Relate-Create-Donate: An educational strategy

Ben Shneiderman, revised February 14, 2002

In using electronic classrooms, the goal is to provide more effective educational strategies.  Information technologies inside and outside electronic classrooms enable students to collaborate more effectively, thus shifting the teaching balance from lecture-centered to team-centered approaches.  The benefit of this shift is that students can easily work together outside of class at whatever hour of the day is convenient.  Email, listservs, and the World-Wide Web support teamwork and information sharing in unprecedented ways.  The University Office of Technologies is a strong supporter of these educational technology innovations.

A second shift is that students can more easily relate to people and organizations outside the classroom.  They can benefit by being in touch with key people and resources, and they can contribute by service oriented projects for campus and community organizations.  This Relate-Create-Donate strategy (HCIL TR 97-17) means that students work in teams to conduct ambitious projects that they could not do on their own for the benefit of people outside the classroom.  

I now expect student projects to be accessible and useful to other people - the old concept that only the professor reads a student's paper seems misguided.  In most courses students are prohibited from reading each others papers, in these courses they are required to read each others papers.  I find that making student projects available on the web creates a stimulus to improved quality and a satisfying sense of accomplishment among the students.  A set of PowerPoint slides explains the Relate-Create-Donate philosophy .

I first employed these strategies in a distance learning class in Fall 1993 on the topic of Virtual Reality and Telepresence.  Twelve students were in a video classroom in College Park and 12 were scattered around the country.  These students developed two ambitious websites with their projects:

Encyclopedia of Virtual Environments: EVE
Journal of Virtual Environments: JOVE

I described this class by asking a question: Education by Engagement and Construction: Can Distance Learning be Better than Face-to-Face?   Since the University of Washington is a leader in these topics, they have maintained these websites.

The strategies were refined in a variety of courses and by feedback from other instructors who used these methods.  I was gratified to get comments from other professors, but especially pleased by a report from a 5th grade teacher in Providence, RI whose students prepared a CDROM on the animals of Africa (with music, videos, animations, etc.)  for use by the 3rd graders.  

University of Maryland undergraduates have prepared web sites with their empirical study project reports since 1997.  The original student editorial board gave the name Students HCI Online Research Experiments (SHORE) and each year's editorial board has maintained that name.   The reports are prepared online and students sign up to critique each others papers during a 48-hour review period.  The reviews (a paragraph of complimentary comments and a paragraph of suggested revisions) are sent to the authors and also to me for grading.  Then there is a 72 hour revision period before I grade the projects.  The papers have been referenced in professional journals and conferences, and cited by product developers:

In 1997, graduate students in a course on Information Visualization produced the Online Library of Information Visualization Environments (OLIVE).  

In 1998, Professional Masters students in Software Engineering produced a Guide to Usability for Software Engineers (GUSE)

In 2000, a group of 10 graduate students in my undergraduate course produced a designers Guide to Universal Usability.   

In 2001, a group of 18 graduate students produced and designed an informative web site for web developers Universal Usability in Practice

In 2001, a group of 10 graduate students in an Information Visualization seminar put their projects to accompany the course materials on the web.

In 2001, a group of 9 graduate students prepared a reference page on Choosing HCI Appropriate Research Methods (CHARM).


Shneiderman, B. (1993b).  Engagement and construction:  Educational strategies for the post-TV era,  Journal of Computers in Higher Education, 2 (4), 106-116.

Shneiderman, Ben, Education by Engagement and Construction: Experiences in the AT&T Teaching Theater, Keynote Address, ED-MEDIA'93, Orlando, FL (June 1993), In Maurer, Hermann (Editor), Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia Annual, 1993, Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, Charlottesville, VA, 471-479. 

Shneiderman, B., Relate-Create-Donate: An educational philosophy for the cyber-generation, Computers & Education 31, 1 (1998), 25-39. 

Kearsley, G. and Shneiderman, B., Engagement theory: A framework for technology-based teaching and learning, Educational Technology 38, 5 (September-October 1998), 20-23. 

Shneiderman, B., Educational journeys on the web frontier, Educom Review 33, 6 (Nov-Dec 1998), 10-14. (published version) 

Shneiderman, B., Borkowski, E.Y., Alavi, M., Norman, K. (1998) Emergent Patterns of Teaching/Learning in Electronic Classrooms  Educational Technology Research and Development 46, 4 (1998), 23-42.


HCIL Video Reports:

1994: Education by engagement and construction: can distance learning be better than face to face? (13:00)

1997: (1) Relate-Create-Donate (4:30)
(2) As others see us: HCIL & the Teaching/Learning Theater Extract from
  "Your ticket to technology: Beyond the horizon" (6:00)

1998: Human Values for Shaping Educational Technology (5:00)


Web Accessibility