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portal: Libraries and the Academy 2.3 (2002) 487-488

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Book Review

Electronic Classroom Handbook

Electronic Classroom Handbook, Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2001. 257 p. $75 (ISBN 1-55570-407-7)

Anyone considering designing, redesigning, or teaching in an electronic classroom should be sure to look at Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe's Electronic Classroom Handbook. Hinchliffe provides the reader with one of the most complete surveys of this topic available today. The author is currently Library Instruction Coordinator of Milner Library at Illinois State University and is well known for her work in the Instruction Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries. In this work, and her work as a consultant, she has proven she knows her way around an electronic classroom!

Written in a cogent, accessible style, the work is divided into three parts. The first section deals with the planning required to fund and build the classroom that best suits your needs. Initial chapters discuss the groundwork that should be laid before you consider such projects. What do you really want? How can the request be justified? Will you need a consultant? Who should be involved in the planning process? What types of information need to be gathered and analyzed? The author includes several helpful workforms for assessing instructional needs, tours of campus classrooms, developing priorities, and creating a timeline.

The second part of the work speaks to the actual design and construction of the classroom, with information on a wide variety of designs and an analysis of the usage, benefits, and disadvantages of different layouts. The author also makes suggestions concerning everything from doors to floors to security considerations. A chapter on infrastructure provides a simple explanation of needs in very understandable language, outlining a common vocabulary for discussion with system administrators and building managers. In an interesting turn, Hinchliffe discusses software decisions prior to her chapter related to hardware concerns. Her explanation is [End Page 487] simple—one doesn't really know what hardware will be necessary prior to choosing software. She also makes it a point not to speak in generalities about software. Instead, she breaks things down into a variety of operational needs and provides names for some of the packages that are available on the market. Budget, occupancy, and construction are also discussed in easy to understand terms.

In the final part of the book, day-to-day operations of the classroom are discussed. Once the facility is open, how should it be administered and, very importantly, how can it best be used? Hinchliffe quickly identifies the expenses involved in the use and ownership of an electronic classroom. In addition to capital investment in the facility, a great deal of policy and procedural investment is necessary as well. Are you sharing the facility with those outside the library? You might want to consider a shared use agreement. What kinds of personnel do you need to have available in the classroom during classes or between classes? How will scheduling of the classroom work? Who is in charge of upgrading or maintaining the equipment? Again she provides examples of the materials used to answer these questions at her library.

Of course, the ultimate reason for any classroom, electronic or otherwise, is to provide an environment in which students can learn. The author discusses modes of instruction and learning styles (lecture/demonstration, active and collaborative learning, and individualized instruction) and offers suggestions on the development of electronic classroom teaching skills as well as materials that might be useful. Is your new classroom an effective learning tool? Several ways of assessing the quality of teaching in the electronic classroom are noted. Among the means for evaluation, Hinchliffe suggests the use of a classroom logbook, observation, focus groups, student evaluations, surveys of instructors who use the classroom, and informal conversations with the individuals using the classrooms. After a brief discussion of the future, the book concludes with several appendices. The first appendix provides reproducible figures that can be used for layout and design. The next leads readers to a list of possible resources for more information...


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