Borgman, C. (2003). Personal digital libraries: Creating individual spaces for innovation. NSF Workshop on Post-Digital Libraries Initiative Directions (2003)
This is an article about the design of digital libraries to support innovation, but has some implications as it discusses monolithic vs. individual applications in an educational environment.
The digital libraries of today (and the near future) tend to be monolithic systems that serve large distributed communities. These are critical mass technologies that become more valuable as their repositories grow in size. Their strengths are also their weakness: by being large and general, they are not easily tailored to individual uses.
Cognitive psychologists distinguish between two fundamental types of memory: recognition and recall. Recognition occurs when you see something familiar, while recall requires that you remember something and are able to articulate it. Most information retrieval depends upon recall skills – the user has to describe what he or she wishes to retrieve. Browsing depends more on recognition skills – looking around until you find something of interest that you recognize as useful. But most browsing still requires that the user describe a starting point.