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The “Virtual Face” of Institutions: What Do Home Pages Reveal About Higher Education?

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This research investigated the use of home pages by 40 higher education institutions, of which ten each were Doctoral/Research, Master’s, Baccalaureate, and Community Colleges. The institutions were also grouped by region and were drawn from 40 different states. Using an instrument based on criteria for evaluating web sites (Gurak 2001), the descriptive study answered three research questions. (1) How are higher education institutions using their home pages? (2) How well do these home pages perform? (3) What does higher education’s “virtual face” say about higher education in general? Findings indicate that institutions use their home pages for students and for functionality; and, while many home pages were well-designed, a minority were messy, required users to hunt for important services, and were difficult for the inexperienced user. The findings indicated that higher education’s “virtual face” may indeed be functional for insiders, but it was confusing to users who are new to higher education or the web.

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Correspondence to Katrina A. Meyer.

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Katrina Meyer is an Associate Professor of Higher and Adult Education at The University of Memphis. Her Ph.D. is from the University of Washington, and her research interests include online learning and virtual universities.

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Meyer, K.A. The “Virtual Face” of Institutions: What Do Home Pages Reveal About Higher Education?. Innov High Educ 33, 141–157 (2008).

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Key words

  • higher education institutions
  • home pages
  • online services