SJSU Information School and Hewlett-Packard Collaborate in Assessment of Educational Materials


One of the strategic directions of the San José State University (SJSU) School of Library and Information Science is to “enhance partnerships with Silicon Valley companies and other organizations, [and] to raise the profile of the School as a research unit.” Under the direction of Dr. Sandra Hirsh, the SJSU information school is doing exactly that in an ongoing collaborative partnership with Hewlett-Packard (HP) in the development of educational materials.

According to Udi Chatow of HP Graphics Business Solutions, he was looking for forward thinking education partners “that can help us evaluate and guide some early stage innovation coming from HP Labs to improve education outcomes. We found a great team and partnership in [Hirsh’s] staff.”

The SJSU information school and HP are working together to learn more about student learning preferences when comparing electronic and printed textbooks by piloting a personalized hybrid book tool this summer in two courses offered in the school’s exclusively online master’s degree programs: Electronic Records taught by Lisa Daulby, an instructor for the school’s Master of Archives and Records Administration program (MARA); and Beginning Cataloging and Classification taught by Mary Bolin, an instructor for the school’s Master of Library and Information Science program (MLIS).

Dubbed “METIS” for the Greek god of wisdom and cunning, the tool was developed by HP Labs using information gained from student surveys and from consultations with Hirsh and other faculty at the SJSU information school.

The goal of the pilot project is “to improve student learning by providing course materials in the best formats,” said Debbie Faires, the director of online learning at the SJSU information school, who is also on the research team with faculty member Dr. Sue Alman and alumna Christina Mune. Faires further explained, “We are trying to learn what students prefer when it comes to working with print materials and digital versions of the materials. Faculty members can use what we learn about the best formats to support student learning when they select the types of reading materials and formats they will use in their classes.”

The information learned from piloting the hybrid book tool in the SJSU information school’s Electronic Records and Cataloging courses will also help HP refine the METIS product. According to Molly Bullock, a researcher from HP, the Silicon Valley firm hopes to discover “what features [students] find beneficial in improving their learning outcomes, which didn’t they like, and what we may have missed that they would like to see in future releases.”

HP’s Chatow sees a lot of promise in the collaboration with the SJSU information school in the METIS project. When asked about the future, he said, “I hope to see several iterations of the METIS project in the coming year, all together creating better education outcomes for SJSU and the students.”

A continuation of the pilot is planned for the fall with a configuration of an e-textbook for Alman’s The Emerging Future: Technology Issues and Trends course, which is offered as both a MOOC and as an elective in the SJSU information school’s MLIS program.

Open Educational Resources (OER) and Electronic Textbooks Survey

In November 2013, HP and SJSU conducted a survey of 527 students, asking them to identify characteristics or attributes of a printed textbook that are most important to them when comparing a printed textbook to an electronic textbook. The survey respondents rated their “ability to learn” from a printed textbook as the most important characteristic when using a print textbook. Although a majority (57 percent) of students in the survey preferred printed textbooks, more than 80 percent noted that “convenience to access” and “cost” are important aspects of electronic textbooks. The pilot program launched this summer builds upon the initial data gathered in 2013.