Books/Journals on Website Design appeal encouraging participation?


Creative Writer
I've been given some work to do that is crossing over from linguistics to IT. Basically I have to critically analyse the "communicative and pedagogic functions" as a user of two different university online education area systems (our online Blackboard, so to speak.) These two systems are where we log in and have our actual work, although we're excluding emails and general information areas from this research. I can also research data from other students and tutors, their ideas on the two systems. We have been using one system, been trialling the second partially and will fully shift over to the second next academic year.

At the moment I've been solely looking at the postings made by users and tutors in the 'Discussion' areas. These include a combination of marked blog postings and general conversations. There has to be some focus to this so I'm excluding other areas, except anecdotal or to maybe back up points.

I can show correlations between particular favoured tutors, tutors who demand online postings in these areas as compulsory parts of the course, postings made where our "elitist" students post. I will be looking at posters willingness to post where potential for embarrassment is concerned, student identity ("I can't be bothered studying" said to peers, then studying in private, etc) and those trying to encourage interaction to get the most out of their education. Dividing discussions up into straight discussions, news articles, requests for help, wastage, classifieds.

But I want to make a point. That the new system is visually unappealing and will hamper interaction. To raise it back to the level of the system it is replacing and even better thats results, which in certain areas was appalling. To encourage interaction and peers learning from peer I now need to look at publications I can legitimately source as reference material for the work. My library is probably pretty poor here, I may have to be inventive. But if anyone knows of particular textbooks or online journals where I could find material discussing website appeal relating to encouraging interaction that would be real helpful as I am kind of time constrained right now and it's not technically my area. I know IT, but haven't been reading the books during the year like my linguistics ones.

EDIT: The new online environment is called Moodle. I have already discussed this with friends online and have at least one person to source for interviews on how bad it is (his words, my words, probably everyones words. Although a poll on our Moodle is currently 55/35 in favour of it with 10% saying they don't know. 10 people out of maybe 600 who have been using it, talk about apathy!)

I have access to UK government reports on the future of HE with the Web 2.0. There is enough out there. definitive textbooks from any users here who have had academic training in website construction is now the missing sources.