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Stakeholder Requirements for External Content in Institutional Portals Executive Summary

The PORTAL project report ‘Stakeholder Requirements of External Resources in Institutional Portals’ outlines the views of both potential portal users and content providers on the inclusion of external resources in institutional portals. Building on the data gathered, and the conclusions drawn, from Work Package 3’s ‘Stakeholder Requirements for Institutional Portals’ this report involved additional consultation with institutional staff and students and focused interviews with a number of content providers and brokers. In total, over 650 stakeholders participated in the project research.

Work Package 3’s literature review, ‘Institutional Portals: A Review of Outputs’ illustrates the extent to which institutional portal developments to date have focused in large part on internal institutional information, transactions and services. Whilst potential system users were keen to access internal resources, the opportunity to also access external resources was received with enthusiasm by the majority of both staff and students.

Users expressed an interest in accessing a range of external resources via an institutional portal. Whilst the initial remit of the report was to investigate the requirements for JISC resources, so broad was the range of resources mentioned by staff and students that a more inclusive approach was taken.

Whilst interest in accessing external resources, via search facilities and current awareness alerts, was high staff and students indicated that access to personalised resources was preferable to accessing generic resources. Participants were keen to access resources of particular relevance to their subject area or area of interest.

In part due to the widespread use of internet search engines such as Google, participants expressed a preference for simple search facilities with clean and simple interfaces. A number of participants indicated that they had been put off using advanced search options due to the complexity of the interface. Participant responses to the concept of cross searching were mixed and largely unenthusiastic.

Institutional stakeholders held fairly consistent views as to their requirements with regard to alerting services. Whilst such services were valued by a number of participants their current email delivery mechanism proved problematic. The possibility of removing alerting services from users’ inboxes and presenting them as channels within an institutional portal was seen as a positive development. 

The views of potential portal users should be considered in light of their lack of experience of both institutional portals and using information resources via anything other than their native interfaces. The reception of the outputs of other portal projects, such as the Learning and Teaching Portal and the Subject Portal Project, along with those of PORTAL, should be monitored to inform a broader view of stakeholder requirements.

Content providers and brokers raised a range of issues with regard to the inclusion of their resources within institutional portals. The idea was received with enthusiasm, though a number of caveats were expressed. The need to maintain a level of provider branding and to ensure the security of external resources was expressed by a number of providers.

The selection of resources for inclusion within an institutional portal was raised as an issue. Whilst compliance to technical standards is key for meaningful integration, and potential users themselves were keen on the inclusion of ‘relevant’ resources, the dangers of limiting users’ access to the full range of resources in the broader information landscape was questioned.

The complete work package 4 report is available from www.fair-portal.hull.ac.uk/WP4.html