This case study describes the experiences of the INHALE project [1] (which ran from September 2000- March 2003) and the subsequent INFORMS project [2] (which ran from October 2002-August 2003).

Problem Being Addressed

The INHALE Project (one of the JISC 5/99 Programme projects) had a number of aims:

The outcomes from the project were:

At the outset of the project the vision of what was required was set out clearly in the project plan and this was closely adhered to throughout.

During the first year the project team successfully created a standalone set of information skills units for students on Nursing and Health courses. The JISC's technical guidelines on interoperability and accessibility guided the Web developer in the creation of the online resources. The new information skills materials using the JISC's DNER resources as well as freely available Web resources were tested within pilot modules in the School of Health Sciences at Huddersfield. Evaluation reports from these were written. These evaluations fed into the continuous "product" development.

During the second year (September 2001- September 2002) additional information skills units were created and some of the initial units were customised. Some of the new resources were based around subscription information databases and were cascaded out for use within the partner institutions, Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Central Lancashire.

Meanwhile at Huddersfield the resources were being embedded at different levels within Blackboard in new pilot modules.

Running parallel to the delivery of the resources within modules was the continuing development of the INHALE "database". The "database" was seen as the key to enable customisation of the initial set of INHALE materials and the generation of new units by all the partner institutions. This required the disaggregation of all the original materials into objects. Fortunately, from the outset, the vision was that the end result would be a database of learning "objects" and all the materials were created with this concept to the fore. Thus the disassembly was not as onerous a task as it may seem.

Dissemination of the project's learning and outcomes began early in the project and had two key strands. The first was to involve stakeholders in the delivery of information skills within the institutions. Workshops and meetings were held internally and attended by academic teaching staff, librarians, learning technologists, computing service staff and learning and teaching advisors. The second strand was to disseminate to the wider UK HE and FE community and various events were held beginning with an event that was to be repeated "E-Resources for E-Courses".

By July 2002 interest in the use of the INHALE resources had grown. In September 2002, the submission of a proposal for a project within the DiVLE Programme to continue the work of the INHALE project was successful. The new project was named INFORMS and from October 2002 to March 2003, the INHALE project and INFORMS projects ran concurrently. During this time the University of Loughborough and the University of Oxford, (the new INFORMS project partners), were able to test the transferability and viability of all the INHALE project materials and models as well as inputting new ideas for developing the resources.

By the end of the INHALE project in March 2002 there were over 200 units within the new database and a number of new institutions were also testing and using the database.

At this point an exit strategy was written for the INHALE project. The project team felt that there was a possible "market" for the INHALE/INFORMS information skills database within the HE/FE community. However the JISC Programme Managers considered that the database of units required more "market testing" within the HE/FE community. To some extent the INFORMS project has allowed the team to begin the process of market testing.

The INFORMS project officially completed in August 2003 and there are now over 400 units in the INFORMS database and 17 institutions have portfolios of units across the range of subjects studies across the HE/FE community. Usage of the resources can be tracked via a Web log analysis tool developed in house that is linked to the database.

Librarians (and some academic teaching staff) institutions are creating their own online, interactive innovative information skills teaching and learning resources without any knowledge of Web authoring. The database allows instant editing and updating, it automatically produces accessible and printable versions of the units. The 400 plus units in the database are shared across all the participating institutions. Units copied across institutions are tracked via an audit trail. A User Guide, Editorial Policy and Conditions of Use Agreement are all essential documents that have been produced to support users of the database.

Problems Experienced

Project Creep

There was some initial hold-up in getting the project started and by the time the Project Co-ordinator joined the team in January 2001, the project was approximately 2-3 months behind in writing the initial units, rolling out the baseline evaluation and writing the evaluation instruments. Delivery to the students in the first pilot module was set for mid-February 2001 and this deadline was met.

Action Taken:
The Project Co-ordinator was employed full time instead of part-time. This was funded from both the unspent salary from the project for 3 months prior to January 2001 and topped up from the salary of the Project Co-ordinator's substantive post.

Loss of a Project Partner

Manchester Metropolitan University pulled out of the project in June 2001 when they were successful with obtaining funding from the JISC for the BIG BLUE Project.

Action Taken:
None, but subsequent events mitigated against the loss of the partner.

Loss of Project Staff

The Project Director left to take up another post at the University of Central Lancashire in September 2001. The loss of the Director's role as the stakeholder for the project within the Library Management Team and amongst the Academic Librarians had a detrimental effect on the uptake of the resources across the institution that is still being addressed.

The loss of someone else with information skills expertise to bounce off ideas and to provide another point of view on the project's development, as well as mutual support, has been a problem for the subsequent Project Director.

However the move by the Project Director to the University of Central Lancashire was beneficial as UCLan was invited to take the place of Manchester Metropolitan Library on the project and the input from that institution was invaluable.

Action Taken:
The Project Co-ordinator took over the role of Director.

In November 2001, two months after the demise of the Project Director the project's Web developer was recruited to an internal position in the library. This could have proved disastrous but in fact a new Web developer was recruited from the interviewees for the internal post and began work on the project only 10 days after the original developer had moved.

Action Taken:
Recruited new Web developer from suitable candidates already interviewed for another post.


The new Project Director encountered internal political problems that have constantly hampered the uptake of the resources.

Action Taken:
Sought the support of line manager.

Local Area Network Problems

In September 2001 the University of Huddersfield experienced a severe problem with the load on its network. The project was unable to continue development on integrating video and audio into the resources.

Action Taken:
Abandoned using video and audio.

Changes in University Infrastructure

The problem with the LAN traffic had a knock-on effect. The central service managing the Blackboard resources plus the learning and teaching support for this was re-organised. Key stakeholders in this support area within the University left so the necessary key personnel to champion the uptake of the INHALE resources in Blackboard were lost. Eventually some new posts have been created.

Action Taken:
Contact made with new staff and process of rolling-out started again.

Running Two Projects Concurrently

The Project Director mis-judged the demands that running the two projects (INHALE & INFORMS) during the period October 2002 to March 2003 would make.

Action Taken:
None. With hindsight it might have been more feasible to have a different financial balance between the 3 partners to have allowed additional staff to be recruited at Huddersfield.

Future Developments

The JISC only require projects to make their Web sites available to the rest of HE/FE for 3 years after the end of the project. Thus if a resource has a potential for further uptake and development then the project will need to produce a strategy to enable this.

The University of Huddersfield is not in a position to fund user support for the database. The institution is still in the early days of recovery after its re-organisation of the technical and teaching and learning support infrastructure for Blackboard.

The INFORMS (INHALE) project team have been pursuing a number of possible strategies:


The INFORMS Project team think that there is a commercial potential for the INFORMS software beyond the HE/FE sector and have been successful in a bid for funding to investigate and pursue this further over the next 12 months via a University of Huddersfield Commercial Fellowship.

It is planned that any profit will eventually be used to provide support for the INFORMS database. (Staffed support for HE/FE users of the INFORMS database, support of the Web server hosting the database, support to implement new developments).

Collaboration with other JISC Projects

The location of the INFORMS resources within an Information Skills Portal alongside the VTS, Big Blue and the Resource Guides, etc. would be an ideal scenario and one that has been suggested already by the Big Blue project.

Collaboration with other Key Players

Both the Open University and Sheffield Hallam have products that may benefit from the technical developments of the INHALE/INFORMS projects.

Hosting by JISC Services

If demand for portfolios in the database grows then the capacity of the Web server at Huddersfield will be over-reached. So one possible strategy could be to move the database to either EDINA or MIMAS.

Mirroring the database at Edina has been explored and this may be possible in 12 months if the return from the commercialisation of the software is sufficient.

Providing Individual Institutions with the Software

It may be possible to give away the software to HE/FE institutions to run on their own servers and develop should they wish to do so. The main disadvantage of this is the loss of the shared resources.

Additional Support from the JISC

A case has been put to the JISC, the reply has been that additional evidence of a need must be gathered through "market testing".


For the time being the new INFORMS (Commercial) Project is the route being taken by the ex Project Director of INHALE/INFORMS to create supportive funding in the long term for the INFORMS database of information skills teaching and learning resources. The new INFORMS (Commercial) project began officially on 1st October 2003 and will run for 12 months. One of its first successes has been to secure a place at a reception in the House of Commons being held by the Set for Britain group who are promoting start-up, spin-out, spin-off commercialisation of UK University research. At the reception we will be delivering a poster presentation for the MPs, Peers and various other attendees of the proposed commercialisation of the INHALE/INFORMS software.


  1. The INHALE Project, University of Huddersfield,
  2. The INFORMS Project, University of Huddersfield,