MetaLinks: A HyperBook Authoring Tool

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A sample Tectonica Interactive MetaLinks hyperbook sceen:  

Sample Screen Shot

MetaLinks is both a computer program and a design framework for electronic text books. That is, it is a new way to conceptualize books and a set of tools that make it easy to produce and maintain innovative interactive texts in a cost effective way. The software (a research prototype) includes both authoring and reading modes and hyperbooks authored with MetaLinks can be read on an internet browser. It supports both focussed and exploratory learning in richly interconnected material. MetaLinks hyperbooks are adaptive interactive hypermedia texts.

More details:

The software accesses a database to create each hyperbook page when the reader navigates to it. Users/readers log in and the system keeps a record of their activities as they use the book, which uses this information to customize each page to the needs of the reader and situation. The innovations and advantages of MetaLinks fall into these categories (see here): supporting active reading, multi-level books, multi-theme books, deep content representation , avoiding hypermedia side effects, evolving content, and student modeling. MetaLinks achieves these benefits through a number of novel features, including "horizontal flow", "custom depth control," "narrative smoothing," "thematic links," and "schema support," described elsewhere. The software was developed to incorporate research findings from cognitive science, educational theories, and learning theories into a framework for digital texts. For further descriptions of the system, the design philosophy, comparisons between MetaLinks hyperbooks and other text technologies, and published research papers, see Before describing the benefits of the system below we should emphasize that the system has been shown to be highly usable. Seamless integration of several features allows all of the following benefits to be had almost "covertly", without subjecting the user to an overly complex interface.

Below are links to servers currenlty serving hyperbooks created with the MetaLinks v.1 system. MetaLinks v.1 hyperbooks require Netscape 4.5, 4.6. ro 4.7 running on a Mac or PC.  (Higher versions of Browsers may not work! MetaLinks v.2, coming soon, will work with newer borwsers.)   Access to the hyperbooks requires a password and user name.  You can enter anything for the user name; the password "metalinks" or [nothing] will work for most hyperbooks.   These hyperbooks were created using the MetaLinks authoring tool, which uses a FileMaker Pro web server.  Some hyperbook sites may contain more than one hyperbook.  If so, even though the startup screen may have the title of one of the books, after you log in you can choose between the available books.

Selected papers:

The MetaLinks Hyperbook Tool: An Introduction/Overview

Metalinks --PowerPoint slides

Murray, T. (2005). Hyperbook Features Supporting Active Reading Skills. In Zomgmin Ma (Ed.), Web-based Intelligent e-Learning Systems: Technologies and Applications,pp. 156-174. Idea Group Publishing: Hershey, PA..

Murray, T. (2004).  "Content Design Issues in Adaptive Hyperbooks"  International Journal of Computer Applications Technology, Vol 1. No2, 2004, pp. 203-218. (pdf)

Murray, T. (2003).  "MetaLinks: Authoring and affordances for conceptual and narrative flow in adaptive hyperbooks."  J. of Artificial Intelligence and Education, Vol. 13, pp. 197-231. (Special Issue on Adaptive and Intelligent Web-Based Systems).

For more information contact Tom Murray,, or see more publications about MetaLinks and adaptive hypermedia linked from my CV here

Demo of MetaLinks v. I:

Note!: MetaLinks v. I was competed in 1999 and the browser-related Javascript code only works with Navigator v 4.X.

Tectonica Interactive and MetaLinks Users Guide:
An introductory Geology Hyperbook based on portions of Saunder's Publishing's Modern Physical Geology Textbook. And the Metalinks Users Guide (password: metalinks)   Users Guide and Tectonica Interactive 

Acknowledgements: This work took place at the University of Massachusetts Computer Science Department and through the Hampshire College School of Cognitive Science, and the Hampshire College Digital Design Center. Thanks go to Janette Piemonte Gartner for managing evaluation trials, data collection and analysis, authoring Tectonica Interactive, and creating the User's Guide hyperbook; Professor Chris Condit for acting as domain specialist in Geology, and inspiring some of the initial MetaLinks design ideas; Tina Shen, Jason Thibedeau, and Erik Haugsjaa for FileMaker, HTML, and JavaScript development; Dr. Phil Kelleher for extensive statistics consulting on trial #2; and Samia Khan for extensive help with data collection and analysis of the pilot study and trial #1.  This work was supported by the Office of Naval Research ASSERT grant no. ONR/N00014-97-1-0815, and the National Science Foundation's CCD program grant no. NSF DUE-9652993.  We would like to thank Saunders College Publishing for the use of content from their introductory geology text book.

[updated: 10/05 by TM]