This paper reports on a field‐based study of online help systems at the University of Maryland. After collecting data by means of interview, observation and focus group, analysis is grounded on the contextual data, thus shedding light on particular organizational and human behavioral issues on online help systems. The objectives of this research are to offer insights, enhance understandings, and provide a meaningful guide to design online help systems for educational institutions. Based on the contextual information and data analyses, several constructive thoughts are brought forward, along with the prototype system, for campus‐wide online help systems design. These implications include developing more time‐critical and task‐sensitive online help, merging CMC approaches, and customizing online help in terms of different user groups, even towards specialized online help systems. The limitations of this research are enunciated and future research as well.
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