Printer Friendly

Planning and developing a multimedia learning environment.

Planning and Developing a Multimedia Learning Environment

The office of Learning Technologies is perhaps best known in Indiana for its Multimedia Electronic Classroom, dedicated in 1989. The classroom is an enhanced learning environment, integrating several media and controls through a simple-to-use menu on a touchscreen. Available technologies include over 50 audio, video and computing devices that output signals onto three shared projection screens. The classroom is especially attractive to faculty because of a university-designed computer that controls all the complicated media switching, room-lighting intensity, sound reinforcement and playback volume. Most instructors can learn to use the system in about 15 minutes and begin to effectively choreograph presentations incorporating many technologies and display options.

However the Multimedia Electronic Classroom is only part of a larger plan at Indiana University--Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) to improve the quality of teaching and learning. The IUPUI technology plan focuses on existing and emerging multimedia applications. An overview of the implementation strategy, including organizational requirements, conceptual designs and multimedia components, is described below.

The Context

IUPUI is the capital campus of Indiana University and Purdue University. Only 20 years old, it builds on the tradition of both institutions and offers the most comprehensive array of academic programs in the state. It includes the Indiana University Medical Center and awards degrees in the name of both Indiana University and Purdue University ranging from associate's to doctorate's in nearly 200 programs. There are 40 academic and medical buildings spread over 370 acres with approximately 250 seminar rooms, classrooms and lecture halls.

Two years ago IUPUI completed a comprehensive self-study that resulted in an academic plan for the campus to the year 2000. The plan recognizes the potential of technology for improving learning and defines the role of the campus in helping Indiana's higher-education community, the capital city and the state in general to adapt "to a new, more complex global environment."

The convergence of video, audio, data and print technologies forces educators to reconsider traditional organizational patterns.

"IUPUI is likely to play a major role as a nerve center for the broad use and adaptation of electronic technology to information distribution and use. Involving libraries, computer networks, interactive video, graphics and other media, the learning center of the next century is certain to make available applications tailored for home or office use. As a new campus still developing its electronic infrastructure, IUPUI has already begun to prepare itself for a different, though still uncertain, form of education."[1]

Soon after completing the plan, IUPUI established the office of Learning Technologies to help provide centralized academic leadership and operational support. It joined the offices of Computing Services, University Libraries and Telecommunication Services in rounding out the information and technology support team.

Framework and Implementation

Multimedia provides unparalleled opportunities for learning, but the convergence of video, audio, data and print technologies forces educators to reconsider traditional organizational patterns. It soon became apparent that planning a multimedia electronic campus required an administrative structure fundamentally different from what existed. Close cooperation and coordination between media, telecommunication, computing and library units was essential. Therefore, these separately managed units formed a partnership to consider the impact of converging technologies and to develop a common plan. The four units are collectively known as Integrated Technologies.

Figure 1 illustrates how the traditional information support organizations at IUPUI compare with the functional organization of Integrated Technologies. Although each unit has certain unique responsibilities, the area in the center of the diagram represents Integrated Technologies' common projects and priorities. Multimedia initiatives fall into the center area.

The goal of the Multimedia Electronic Campus is to have full-motion video, high-resolution still images and graphics, audio-program material and text all coexist in digital form in applications and through communication networks. The media are already integrated in stand-alone applications, but the challenge now is to develop video, audio and data networks capable of supporting wide-area distribution of multimedia signals. IUPUI is now in transition between refining and supporting existing analog and digital networks using a combination of twisted-pair, coaxial and fiber-optic cables, and planning for a new, totally digital, fiber-optic system.

Four basic principles have guided multimedia infrastructure development at IUPUI: adequacy of networks, centrality of libraries, technology integration, and support. These principles are summarized below.

Providing Adequate Networks

With adequate networks, IUPUI's Multimedia Electronic Campus will bring to students, faculty and staff information they require regardless of the medium in which it exists. Plans call for computer workstations in libraries, offices and new multimedia classrooms to be connected to local-area networks that will in turn be connected to campuswide networks. Optical fiber, copper cable, microwave and satellite technologies already connect the campus to state, national and international networks. This "network of networks" provides opportunities to access and integrate several types of information:

* full-motion video programs and recordings;

* live, two-way television conferences;

* high-resolution color graphics;

* text and data;

* multimedia windows; and

* audio programs and voice (telephone).

An integrated video, audio and data network is the foundation for innovative and efficient use of multimedia applications. Tasks enabled by adequate networks and gateways include: accessing international databases; searching distributed library systems; reserving and ordering materials; reviewing administrative information; reading and linking text from several host computers; conducting video conferences; and viewing photographs, slides, graphic material and video programs.

A coaxial-cable, broadband network presently provides adequate bandwidth for both video and data, and IUPUI is experimenting with new technologies to enhance multimedia delivery via copper cable as well. Migration to fiber-optic cable has also started--in new building construction and major remodelling--because the bandwidth necessary to support multimedia applications will exceed existing network capacity in a few years.

A combination of multi-mode and single-mode, fiber-optic cable is the distribution medium for a new $32 million multimedia university library presently under construction. When the library is completed in 1992, backward migration to fiber-optics in older buildings will begin.

Central Role of Libraries

"Probably the single most important project aimed at ensuring unity of academic purpose at IUPUI is the new University Library," states a campus report. "It is to become the physical and symbolic centerpiece of IUPUI as the ideal university of the next century."[2] With nearly 1,800 multimedia computer workstations planned to be online by the time the third phase of library development is completed, this facility should become a national model for the integration and use of electronic distribution and application technologies. The conceptual architecture and the systems integration plan was completed in January 1990 with assistance from Ameritech Information Systems.[3]

As a center for learning, it is appropriate that the new library be the focal point for multimedia distribution and switching, both for workstations inside the building and for the campus fiber-optic network. The Library Multimedia Project is a high priority for the campus and for a new division of Research and Advanced Applications created within the office of Learning Technologies.

This division, under the leadership of Dr. Ali Jafari, recently developed a prototype of a multimedia workstation capable of displaying full-motion video, text and graphics on a VGA computer monitor. The prototype was built from a combination of commercial hardware and from computer circuit boards custom-designed and built by Learning Technologies.

The system consists of four major components: the user's workstation, the fiber-optic distribution network, playback equipment and a fourth-generation Technology Access Governor (TAG4)[4] designed by Jafari's team. TAG4 is a dedicated, special-purpose computer capable of controlling many technologies from remote locations via fiber-optic cable. A mouse is used to click icons that control play, freeze, search, frame-advance, channel, volume and other features.

Multimedia scholar workstations similar to the one prototyped in the Learning Technologies' lab will eventually replace less-sophisticated computers in offices and classrooms. Besides word processing, number crunching and database searching, these multi-tasking workstations will allow access to informational material from VCRs, videodisc players, cable television systems, satellite-downlink antennas, remote cameras, film projectors, CD-ROMs, video-floppy players, slide projectors and many audio devices. The media conversion, management and switching systems for these functions are all included in the library's construction.

Facilities Demand Integration

Before developing its first general-purpose multimedia classroom, IUPUI compared the advantages between using sequential displays of several media on one screen with the benefits of simultaneous displays on one or more screens. After a thorough needs analysis and a survey of faculty and students, the planning team decided that simultaneous displays on several screens from several media would provide instructors with the most effective tools and give presentations the greatest impact. There was concern that the technical complexity of choreographing many display and media options might be a disincentive for faculty in preparing multi-screen, multimedia presentations.

As planning for the Multimedia Electronic Classroom continued, faculty, students and instructional technologists identified over 50 video, audio, computing and telecommunication devices that could be used in various combinations during a typical semester. Evaluation of these technologies had to be done in the context of what was known about the way instructors adopt technologies in their teaching. Jafari, for example, identified five requirements for the technologies. They must be:

* easy to operate by non-technical users;

* simple to learn in no more than 15 minutes;

* instantly available with little or no preparation;

* reliable; and

* powerful.

The apparent incompatibility between two sets of requirements--the need for a wide range of elaborate, sophisticated multimedia technologies and an easy-to-use system--led to the creation of an experimental research and development lab in Jafari's division. From the outset the lab was committed to serving faculty by developing applications to meet current needs while at the same time preparing for the future.

The Classroom in Detail

One of the axioms of Learning Technologies' lab is that technologies must simplify and enhance communication, not complicate it. The lab staff's first project was to help faculty with the choreography problem. The solution: develop computer hardware and software systems to automate all the complicated switching and adjustments in the multi-screen, multimedia classroom. In fact, the control technology developed for the first installation, TAG2, proved so effective that it is being refined for additional permanent installations and for a new Multimedia Instructional Portable System (MIPS).[4]

One of the axioms is that technologies must simplify and enhance communication, not complicate it.

The lab's TAG system consists of a controller based on Motorola's 68008 microprocessor; interface circuit boards for the audio, video, film, computer, lighting and other hardware devices; and a touch-sensitive, plasma display. The display is mounted in the instructor's lectern and activated by entering an assigned password. Next a 14-second warm-up period begins during which any personalized messages left for the instructor are displayed. An automated door then opens to provide access to video-floppy and computer-disk drives, videotape and videodisc players, and other equipment so the instructor can load program material.

After loading discs and tapes, the instructor operates all controls and adjustments from the touchscreen. Selecting media, screens and environmental options is all done via an intuitive menu. Then TAG activates circuits, switches audio, video and computing sources, and makes adjustments as the instructor proceeds with a presentation. Default settings, which may be overridden by users, automatically attend to the details of zone lighting, playback and sound-reinforcement volume, and image placement.

The equipment selected for the 432-seat Multimedia Electronic Classroom includes three multisync, improved-definition (IDTV) video projectors, three microcomputers (IBM, Macintosh and NeXT), videotape players (VHS, S-VHS and U-Matic), video still-frame capture and playback boards, videodisc players, dual 16mm film projectors with automatic reel change-over, 35mm slide projectors, audio playback in all standard formats and an electronic writing pad.

'We know that the forms of education will be fundamentally altered.'

A demonstration table for scientific applications with water, compressed air, natural gas, vacuum and a ventilation system rolls into the room and connects through an access panel in the floor. A stand with video cameras provides image magnification and displays opaque material as well as traditional overhead transparencies. Even microscopic items may be enlarged to 18 feet, the width of the center screen. The classroom is wired to the campus' video, audio and data networks and there is also a control room for multiple-camera television production. The audio/visual equipment was selected in consultation with Allied Telecommunications, the principal vendor and installer for the project.

A Portable Version

After gaining experience in using the classroom, IUPUI faculty and staff found it offered new opportunities for teaching, even in traditional courses. A way to extend these opportunities was investigated, and a portable multimedia system looked attractive. (Permanent installations may have prohibitively high rennovation costs.) An advisory committee determined that such a system would meet the needs of occasional users and could be a cost-effective solution for smaller classes. Thus the Learning Technologies lab developed and introduced its Multimedia Instructional Portable System (MIPS) unit in January 1990.

The MIPS prototype is a mobile unit that includes many of the same technologies as the permanent installation. The combination cart/lectern is rolled into a traditional classroom and connects to audio, video and data sources outside the room through a network jack and to permanently installed monitors or projectors inside the room. The MIPS can also be used as a stand-alone device to run multimedia applications, microcomputer applications or programs in several media.

The MIPS includes a new version of the Technology Access Governor, TAG3. TAG3 accommodates the different equipment configurations needed to meet requirements of a diverse faculty. Since TAG is a dedicated computer system, it is compatible with all platforms. In addition to TAG3, the typical MIPS unit may include one or two microcomputers (depending on the platform needs of the faculty), a videotape player, a video-floppy player, an audio-cassette or CD player, and a document camera. Configurations could also include CD-ROM drives, videodisc players, traditional optical equipment such as 35mm slide and 16mm film, audio equipment and other devices for special applications.

As adequate regional and state networks develop, geographical limits will disappear altogether.

IUPUI's technology integration strategy includes both permanent installations and MIPS units. In addition, a library-based Multimedia Scholar Workstation Project will eventually bring advanced workstations to offices and classrooms throughout the campus.

Reaching Beyond the Campus

At the Same time IUPUI is building its campus infrastructure, plans are being made to extend multimedia instruction into area homes and work places. A recent grant from the Annenburg Foundation, for example, provides funds to initiate a Community Learning Network that will establish electronic alternatives to in-class interaction. For this project several interactive technologies--including video, e-mail, fax and telephone--are combined to offer five general-education courses in four neighborhood learning centers and in students' homes.

The next step is to expand the learning community by connecting several large employers via cable television and computer. As adequate regional and state networks develop, geographical limits to the multimedia electronic campus will disappear altogether.

Support Must Keep Pace

Perhaps the greatest challenge for fully exploiting the potential of campus multimedia is developing adequate support for faculty and applications. Advances occur so rapidly that the support systems to help faculty understand and integrate the emerging technologies into their teaching often lags behind.

To supplement existing programs in individual schools, IUPUI established a campuswide Faculty Development Office at the same time Learning Technologies was created in 1989. This office provides summer fellowships, grants-in-aid, seminars and workshops for faculty, and many of these programs specifically assist with technology integration.

A very successful program jointly supported by the Faculty Development Office and Integrated Technologies is the Network for Excellence in Teaching (NET). Among other things, this program helps faculty plan and develop multimedia teaching applications using emerging technologies. NET provides release time from regular teaching during the summer and up to $6,000 stipends to selected faculty members who submit proposals for developing new teaching strategies. For the last two years, many NET-stipend recipients have restructured courses or developed new components that include multimedia applications for the new electronic classroom. And an ongoing program of consulting, technical support, programming, project management and technology-utilization training was recently expanded using the NET experience as a model.

The Integrated Technologies partners continue to explore the potentials and demands of new media. This article has touched on the organizational requirements and conceptual framework for creating the Multimedia Electronic Campus, using IUPUI as a case study. Guided by a comprehensive academic plan, IUPUI continues to develop its electronic infrastructure and explore multimedia applications.

"The present changes in computers, and electronic technologies generally, are almost certainly of a magnitude equal to the invention of writing or printing," summarizes the plan. "While we may not yet know the full implications of the electronic revolution, we know that the forms of education will be fundamentally altered."[5] [Figure 1 Omitted]



References: [1]IUPUI Development Plan: 1988-2000, February 1, 1988, p. 5. [2]IUPUI by the Year 2000: Extending the Promise, 1989. [3]Conceptual Solution and Integration Design Report, December 12, 1989; Systems Integration Master Plan, January 31, 1990; and Integration Implementation Plan, January 31, 1990. All three volumes by IUPUI and Ameritech Information Systems. [4]The original Technology Access Governor (TAG) was designed and developed in 1986 by Dr. Ali Jafari in the electronics department of Indiana University Physical Plant, Bloomington, Ind. Design engineer Reza Pishgahi and doctoral student Daya Atapattu assisted in developing TAG and installing it in one of the first electronic classrooms on the Bloomington campus. Jafari relocated to the Indianapolis campus in 1989 to direct the Division of Research and Advanced Applications in the office of Learning Technologies. He is also an assistant professor in communication in the school of liberal arts. Jafari's second-generation unit, TAG2, was specifically designed for multimedia and multi-screen applications at IUPUI, but is also being used elsewhere. Design engineer Hilary Michele assisted In the project. TAG3, developed for the Multimedia Instructional Portable System (MIPS), and TAG4, being considered as a possible control system for the Library Multimedia Scholar Workstation Project, are now in beta test. Assisting on these projects are Michele, systems engineer Jack James and programmer So Vang. In January 1990 prototypes were introduced for classroom used and testing at IUPUI. [5]IUPUI Development Plan: 1988-2000, February 1, 1988, p. 40,

Garland C. Elmore is associates dean of the faculties, director of the office of Learning Technologies and an associate professor of communications at IUPUI. His interest in instructional applications and communication technologies at Indiana dates back to 1976, when he joined the faculty to develop and administer a new academic program in telecommunications that focuses on the way corporations, organizations and educational institutions use media. He was director of that program until 1989 when the office of Learning Technologies was established. His doctorate is from Ohio University.
COPYRIGHT 1991 1105 Media, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Office of Learning Technologies, Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis
Author:Elmore, Garland C.
Publication:T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
Date:Feb 1, 1991
Previous Article:Animation is principal feature in application.
Next Article:The Teacher Explorer Center: providing techniques and training in multimedia instruction.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |