepage and always be “up.” Cable modems or high-
speed connections would eliminate long download times and minimize
errors in dialing (the modem). Efforts should be focused on robustness and
transparency, and because the users are already in a state of anxiety and
stress, they should not be expected to trouble-shoot technical problems.
Cooperative and group activities were a preferred learning style for
many participants. Since cooperative work requires a greater time
commitment, it must be designed to accommodate time available in each
shelter. A range of activities could be developed to be completed in short
working sessions to longer terms (days), acknowledging different learning
preferences. In terms of modelling technology use and information-retrieval
skills, peer educators are quite effective. Shelter workers may have
additional needs: self-education and assessment, extended resources that
clients can utilize and educational tools to use in counselling or
consultation. Because “buy-in” from these individuals is essential if
VIOLET is to be supported and recommended, an emphasis on
implementation to enhance the worker’s job is important. If VIOLET offers
a unique experience, commitment to use it will increase despite the
inconveniences of time and setting. In fact, during testing, service providers
began to refer to VIOLET as “their site,” so this emotional and conceptual
commitment had already begun, and appeared to be gaining momentum in
the post-research training sessions.
Abused women clients, and service providers, may or may not be
computer literate, but low-literacy clients had trouble with technical jargon.
Several users recognized this and made some specific recommendations,
including “explain the lingo with a graphic. For example, when saying
‘toolbar,’ give a picture of the toolbar.” If clients can be partnered,
confidence and self-esteem may be enhanced for both. Several comments
reflected this outcome, for example, “Even one of the participants who had
never used the Internet before . . . was pleased with herself and her ability
to master the Internet.”
Message Design: Descriptive Feedback
Good message design depends on more than well-constructed text that
privileges the verbal learner. Other considerations include appropriate
choice of data elements; support for diverse learning styles and preferred
perceptual modalities; readability; language use and tone; user control of
options such as translation or a glossary; effective use of visual cues and
design elements; and inclusivity such as gender, age, and culture.
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The target users for VIOLET are widely diverse in terms of culture and
values, age, life experience, education, computer literacy, domestic
situation, literacy, involvement in domestic violence, etc. To be effective, a
resource such as VIOLET must support many different learning styles and
individual preferences. Flexible learning options, multiple representations
of content, and social interaction can facilitate this goal. Text, although
convenient, fast to download, easier to print, and requiring fewer technical
skills to access, is not always the optimal data element to use with a diverse
population.
Appropriate language use is critical. Tone, form, and readability levels
must be matched to intended outcomes (i.e., function) and serve as many
readers as possible. Generally, the participants found the language simple
and straightforward, although one group, a non-shelter organization that
deals primarily with literacy issues, found the literacy level too high. One
participant suggested increasing the graphical representations relating to
user directions, but most participants appreciated the “everyday language”
tone of the legal information.
The comment that key information was “buried” was supported in
another group, who suggested that key resources (which were not
identified) be alphabetized by city or region. This criticism reflects
inefficient information architecture and/or a poor interface design.
Although the architecture is hierarchical, there may be too many layers of
information for some users (see Yale Web Style Manual, 2000). However,
there was consensus that the depth of information was so impressive that it
could be used in many different ways and contexts. One worker passed on
the site URL to her husband to give to his client, “so I didn’t ever talk to
that woman but I know now she has a lot of really good information. And
information that would have taken me a long time to give on the phone.”
Workers appreciated having an accurate, comprehensive source of
information that was available both to abused women and their partners.
“We’re getting calls from women in crisis . . . you can go back after talking
to the husbands and look at that web site.” These participants saw
VIOLET’s influence as going beyond the immediate client and reaching out
to the entire family.
One group discussed the site’s inherent biases at length. Differences in
cultural contexts were identified related to legal issues, emotional needs,
trust, literacy and computer literacy, geographical location, and community
values. Apart from the actual content, text does not address these cultural
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differences. And, although all agreed that coverage was comprehensive,
some topics, procedure, and policies are specific to regions and
communities. Other groups wanted more detail about various issues,
presumably because their clients’ needs related mostly to these topics.
Information that one group wanted included was judged by another
group to be too volatile.
Participants found the content reliable, realistic, accurate, and properly
sequenced. Several appreciated having a back-up information system for
both themselves and their clients, as information changes and is too
comprehensive for any one individual to know completely. Clients noted
that they weren’t always confident they had received the best information,
so were pleased to be able to compare their understandings with a
consistent source. Information “gaps,” such as the nature of “spiritual
abuse” and the role of shelters as service providers, were noted by the
session leaders.
Several participants found the stories “skeletal.” One worker felt not
enough information was included for her to make a recommendation to
her client. One group pointed out that ranking (It’s Your Story) will be
different in each shelter: “There are differences for sure between one
shelter and the next shelter that you will find a lot more facts of abuse and
discussing around that area, so you will find that ranks generally higher
up . . . the ranking could be quite different.”
Several women requested a section for men who might be seeking
advice or counselling. One woman noted the relationship between mental
illness, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and abuse, while another
observed that a woman might not want to leave her partner and needed
options for helping her partner change, or for helping the family cope.
These are political as well as design issues that need to be negotiated.
Design Implications
VIOLET was designed specifically to support “mainstream” Canadian
women and was not intended to reflect the multicultural nature of our
society. ROSENet addresses the information needs of abused immigrant
women and women outside the cultural context of VIOLET. However, the
existing content could be revised to reflect the different contexts in which
the target audience of abused women live in the province. An advisory
group, working as participatory designers in future iterations of the
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project, could make recommendations related to content, jargon, unclear
terms, complex sentence construction, etc.
Content validity and utility are key to encouraging women to use the
site, even if this requires a difficult time commitment. Users must be
encouraged to identify key information or information most urgently
needed on a personal level; Mary’s Story appeared to do this. As one
participant noted, “And I think if I had more time to go and I just wanted to
browse around, I’d probably look at Mary’s Story.” Others spent more time
working with It’s Your Story because they were able to personalize the
experience and share it with others. This group suggested revising this
story to make it more urgent, for example, by having the abusive partner
still in the home. This implies adding more personal stories, including
different and more challenging scenarios (scaffolding), and providing
opportunities to share experiences, negotiate actions, etc. A method for
collecting ideas and new content must be developed; an on-line survey
could be utilized as a transition to an authentic participatory and
emancipatory environment such as the one Winkelman (1997) described.
Interface Design: Descriptive Feedback
A well-designed interface is intuitive, or transparent. The dictionary
interface is a good example because it works well for the underlying
content it organizes and represents. In other words, interface both
represents and supports message design by making the message accessible
to the learner. A good interface allows cognitive effort to be utilized in
learning and elaborating new knowledge, rather than trying to locate where
it appears on the screen. Predictability, consistency, coherence, transparency,
learner-controlled pacing, and a number of other elements (Mok, 1996)
characterize good interface design.
Users found the site interface quite intuitive and transparent.
Information was well laid out and relatively easy to access, although there
were too many levels in the architecture. Participants at one non-shelter site
felt that the use of technical jargon (such as “icon”) and problems
navigating “backwards” should be addressed. One informant complained
of too much scrolling, which relates to the extensive use of text. It should be
noted, however, that topics are contained within one screen or file, which
minimizes navigation errors and load times, and eases printing.
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Design Implications
An interface that adapts to learner needs enhances the learning
environment and can be accomplished in various ways, including a
queryable site map, an alphabetical index, a search engine, or an intelligent
help facility. The VIOLET site architecture should be re-evaluated to see if
several layers could be collapsed or combined.
A parallel VIOLET site, modelled after the Yale Web Style Manual (2000),
might eliminate separate files to facilitate printing, while the main site
architecture reflects shorter individual modules that minimize scrolling.
Other navigation strategies include “Top of Page” indicators, a site map,
and a history, footprint, or bookmarking function.
CONCLUSIONS
VIOLET is in the second phase of a planned development of an Internet
based resource for abused women and their service providers in Alberta.
Currently, the site design reflects an information approach over a learning
approach. Although Mary’s Story was actually the first approach developed,
It’s Your Story could be developed as a comprehensive learning approach
that encourages the user to synthesize her own learning in light of the role-
plays.
Outcomes: Intended and Unintended
Anticipated outcomes for VIOLET included the following:
increased awareness, for shelters and abused women, of available
information that is current and consistent, legal issues and
language, and alternative formats;
an educational and information service for shelter workers, and a
training tool for shelter volunteers and new staff;
introduction to learning with technology for shelter workers and
their clients;
• increased technological literacy for both groups, including the
ability to critically evaluate information on-line;
• opportunities for abused women to develop community networks.
In many ways, however, the unanticipated outcomes of the project are
more interesting and compelling. As VIOLET is made accessible throughout
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the shelters, facilitators need to be alert to the unstructured and powerful
uses to which women working cooperatively will put the site.
This project was informed by work in critical feminist pedagogy, in
which participatory action research and personal empowerment are
embedded, and in adult learning theory, in which a gendered view of
instructional design and learning theory was proposed. In this project, these
themes are interrelated in theory and practice, and the themes that emerged
included personal and technical empowerment using technology to enable
naming and sharing of experience, the development of communities of
support through cooperative interaction, and the importance of
contextualizing projects of social activism in culture, access, and status.
Many groups remarked on the increased personal sharing that occurred
while participants explored the site, negotiated control of the mouse,
figured out the interface, and evaluated the content. Many times, a user
choice resulted in an extended conversation about personal concerns for
children, or the family’s economic situation. One participant noted that
simply working with the site comprised a counselling session.
The experience of working with technology to obtain information
encouraged women to move “toward their own independence, their own
safety.” If “one of our main concerns is that women tend to be left behind
with technology,” then an experience like VIOLET “puts them up to speed
. . . because a lot of the women who are leaving and now maybe are looking
more seriously or for the first time at getting into a workplace, and what is
the most obvious feature of today’s workplace? . . . a computer.” It was
generally agreed that VIOLET provided a “circuitous way . . . of
introducing it into their experience so that they see how non-threatening it
is and within their grasp of obtaining the capability to operate it.” Although
some participants doubted that VIOLET would provide a “burst of
validation of those women who are in denial or minimizing their
experiences,” sharing experiences in person or on-line opens up the
possibility of social or personal action and unites clients in a community of
shared concern.
Not only does VIOLET offer control in using technology, but it also
empowers “because then they’re actually doing something and they’re
looking for solutions, they’re looking for answers . . . because it’s active
participation.” In addition, being in an abusive relationship is isolating:
“loneliness is such a huge part of their life, that if you get them focused and
get them active they feel less isolated.” A globally accessible site devoted to
wife abuse is also potentially affirming since “just the fact it’s there on a
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computer is validating for women. Like if you’re getting it out there in
more forums, taking it out of the closet, that’s good.”
Perhaps most encouraging was witnessing how VIOLET encouraged the
transformation of acknowledgment into personal action. During one
training session, a client was able to name an incident in her life that is
considered abusive and not acceptable in an intimate relationship. Prior to
her “flight,” her partner locked her in the basement of their house for
several days, letting her out only to use the bathroom facilities on another
floor. She did not realize that this action had a name or that it was abusive.
The definition of “confinement” was a revelation to her, confirming that
this type of behaviour was abusive and her decision to leave her abuser,
even though her own family members were not supportive, was correct.
Future Directions
If use of the VIOLET site contributes to the inclusion of women in an
information society, then opportunities are present for extended training
and support of women’s use of technology. An Internet-capable computer
in the shelters allows the development of further information projects and
training opportunities. VIOLET can be extended to support learning cells
and on-line forums that will provide support and opportunities for activism
for abused women and service providers.
The situated cognition approach reflected in It’s Your Story is generative
as it is based on collaborative discourse within the system (Schank &
Cleary, 1994). Typically, the instructor designs an infrastructure for
constructive discourse and negotiation of meaning among learners (Sherry
& Wilson, 1997), often through CMC. Jonassen (1996) describes CMC as a
“mindtool”; it is both a communicative and cognitive process requiring
critical reflection and elaboration of information and understanding among
participants. Collaborative learning has powerful emancipatory potential
because personal political stories raise many important controversial issues
about relations, power, and representation, which are critical issues in
working with abused women in shelters. Ideally, a carefully indexed library
of cases and solutions, representing new knowledge, begins to evolve as
more stories are added and become available for participants’ use.
Hypertext invites collective writing activity, and the political power it
could encourage among abused women in shelters and in the wider
community is exciting to contemplate. One such project was described by
Winkelman (1997), who used personal narratives to create a community in
which individuals worked with others in the same situation towards
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common, “multi-accented” goals (p. 26). Hypertext is the tool of choice, as
the reader becomes the co-creator of the text by choosing a personal path
through the links, establishing her own semantic links. In Winkelman’s
project, Sheila, an abused woman in a shelter, told her story in a series of
conversations with Winkelman, who posted them to a restricted
newsgroup. Through women’s participation in this newsgroup, Sheila’s
story was continually refashioned or reinvented in every retelling. Sheila
herself became transformed, seeing her story through new eyes as she
participated in the “second level narrative” (Borland, 1991). She became
“available to an electronic hermeneutic as readers discover, interpret,
reinvent, and release her story” (Winkelman, 1997, p. 29). This accounting
of a political activity reflects case based learning design, in which personal
stories provide examples of experience and practice in which we participate
(through conversation) and from which we learn. Cyborg writing enables
social activism, through “language that exposes androcentric oppression
and constructs alternative consciousness” (p. 30).
The extension of VIOLET’s design into this area requires further study
and implementation, as access is of major concern when developing
computer based resources for women. In addition, the learning task
involved in CMC is quite complex, for both learners and facilitators. Since
this design would involve a degree of social activism, political concerns are
a significant barrier to immediate implementation of case based learning in
this project.
Ideally, VIOLET will be available to all abused women in the province
through public access terminals placed in relatively safe environments such
as libraries, community centres, grocery stores, doctors’ offices, postoffices,
etc. These points of access are considered safe because the source of the
originating request is anonymous and the project continues to work
towards providing this access. However, implementing this goal is more
expensive and complex than locating stations permanently in shelters. Since
many abused women neither physically reach shelters nor have equal
access compared to men, the project leaders are strongly committed to this
goal. Presently, women may access information through a shelter by
telephoning a crisis worker who can provide both current and relevant
legal information and advice as well as the site URL and recommendations
for its use.
Women’s learning styles appear to be relational and cooperative;
cooperative learning is a complex strategy in which process is made explicit
and participants identify, articulate, implement, and reflect on goals related
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both to cognitive and affective outcomes. This type of learning reflects
principles of social constructivism, which aligns with women’s ways of
knowing. These social negotiation skills must be taught explicitly in order
to realize the model’s effectiveness for developing higher-order critical
thinking, and thus may require the development of related training
activities for shelter workers. This will be a longer-term goal for VIOLET.
Expanding the clientele and purpose of the site to include resources for
the family members of abused women, including children, was not an
intended outcome for VIOLET. Several participants noted that VIOLET
facilitates discussion and could be used as an anchor for family counselling;
the project leaders will need to evaluate the value of this intriguing
extension to the project.
VIOLET can provide the foundation for a knowledge base containing
stories related to abuse and related issues, which can then be used by
abused women, related agencies, program developers, and scholars. An on-
line forum has excellent potential for developing and maintaining a
network of abused women, their supporters, and other related individuals.
Not only can it support both an educational and political community that,
in sharing, discovers its own voice, but it can also serve as a growing
knowledge base for its participants. Issues needing resolution before this
phase include safety and access. In addition, forums of this nature are most
effective if facilitated, again requiring a substantial commitment of
resources. Research questions related to these initiatives include the
following: To whom would this knowledge base be accessible and for what
purposes? How would potential participants be encouraged to contribute,
or even be made aware that they might?
Learning Designs that Support Women
The VIOLET project has been presented in a feminist context. In other
words, we acknowledge that technology is a social construct that has, to
date, disenfranchised women, and that gender as a social construct has not
existed comfortably alongside technology. VIOLET plans to use technology
to empower abused women by providing access to essential information,
models of decision-making, and membership in a community of social
activism. The research on learning attributes, such as motivation, inform
this framework and influence the site design. A stance of critical pedagogy
was used to design an emancipatory environment in which women have a
voice, and in which they can participate in safety. It meant telling women’s
stories of abuse through their own voices. Winkelman (1997) refers to a
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strategy of cyborg politics, “a politics that makes joyful use of technology”
(p. 19) to encourage social change.
The decision to build project goals around a web based strategy seems
dichotomous, but we believe there is value in helping women use
technological tools in active, safe, and emancipatory ways. This goal
presents VIOLET with a learning design challenge—to reflect women’s
learning needs and objectives, to empower rather than perpetuate
inequities in access and attitude, and to sustain relationship and action
within the community of abused women and their service providers.
The emancipatory power of the Internet lies in bringing women together
in communities across national and cultural boundaries, enhancing
women’s creative potential, and extending and redefining the identity of
the gendered self. Because anyone can publish on the Net, it is also the first
platform for the stories of the silenced and marginalized, providing a forum
in which these groups can publish sources of information never before
available to the wider public.
In on-line environments for social change, the cultural context in which
knowledge is produced is examined with the questions Whose authority?
and Whose knowledge? as critical lenses. These environments will encourage
abused women to use their own feelings, intuition, and imagination as
resources and strengths for learning as they work towards self-
empowerment.
END NOTES
1.
ROSENet (www.rosenet-ca.org), funded by the Alberta Human Rights
Education Fund, is a collaborative project of the University of Alberta
Legal Studies Program and Changing Together (a centre for immigrant
women), to develop a web site by and for immigrant women who have
experienced abuse, and their service providers.
2
“Ill-structured,” as used here, refers to the structure and potentially
acceptable resolutions to the problem presented. For example, the
problem “Solve world hunger” is ill-structured, while the problem
“Determine the better long-term investment outcome between paying
off a mortgage or maximizing RRSP contributions” is well-structured.
Ill-structured environments are emergent and definable by the learner,
possess multiple solutions and paths, or no solutions at all, present
uncertainties, offer no guidelines for predicting outcomes, or multiple
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criteria for evaluating solutions, and require learners to make
judgments and to defend their positions with personal opinions and
beliefs. (see Jonassen, 1999, p. 129).
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BIOGRAPHIES
Katy Campbell is Associate Director and lead instructional designer of the
Academic Technologies for Learning department (http://
www.atl.ualberta.ca) at the University of Alberta. She joined Academic
Technologies for Learning in 1996, after seasoning stints, first in the College
of Education at the State University of New York College at Geneseo (1993-
95), and second, briefly, as a designer of distance programs at Keewatin
Community College in Manitoba, Canada.
Current research interests include gender/technology interactions and
resulting design issues, faculty transformative practice through collaborative
instructional design, and the lives and practice of instructional designers.
Katy Campbell est Directrice associée et conceptrice principale de
matériel pédagogique au département de Academic Technologies for
Learning (http://www.atl.ualberta.ca) de l’University of Alberta. Elle s’est
jointe à Academic Technologies for Learning en 1996 après avoir pris son
expérience, d’abord à la Faculté d’Éducation du State University of New
York College à Genesco (1993-95), et ensuite, brièvement, comme
conceptrice de programmes d’enseignement à distance à Keewatin
Community College au Manitoba au Canada.
Ses intérêts actuels en recherche comprennent les interactions homme-
femme/technologie et les questions de conception de matériel pédagogique
qui en résultent, la métamorphose des membres de la faculté par
l’intermédaire de la conception collaborative de matériel pédagogique et, la
vie et l’exercice professionnel des concepteurs de matériel pédagogiques.
San San Sy is Associate Professor in the Legal Studies Program at the
Faculty of Extension, University of Alberta. She received her Education
Specialist and her Master’s Degree in Instructional System Technology from
Indiana University. Her professional interest and experience includes
instructional design in non-formal education in the area of law using a
variety of technologies, training community groups in the use of the
Internet and knowledge management. In conjunction with other partners,
she has developed and implemented the concept of Access to Justice
Network (ACJNet – www.acjnet.org) and many other web sites for non-
formal learning. Her applied research is in the area of legal information
needs of women and immigrants, their learning needs using technology,
and the use of Internet for non-formal learning.
Canadian Journal of University Continuing Education
Vol. 26, No. 2, Fall 2000
On-Line Learning for Abused Women and Service Providers in Shelters 51
San San Sy est professeur agrégée avec le Programme d’études de droit à
la Faculté de l’enseignement postscolaire de l’University of Alberta. Elle est
éducatice spécialiste et a reçu sa maîtrise en Technologie de systèmes
didactiques d’Indiana University. Son intérêt et son expérience
professionnels comprennnent la conception de matériel pédagogique en
milieu d’éducation non-formelle dans le domaine juridique en utilisant une
variété de technologies, la formation de groupes communautaires pour
l’utilisation de l’Internet ainsi que pour la gestion des connaissances.
Conjointement avec d’autres partenaires, elle a développé et mis en oeuvre
la notion d’Accès à un réseau juridique (ACJNet – www.acjnet.org) et
plusieurs autres sitesWeb pour l’apprentissage non-formel. Ses recherches
appliquées se font dans le domaine du besoin des femmes et des
immigrants pour des informations juridiques, leurs besoins d’apprentissage
non-formel en ce qui concerne utilisation de la technologie et de l’Internet.
Kathleen Anderson is a Ph.D. student in the Faculty of Education,
University of Alberta, Educational Policy Studies, Adult and Higher
Education. Her main interests include gender issues and technology and
her experience has included instructional design for both face-to-face and
on-line learning environments for adult learners. Research Associate for the
VIOLET project, she is also the current University of Alberta Coordinator of
the Learning Enhancement Envelope, an Alberta Learning initiative to
increase access to the adult learning system in Alberta through the effective
use of learning technologies.
Kathleen Anderson est étudiante au doctorat en Études des politiques de
l’éducation et en Éducation supérieure et aux adultes à la Faculté
d’Éducation de l’University of Alberta. Ses intérêts principaux comprennent
les questions homme-femme et la technologie. Son expérience comprend la
conception de matériel pédagogique pour des apprenants adultes en
milieux face-à-face ou en direct. Attachée de recherches pour le projet
VIOLET, elle est aussi Coordonnatrice du Learning Enhancement Envelope
de l’University of Alberta. Le Learning Enhancement Envelope est une
initiative albertaine liée à l’acquisition du savoir, qui a fait augmenter
l’accès au système d’apprentissage des adultes en Alberta en utilisant
efficacement les technologies d’apprentissage.
VIOLET received the CAUCE 1999 Award of Excellence.
... Only those individuals who have experienced DV can understand, provide support, and interact with others—particularly victims/survivors—about the issues surrounding DV. DV organizations, activists, and support groups have begun—and will continue—to evolve with current technological trends by increasing the services, goods, information, and support they provide via the Internet, through the use of CMC tools (Campbell, Sy, & Anderson, 2000; Finn, 2000). Unfortunately, the amount of women who experience DV also continues to increase each year. ...
... The most important approach to prevention is evaluation of current DV support and information services to determine their effectiveness and victims/survivors satisfaction with those services. Furthermore, research studies concerning the information needs of abused women are limited (Campbell et al., 2000; Harris & Dewdney, 1994). Women who have experienced DV have significant needs and expectations when seeking information; unfortunately, they are often faced with barriers to obtaining the necessary and relevant information needed. ...
... t risk. 3. They receive inaccurate or inappropriate information, and thus may be misled into a course of action that may not be best for them or for those on whose behalf they are acting (p. 3-4). Due to these problems, the information-seeking experience often causes frustration, alienation, and for many abused women, endangerment becomes an issue. Campbell et al. (2000) found endangerment became an issue for abused women seeking information and help, particularly when they encountered long waiting lists at available shelters and lack of support at other located agencies. One solution that may alleviate and prevent these problems and pressures is to increase the access to reliable, up-to-date informatio ...
... Anderson, 2000;NCIPC, 2003). The amount of information available online is also used to provide online training for individuals and organizations that deal with violence against women (VAW). ...
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The use of information communication technologies (ICTs) to empower individuals through social support, help-seeking, and help-providing activities is finding its place in healthcare delivery. ICTs, in particular, offer access to timely and relevant information that domestic violence victims and organizations can tap into. Thus, this article explores the use of ICTs for providing and facilitating support and care-giving services to victims/survivors of domestic violence with online communities and other groups.
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Full-text available
This study investigated the effects of learning styles, programming, and gender on computer anxiety. Fifty-eight undergraduate preservice teachers (36 females, 22 males) participated. Kolb’s Learning Styles Inventory, a modified version of Spielberger’s Anxiety Scale, and a written and hands-on measure of BASIC programming were used. Programming instruction was found to significantly reduce computer anxiety, but with no significant difference by type of learning style. The one-day intensive format reduced computer anxiety significantly less than the four-week distributed format. Females significantly outperformed males on the hands-on component of the exam. The two types of learning styles that were least represented (Convergers and Divergers) were found to reduce computer anxiety the least and to perform the poorest on both aspects of the exam.
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In this article, Kathleen Weiler presents a feminist critique that challenges traditional Western knowledge systems. As an educator, Weiler is interested in the implications of this critique for both the theory and practice of education. She begins with a discussion of the liberatory pedagogy of Paulo Freire and the profound importance of his work. She then questions Freire's assumption of a single kind of experience of oppression and his abstract goals for liberation. A feminist pedagogy, she claims, offers a more complex vision of liberatory pedagogy. Weiler traces the growth of feminist epistemology from the early consciousnessraising groups to current women's studies programs. She identifies three ways that a feminist pedagogy, while reflecting critically on Freire's ideas, also builds on and enriches his pedagogy: in its questioning of the role and authority of the teacher; in its recognition of the importance of personal experience as a source of knowledge; and in its exploration of the perspectives...