Applications and Impact of Hypermedia Systems: An Overview
(Hypermedia Unit, Department of Computer Science,
University of Auckland, New Zealand
(Institute for Information Processing and Computer Supported New Media,
Graz University of Technology, Schiesstattg. 4a, A-8010 Graz, Austria,
Hypermedia Unit, Department of Computer Science, University of Auckland, New Zealand.
Abstract: "Hypermedia" is a term that is widely misunderstood and
misused, often loosely associated with hype about new applications of
computers to multimedia. The term "multimedia" is also frequently
used with too narrow a meaning. Few people appreciate the likely
consequences of the new technology in all its ramifications. This
paper is an attempt to show what impact the new technology will have
on many aspects of life. One thing is certain: the impact will be
tremendous and irresistible. Before long, organisations won't be able
to afford not to use hypermedia.
We believe that the definition of "multimedia" must be generalised
from the usual one (a mix of text, pictures, graphics, animations,
video and sound) to include 3D objects, 3D models of scenes of
arbitrary complexity, interactive movies, diagrams, maps, CAD drawings
and much more. A hypermedia system can be defined as multimedia, with
links, embedded in a network, i.e. a networked system supporting the
storage and retrieval of linked multimedia and the real-time transfer
of this data among the terminals in the network.
It can be argued that hypermedia systems can revolutionise work,
leisure, and lifelong learning.
Applications of hypermedia discussed in this paper include:
- Administration: A fully integrated system such as the one proposed
will mean efficient data processing and valuable statistical data.
- Electronic orientation and information displays: Electronic guided
tours, public information kiosks and publicity dissemination with
- Electronic Personal Assistants: Hypermedia
systems will turn into powerful personal digital assistants as they
make information and communication available when needed.
Information and Communication Systems: Distributed information systems
for purposes such as businesses, schools and universities, museums,
libraries, health systems....
- Lecturing: A system going beyond the
traditional to empowerboth teachers and learners.
- Libraries: A
further step towards fully electronic library systems.
of all kinds: Staff, telephone and all sorts of generic
- Research: Material can now be accessed from databases all
around the world. The effects of networking and computer supported
collaborative work are discussed and examples of new scientific
visualisation programs are quoted.
The paper concludes with a section entitled [Future Directions].
Key Words: multimedia, hypermedia, Internet, Hyper-G, hyperlinks,
collections, converging technology, e-mail, libraries, electronic
publishing, kiosks, CSCW, conferencing, life-long learning, electronic
lecture room, CAI, electronic personal assistant.
Film, television, video and computer technologies have converged
dramatically. We now see competing thrusts from interactive T.V.,
videotex, both orthodox and unorthodox [Maurer and Sebestyen 1982],
video-on-demand and CD-ROM technology that, coupled with the force of
increased user interaction, will drive the convergence even closer. We
already have computers that can store television movies for later play
back. As we shall explain shortly, all this is only a one facet of
multimedia. Now add to multimedia the facility to link computers
(network) and data (hyperlink) and you obtain hypermedia.
It is obvious that the drawing together of these technologies will
change the way we:
- live [see Section 5],
- work [see Section 6],
- and learn [see Section 7].
The boundaries of these rather arbitrary categories, already blurred,
will overlap increasingly as hypermedia systems expand:
It cannot possibly be predicted what the final outcome of all this
will be. One thing is certain: it makes for interesting speculation!
Even those things that can be forecast (i.e. the "lower bounds"
described in the paper "Forecasting - an Impossible Necessity"
[Maurer and Lennon 1994] are very remarkable indeed.
This paper, although by no means a complete survey, will demonstrate
in more depth than has been attempted before the impact that
multimedia and hypermedia systems can have on various aspects of life
as we now know it. For further reading on hypermedia and hypermedia
systems we refer the reader to the surveys by Conklin [Conklin
1987] and Tomek et al. [Tomek, Khan, Muldner, Nassar, Novak and
Proszynski 1991] as well as the texts "Hypertext and Hypermedia"
[Nielsen 1990] and "Multimedia Systems" [Koegel-Buford 1994]. We use
the term "multimedia system"in its widest sense to mean a computer
system linking text, graphics (two, three or more dimensional), CAD
drawings, animations, video clips and sound, as well as "interactive"
and "annotated" movies
[Jayasinha, Lennon and Maurer 1994]. A
"hypermedia system" (HM) is assumed to be a large networked
system incorporating multimedia. For the reader not yet familiar with
the notion of a hypermedia system we briefly review some of its
salient features before exploring some of its main applications.
Modern computers can store huge amounts of information in the form of
text documents, graphs and diagrams, as well as the digitised
information of photos, paintings, music, video clips, etc. Electronic
information systems range from single documents to large multi-volume
encyclopedia sets to distributed databases. The information can be
accessed, updated, and used for many purposes: the dissemination of
information (e.g. advertising and public relations efforts), desktop
publishing, presentations, videoconferencing, research, computer-aided
instruction and a whole new virtual world of simulations. Multimedia
systems incorporating new sophisticated search techniques can help
users gain control of the information explosion in more efficient,
productive, and yet interesting and stimulating ways. We believe that
networked hypermedia systems are used increasingly for
communication and collaboration, their impact will not only tie
information together but, even more significantly, "tie people
together" [Maurer 1993a].
Internet has (as of July 1994) a total of two million host sites
world-wide (up from about 800,000 in January 1992) and an estimated 25
million users. It offers access to a tremendous variety of information
stored in databases all over the world - much of the information
up-to-dateto the minute.
2.1 Internet Systems
Of course, this information is only as good as the functionality of
the data-retrieval system that accesses it, and unfortunately much of
the currently available infrastructure is less than
satisfactory. E-mail on its own does not allow structured discussions
or systematic collaboration (particularly between more than two
persons), and most information systems still provide information only
in text form. When switching from one database to another, both user
interface and functionalities tend to change dramatically - multimedia
segments rely on different hardware and software platforms, and
customisation of information-access is rarely
supported. Cross-referencing between chunks of information is usually
impossible across database boundaries. Thus efforts tend to be
fragmented. It is our contention that these limitations and barriers
will be overcome by systems now emerging.
There have been significant advances in the science of information
retrieval as applied to very large databases [Maurer, Kappe and
Scherbakov 1994]. One of the first innovative systems was
"Intermedia: The Concept and the Construction of a Seamless
Information Environment" [Yankelovich, Haan, Meyrowitz and Drucker
1988], and its successor "IRIS Hypermedia Services" [Haan, Kahn,
Riley, Coombs and Meyrowitz 1992]. Hyper-G [Kappe, Maurer and
Sherbakov 1993], [Kappe et al. 1994], is one of four other major
systems that can be said to have similar philosophical goals in that
they aim to provide an easily used, professionally polished
environment for general information retrieval.
The other three systems
are Gopher [Alberti, Anklesaria, Lindner, McCahill and Torrey 1992],
which lacks the link structure of Hyper-G, WWW [Berners-Lee, Cailliau,
Groff and Pollermann 1992], which lacks the collection mechanism and
many other features of Hyper-G, and WAIS [Stein 1991], which has a
fulltext engine but no link or collection structures. In this sense we
argue in another paper [Lennon and Maurer 1994a] that Gopher, WAIS
and WWW should be seen as typical instances of "first generation"
hypermedia systems, while in Hyper-G we are already seeing the advent
of "second generation" systems.
Hyper-G is designed to manage not only megabytes of data but
mega-quantities of documents. It incorporates a highly sophisticated
structured browsing system [Maurer, Kappe, Scherbakov and Srinivasan
1993]. The system links users who may well use alternative hardware,
and in contrast to standard networks such as Telnet, where every
keystroke is sent to the host computer, Hyper-G makes as much use of
the viewer's machine as possible. Complete packages of data are
transmitted to a variety of client machines (Unix, IBM, Macintosh and,
involving a loss of functionality, even text-based terminals such as
the VT100s). Each client is supported by a "viewer". The data may
then be viewed with as much sophistication as the local hardware and
Thus, Hyper-G aims to combine the best of the other existing systems
while remaining compatible with them. Hyper-G itself can be
electronically file-transferred (FTP) [Hyper-G 1994], along with half
a page of installation instructions, and installed without much ado.
2.2 System Security
Obviously, any large system must have a monitoring program built
in. First and foremost in any system containing confidential data
there must be certain tight levels of security integrated with
flexible access and update facilities. Several levels of anonymity
have been recognised [Maurer and Flinn 1994], and the four available
in Hyper-G [Kappe and Maurer 1993] are as follows:
- 1 Identified mode where, subject to strict password control, the user
has read and write access to data.
- 2 Semi-identified mode, which
differs from 1. in that the users, names are known to the system but
they may log on with a pseudonym and password. This allows a certain
level of anonymity on mail items, etc.
- 3 Anonymously identified mode,
giving read access but restricting write access to the user,s private
- 4 Anonymous mode, giving read-only access.
Where documents require such a high level of security, all records and
passwords will be encrypted, of course, using public key protocols
such as the RSA system [Salomaa 1990].
2.3 System Maintenance
Systems must monitor all four types of access,
and the importance of the statistics obtained is difficult to
overstate. Housekeeping programs maintain an efficiently running
system and control vital processes such as backups. Book-keeping
programs keep track of just what was done, when, and how often. This
information can provide valuable feedback to database authors. If an
author has little feedback on just how much their work is being
referred to they will not be motivated to either contribute more to
the system or to keep the existing work up to date. Feedback
statistics are also important for helping maintain an error-free
database. If, for example, statistics show that only the first fifteen
pages of a sixteen page report are ever read then something is wrong!
Inevitably electronic charging systems have to be implemented - at
least in some systems. As discussed in [Section 6.2] electronic
transaction processing is increasing. Most of us are all too familiar
with credit cards and the value-coded swipe-cards widely used in
places such as museums and copying centres.
Obviously security issues are paramount and validation techniques must
be included, techniques such as those currently being applied in many
European countries where "telebanking" has become routine due to the
spread of Videotex [Maurer and Sebestyen 1982]. PIN and transaction
numbers must be used together with cryptographic protocols [Salomaa
Copyright issues, particularly with respect to electronic publishing,
are complex [see Section 4.5] and far from being solved. However,
systems such as Hyper-G do support several types of billing.
3 Converging Technology
As we have mentioned in the Introduction, technology is converging at
a tremendous rate and what the long term result will be when it all
comes under a network umbrella we cannot predict.
For example, CD-I technology is currently a cheaper option
than CD-ROM technology, but we believe that the latter may well be the
better option since it supports more diversity. Much important material
is already available today only in CD-ROM form. Currently, one CD-ROM
disk can contain about 600 million bytes of data - as much as 300,000
pages of text. Drawings and colour photos can of course also be
included, and all this information can then be accessed in a wide
variety of ways. We note with interest that IBM has demonstrated
optical disk technology that could produce disks with about 6.5
billion bytes of data by storing up to ten layers on a single
disk. And if this is coupled with new "blue laser" technology it
will be theoretically possible to put several thousand 200-page books
on one CD.
4 Communication Systems
Communication is really what Hypermedia is all about, communication
ranging from simple e-mail communication to virtual-reality
experiences, and using as many senses as. are appropriate.
An increasing amount of communication is being conducted by electronic
mail systems, sometimes right across the world but just as often
between people who work in offices right next door to each other. This
is indeed an invaluable service, but most users have experienced the
problems associated with receiving large quantities of unsorted and
frequently unsolicited mail [Denning 1982]. We are seeing more and
more managers who used to be enthusiastic e-mail correspondents turning
over all their e-mail communication to secretaries for sorting,
forwarding, printing out, and of course discarding.
In a well structured electronic mail system the mail can be
categorised by author, subject, date, etc., as well asby key words. A
graphical interface can be provided along with a good classification
system. This will enable messages to be saved in an orderly manner and
provide semi-automated retrieval and purging systems. Messages stored
with recall dates will be automatically displayed at appropriate
times. Out-of-date messages such as seminar notices can be
automatically deleted (with safeguards) once the date for the event has
passed. The user can provide a default date for purges - which of
course can still be overwritten.
4.2 Help Lines
Whole virtual communities on Internet have evolved from
PC, Macintosh, and other user groups. We now are seeing valuable
support networks for people with health risks such as cancer or
AIDS. Once groups such as these are integrated with existing medical
systems we foresee a radical breakthrough in all areas of community
health care. For example, pacemaker signals will trigger direct
connections from patient to emergency centre.
Once a significant proportion of personal computers have microphones,
or betterstill video input, we shall see further improvements. Help
calls can be sorted, evaluated, and routed directly to police, fire,
civil defence, or medical departments. Since all time and place
details will be automatically included, the problem of human error in
emergency situations will be greatly reduced. In addition, with video
connections a human may not even need to initiate the call!
Once we start thinking globally about "help" information systems we
look forward to their support in all areas of life, from critical
repair work on space or atomic power stations to helping a new user
discover a useful shortcut in a word-processing package.
The effectiveness, and use, of all types of help systems will
undoubtedly be greatly enhanced once they are integrated with
electronic personal assistants such as those we describe in [Section 8].
4.3 Accessing Library Information
We discuss the accessing of library information under two headings:
- Making the information stored inexisting libraries - in the
treasure troves of paper books - more accessible.
- Developing electronic publishing.
The updating of traditional libraries is discussed in considerable
detail in this section, and then generalised to electronic publishing
in [Section 4.4].
We believe that the next few years will see dramatic changes in
library systems. As more members of the public have access to
networked computers more browsing of catalogues will be done away from
the library than ever before. Physical library space is a particularly
expensive commodity when you take into account such factors as security
and construction problems (e.g. floors having to be designed to
withstand the weight of books). Many libraries in educational
institutes allocate this space to students as study areas. However,it
is our observation that students often simply work on assignments,
making no use of the library,s resources except for the convenient
sitting spaces. A better and more cost-effective solution is to
provide students with alternative study
areas where they can not only
work but sip coffee and get involved in important group
In the foreseeable future it will become
standard practice, on cataloguing a new book or journal, to scan
(i.e. fax) the table of contents into a HM system so that borrowers
can rapidly access the new information. This much at least can be done
without infringing copyright laws [see Section 4.5]. Some Internet
servers such as Hyper-G [Kappe, Maurer and Sherbakov 1993], support
library systems, integrating services, and fast efficient searches of
titles, tables of contents, etc. Users can also define the scope of
their searches by defining "active collections" within the
information database [Kappe and Maurer 1993].
An important technicality involved in text searching is worth looking
at in some detail since it comes up in many connections. Since
scanning documents produces only a simple bit map, an Optical
Character Recognition program must be used to convert the bit map into
text. This is required so that the text can be (1) compressed and (2)
searched. The question of efficient searches is such a complex one
that we shall only touch the surface. It is unfortunate that even the
best OCR programs introduce errors into the scanned text. However, the
use of "fuzzy" searches not only solves this problem for all
practical purposes but helps in other ways as well.
A fuzzy search will have a good hit rate with:
Fuzzy searches can incorporate whole semantic nets instead of just
lists of synonyms. These are of particular importance in areas such as
Computer Aided Instruction (CAI) where we wish to avoid categoric
true/false answers and instead give graded responses. For example, if
the answer to a question is "Oxygen", then answers like "gas" or
"air" do not warrant an unqualified "no" response. The response
could be "Yes, but what type of gas" or "Please be more
When the new book or journal has been electronically catalogued,
information in e-mail form can be sent to all members of a library
according to their personal "information profile". Such an action
can be almost entirely automated using suitable systems.
Once people have found a paper relevant to their work, e.g. by using
the electronic table of contents described above, they will no longer
have to go to the library to read or copy the papers. Rather, just by
clicking at the paper selected in the electronic table of contents,
the enquirer can send a message directly to the library. Library staff
now copy the paper and send it to the person concerned; the copy may
even be sent inelectronic form, again using a scanner exactly like a
Although this approach does place an additional
burden on library staff, looking at it from a global point of view it
is much more efficient than all the present legwork put in by physical
users, and time spent searching for journals that would be found by
library staff much more quickly. Other aspects of the library may be
- Subscribing to electronic publications rather than paper
publications [see Section 4.4]
- Introducing automatic recall where
the user, wanting to use a book and finding it is out on loan, can by
a single click initiate an e-mail message to besent to the borrower
- Electronic record keeping
All of this will free library staff from other work so that the
proposed much more efficient library might not need a substantial
increase in staffing.
4.4 Electronic Publishing
There is no doubt that journals such as J.UCS [Calude, Maurer and
Salomaa 1994], [Maurer and Schmaranz 1994], have many significant
advantages over traditional journals. One of the most comprehensive
reports to date is published in J.UCS, under the title "Tragic Loss
or Good Riddance? The Impending Demise of Traditional Scholarly
Journals" [Odlyzko 1994].
Most publishing houses see some form of electronic publishing as
inevitable. Compellingarguments can be advanced in support of
information systems that:
- Support fast text searches (as described in [Section 4.3])
- Support graphics, hyperlinks and annotations
- Save time, money, and library space
- Save tonnes and tonnes of woodpulp
J.UCS has the following additional advantages:
- Papers, refereed by an editorial board consisting of over one
hundred computer scientists, will be as prestigious as those in any
other reputable journal.
- Since it is based on Hyper-G[Kappe et
al. 1994], it will be easy to access, over a variety of platforms, from
all Internet access points [see Section 2].
- Since it is fully
supported by Springer-Verlag, printed versions of the journal will be
available (as well as CD versions).
News can be flashed around Internet before it appears on conventional
news channels. Electronic newspapers are being trialed. Many
publishing houses are already accepting manuscripts in electronic form
for in-house editing, or for inserting directly into edited volumes
such as conference proceedings.
Material can be accessed directly either from the Net or from
CD. Electronic books distributed on CD-ROM include such titles as
"The Oxford Textbook of Medicine on CD-ROM", "The Complete Works of
Shakespeare" and several encyclopedias [Barker, Giller, Richards and
The application "PC-Bibliothek" (PC-Library) is a recent development
from Graz University of Technology for PCs running Windows. It offers
a powerful generic user interface for electronic multimedia reference
works. At any time, the user can choose a set of reference books from
the system's virtual bookshelf in order to look up information using
headword and fulltext search. Features available for searching include
logical operations for query definition, spelling error tolerance in
queries, creation of a personal alphabetical keyword list. The system
allows personal annotations to be made. Access from other Windows
applications is available, together with data export and
"PC-Bibliothek" [Maurer, Muelner and Schneider 1994] is a commercial
product that comes on floppy disks or CDs with an extended manual. The
material of the "PC-Bibliothek" will also be integrated into Hyper-G
[Kappe, Maurer and Sherbakov 1993] in the near future.
4.5 Copyright and Intellectual Property Issues
The issues involved in copyright and intellectual property are
undoubtedly far from clear. Many issues pertaining to electronic
copying have still not been defined, laws can vary from country to
country, and important decisions are still tied up in law
courts. Certainly they can protect the software developer [Fernandez,
Fenwick and West 1994].
Tables of contents of magazines, journals etc. can be stored and
publishers can make arrangements for certain selected pages to be
copied, or notably, abstracts or the first few pages of a novel.
In universities there are additional problems because it is difficult
to predict how far a document will actually be distributed - to a
single user (or dustbin) or campus-wide.
It is a very sad fact that in many countries there has been extensive
electronic sellout of national treasures due to insufficient
governmental legislation [Maurer, Rajasingham and Tiffin
1994]. Because many art museums were unaware of the ramifications,
they have sold the exclusive rights to the digital copies of great art
works (or practically given them away) to the first applicant.
4.6 Comparing Documents
Much research, by its very nature, involves extensive comparative
work. In English Literature, for example, it can be highly desirable to
have two documents on the screen at the same time: if one document is
a validated Chaucer text then the other can be compared to determine
whether it was likely also to have been written by Chaucer - and
whether it was written
by Chaucer some ten years later. In Law, many
cases have to be carefully compared to see whether an existing case is
a precedent. Tools must do some of the comparing [see Section 8].
4.7 Cross-referencing and Checking
This is an area where a supervisory program, like the Personal
Assistant (PA for short) discussed in [Section 8] of this paper, will
have a big impact. A PA program will provide intelligent cross-links
enabling better use to be made of today's huge databases. Not only
will the PA make continuous searches for cross references on what we
are reading but it will also make cross checks on what we are
writing. One such system, "Ways 2", produced by the Swiss wizard
Keller, has been marketed in Germany with considerable success. Having
such checking done automatically, in whole or in part, is the only way
to ensure that the increasing amount of stored work taken to be
authoritative is at least relatively free of errors.
5 The Changing World Around Us
Like it or not, the entertainment industry is the driving force behind
many of the changes we are describing, and the impact of commercial
interactive movie technology should not be underestimated - it will
invade work, leisure and learning. In the paper "Interactive and
Annotated Movies" [Jayasinha, Lennon and Maurer 1994] we describe
techniques that significantly extend the usual definition of
"interactive", and to illustrate the wide applicability of the new
technology we outline examples for the ballet and orchestra
enthusiast, the reader of great literature, the surgeon, and students
of medicine, geography, and history.
5.1 Public Information Systems
Although we still occasionally see public information systems of the
shake-the-fist-and walk-away type we are also seeing many more highly
successful ones. Information displays, widely used at airports and on
street corners, can give users touch screen options for locating a
wide variety of services such as hotels, taxis, and rental car
Perhaps even more interesting to use are the wall-sized maps of
train connections that let the traveller, using touch screen options,
build up and print out their own itineraries - complete with connection
times and costs.
As airline flight information becomes more widely accessible via the
Net we shall undoubtably see a similar move towards more interactively
defined travel itineraries. For example, decisions such as how early
is "too early" and how much risk to take in shortening connection
times are personal questions of sometimes high emotional status that
are much better determined by the individual traveller. And of course
we look to the day when we shall be able to not only make the
necessary bookings directly but bypass much red tape with a simple
swipe of a general purpose chip-controlled credit card.
Interactive maps based on Global Positioning Systems data are being
developed by major car companies. Once a significant proportion of
cars have such displays, information from traffic control vehicles can
be directly integrated into traffic flow diagrams and drivers can have
alternative routes automatically displayed.
Information bureaux may act as servers for whole networks of
kiosks. Besides supplying a wealth of publicity, information bureaux
will be able to provide specialist information such as sports therapy
As a final example, consider the benefits of having an integrated
hypermedia system in a civil emergency. Army, airforce, police, fire,
and civil defence may all be involved, and for coordinated efforts
they need interactive access to all relevant and up-to-date data. Cell
phones have proved to be a valuable aid in traffic control - perhaps,
at the least, there should also be special cell phone call numbers for
civil emergency information.
5.2 Access to Background Information
The "quiet revolution" in desktop publishing has been paralleled by
an increasing amount of readily accessible background information:
- Price lists
- Salary scales
- Detailed specifications
- Scientific glossaries for Computer Science,Biology, Engineering
- All types of manual - computer, car, cookery....
Interactive hypermedia programs can access information of this sort
from CD or from databases via a network, making details very much more
5.3 Disseminating Topical Information
Pages and pages of figures or just a few well chosen graphical
representations? Static pictures or dynamic graphs that reflect
changes? Two dimensional or three dimensional? The choices are
many. Sales catalogues, schedules, and timetables, all can be
distributed, checked, and annotated electronically.
As described in the article "Conferencing - Do it the Hypermedia
Way!" [Maurer and Schneider 1994a], conferences of all types can be
supported in many ways: issuing invitations, submission of
contributions, registration procedures, administration details
Audio clips of new tape and CD releases are already available on
Internet. Once previews of films, shows and concerts are widely
available in the form of multimedia clips, people will look back on
the ways we currently choose our entertainment as buying a pig in a
5.4 Managing Telephone Directories
Corporate telephone listings are typical instances of directories that
are notoriously difficult to keep up to date in printed form. Staff
come and go or are promoted, they change their offices - and change
their names. Current lists are usually out of date by the time they
are published. We have seen more than one directory where
corresponding entries in two sorted lists do not agree. In an
integrated database system these problems can be overcome. Subscribers
will have their own record in the database, that will include their
telephone number, room number and perhaps
information. The data will occur only once in the database but it will
be accessed by other sub-systems such as the telephone directory. The
updating of the information will, of course, be controlled by
authorisation level. To maintain the integrity of the system there
will be certain data to which only system supervisors will have
read/write or read/write/update privileges. But to avoid the "Big
Brother Syndrome" it is important that all members of staff should be
given at least read-only access to their own data. On the other hand,
phone numbers are probably best updated by the person directly
concerned, or their secretary. By using this approach the
inconsistencies found in most directories will be avoided.
5.5 Orientation and Information Displays
Orientation and information displays can be made available at public
kiosks, in entrance halls, and information centres such as those
provided by any large institution, for example a National Tourist
Board. The Images of Austria project is a noteworthy example [Maurer,
Sammer and Schneider 1994].The University of Auckland, New Zealand, is
engaged in an ambitious program to install a University Transaction,
Information and Communication System: UTICS [Maurer and Schneider
1994b]. The university is also making use of a multimedia system
called "Unimedia", [Unimedia 1994], to provide information about the
campus in a form easily understood by all visitors to the campus. For
the benefit of overseas users, a world map picturing New Zealand can
be "opened up" to show Auckland and the location of the
University. When users select the University icon they are presented
with a large-scale map of the campus that they can "walk through" or
"fly through" and zoom into any part of. Here they can orient
themselves and then locate any facility, whether a car-park, a lecture
theatre or an individual office. As explained below, selecting any
feature will bring up more detail. Experienced users may not only
bypass any of the above steps but, using the powerful query options
available, directly access specific information such as lecture times,
room numbers and telephone numbers.
5.5.1 Virtual Tours of Buildings
At any stage of a tour a user may select a building and choose to
follow predetermined paths. For example:
- Selecting a particular building will not only show a photo of the
actual block together with a description of its function but give the
option of following any one of several different paths. To take the
university setting again, if the building selected is Mathematical and
Physical Sciences the following path might be selected: School of
Mathematical and Information Sciences / Department of Computer Science
/ Hypermedia Unit / Room 248. A more detailed description of such
paths is given in the next section.
- The user may search for a particular member of staff, or a lecture
room, or a library, and in each case they can always be directed to
the appropriate building and location.
5.5.2 Navigation Through the Hierarchies
One of the primary goals of systems such as Hyper-G [Kappe et
al. 1994] is to help users find what they need to know as efficiently
as possible, while ensuring they are comfortable in the search
environment [Kappe, Maurer and Sherbakov 1993]. Hyper-G documents are
defined as follows: "Every Hyper-G document is a member of one of
more collections, which are in turn members of one or more collections
(except for the root collections)" [Kappe et al. 1994]. This
definition gives us collections of overlapping hierarchies as shown in
At each node appropriate information is available on request:
- General information, including historical references and notes on any
- Specific items of interest such as sports
- Personnel details. These will include pictures of
members, their telephone numbers and e-mail addresses, their interests
both present and past, and any biographical or general information the
person is happy to put into the system.
Users have guided tours, both two and three dimensional, as well as
paths to aid them.
5.6 Repercussions in the World of Advertising
Can we really look forward to the disappearance of unsolicited,
one-size-fits-all advertisements? If the current exponential growth of
trading on the Net is anything to go by, the answer may certainly be
"yes". As consumers, we shall be able to search for what we want
when we want it.
Users will have much more intelligent access to publicity material. We
shall see interests ranging from sports fitness centres to adult
education courses being targeted to reach specific audiences. Printed
advertisements may become as obsolete as town criers.
Where licence agreements are involved it is frequently necessary to
pass charges down to the users. This can be achieved either by the
introduction of a yearly subscription fee or a charge per page. For
example, readers of electronic magazines and journals may have to pay a
licence fee for access, just as is required for certain software now,
and an organisation may need more than one licence for a popular
publication. However new forms of sponsoring are emerging. Sponsors
can provide the organisation with its licence fees in return
for special advertising privileges.
6 The Impact of Hypermedia on the Way We Work
Hypermedia systems are already changing the workplace (however we
define it) as people from home care-givers to politicians discover
what it means to have a world of information literally at their
6.1 Electronic Purchasing
Once small businesses evolve past the "word processing" stage into
the world of hypermedia we predict another radical change. As
suppliers, we shall be able to finely target small markets. As
consumers, we shall discover a new definition of "personal
assistance". Consumers, by simply sending their own electronic agents
through the Net, will command and receive personalised service -
probably to the level of receiving individualised products such as
designer jeans with the wearer's own emblem emblazoned on them!
6.2 Automatic Data Transfer
Over the past 25 years, electronic transaction processing has become
steadily more robust and correspondingly better trusted by businesses
large and small. As networks connect more homes and businesses we
shall inevitably see still more distribution of data entry points. For
example, electronic "armchair shopping" may directly generate bank
debits although again there is obviously concern over security issues
[see Section 2.4]. In large educational institutions systems will
manage all transaction processing from enrolment data and academic
transcripts to crediting and debiting of all sorts of fees - possibly
without the students having to set foot on the campus, let alone wait
Bob and Penny Gascoigne have long been out of work. Now even the meter
reader must find other work as meters are read from a distance and the
charge debited from the consumer,s bank account [see Section 2.4]. Not
only can gas, electricity and water consumption be electronically
with. Licensing of TV services can also be dealt with - and made
fairer. The whole system could shift to a finely tuned user-pays
Consumer surveys can be carried out with minimal interruption to
anyone's life. Automatic monitors can run program rating surveys.
Good publicity, both local and international, is obviously critical
for the success of any business. It is particularly significant in the
recruitment of personnel. It is important to advertise as widely as
possible, not only in the interest of fairness, but to ensure that the
calibre of the recipients is as high as possible. Even restricting
ourselves to Internet, general information and lists of vacant
positions can be widely distributed.
Since staff may be attracted from all over the world it is most
important that information reaching these people is as accurate and
relevant as possible. Ideally applicants (whether local or foreign)
should be able to link directly into companies, information servers
and take part in guided tours that provide pertinent information on
working conditions, salary scales, benefits and such thorny issues as
visa requirements. People considering coming from another country will
appreciate having access to publicity material on surrounding country
and towns - all of which lends itself to great hypermedia
presentations as has been dramatically demonstrated by the "Images of
Austria" project [Maurer, Sammer and Schneider 1994].
6.4 Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW)
CSCW comes under the heading of Groupware. It ranges from simple
e-mail communication (as described in [Section 4.1] to the joint
preparation of hypermedia documents [McQueen 1993], [Dewan 1993],
[Derycke, Croisy and Vilers 1993] and [Ellis, Gibbs and Rein 1991].
It may be divided into two categories:
- 1 Asynchronous: An asynchronous CSCW system has the advantage of
enabling users to collaborate when they are separated not only by
- distance but also by time constraints. This is obviously an advantage
when workers are in countries separated by, for example, a twelve-hour
- 2 Synchronous: In a synchronous system the participants are logged
on to the computer system at the same time even though they are not
necessarily all in the same room together, as in
teleconferencing. Recently there have been significant improvements in
the quality of large-scale projected images [Berends 1993].
6.5 Electronic Group Discussions
Whether the discussion is formally supervised by a complete computer
conferencing system [see Section 6.9], or is just an informal
exchange of ideas between two colleagues, the impact of computers on
communication is already being felt across the world. The traffic in
e-mail is voluminous and increasing all the time [see Section 4.1].
There is certainly a tremendous need for much of this
interactive correspondence to be coordinated by a supervisory program
such as we shall describe in [Section 8].
6.6 Version Control
When two or more people work on the same document it is even more
important than usual to be conscientious about keeping track of
changes to the document. Much research remains to be done on systems
that are automatically version-controlled. These will automatically
keep track of versions for backup and archival purposes (future
historians will have a difficult time tracing document life cycles if
valuable annotations are lost) and enable two or more users to see and
keep track of each other's changes [Halasz 1988], [Neuwirth et
6.7 Meeting Support
When calendar functions are integrated into good e-mail systems
meetings can be electronically timetabled. Although we feel that some
scheduling systems intrude too much on users, privacy, other systems,
not exposing personal calendars, can be just as effective. One user
will suggest a time for a meeting, and the system after browsing at
appropriate calendars can report back with the number of clashes if
any. Since the attendance of certain members may be critical, a
weighting may have to be placed on certain entries.
A CSCW system may support computer screens providing a
shared workspace, so that all participants can literally work on the
same document at the same time and all simultaneously see the result
[Elrod et al. 1992].
To help communication further and to engender a feeling of camaraderie
(to help offset feelings of computer-generated alienation) the screen
may also show video images of the participants, although space
considerations strictly limit the number of users.
When two or more users work on the same document at the same time
there has to be a carefully constructed means of ensuring that the
document always reflects its true state. Successful work is already in
place ensuring proper lockout.
6.8 Contract Preparation
In all the above discussion we have assumed that the various
collaborators have had the same basic aims. But there is one
application of CSCW in which the participants may have quite different
objectives: contract preparation. The different parties to the document
are both - or all - working on it. But in this case each has to obtain
a version that is best for their own interests, and there can be a
tendency for each to slip in changes it is hoped the other party will
overlook. In this case the computer system,s supervisory role is to
6.9 Computer Conferencing
A computer conference provides a highly structured discussion. First a
topic or proposal is presentedand the system forces contributions of
the required type: extended topic or generalisation,
supporting argument, supporting example, counter argument, counter
levels of anonymity can be supported - from
complete anonymity to every contribution being identified by the
sender's real name. Often pen-names are used. There are also times
when documents require such a high level of security that all
communication is not only anonymous but encrypted using public key
protocols, as for example in the RSA system [Salomaa 1990].
6.10 Supporting Decision Making
A special case of asynchronous conferencing or CSCW is seen in
electronic decision support centres [Nunamaker, Dennis, Valacich,
Vogel and George 1991], [Sheffield 1993]. All participants are
physically in one room, usually with a facilitator, and may
communicate normally at any particular time. However everyone is also
linkedto a computer system and discussion usually takes place
anonymously with immediate feedback. Unstructured "Bulletin Board"
discussions have worked where there are only a few participants, but
they quickly get out of control with more than a few. In a "Card
Passing" system messages are passed to members chosen at random and
each successively adds to the "card" until either the facilitator or
a member calls a halt at a point where a vote on the issue might be
In the paper "The Impact ofElectronic Meeting Systems On New Zealand
Organisations" [Sheffield 1993] the author states: "Participants
using simultaneous computer input may work throughout the meeting
without being 'blocked' by other participants. Because there is no
competition for air time, task focus is increased. Persuasion and
advocacy are less necessary in achieving consensus. The combination of
high task focus, high participation and expert facilitation appears to
produce a more informed consensus." The ability of participants to
access and organise information is enhanced and surveys show that
participants claim a time saving of sixty or more percent - a factor
of great importance to administrators. Although the electronic meeting
rooms do not themselves generate decisions (these may need very human
interactions including eye contact), the decisions reached are proving
very workable and highly satisfying, as detailed follow-up surveys
[Sheffield and Gallupe 1993] show.
6.11 International Business
As businesses amalgamate, nationally and internationally, networks are
being used increasingly to coordinate operations. For example the
International Maritime Satellite Organisation is a cooperative
involving about seventy nations. Their satellites, built by an
international consortium, will be launched by U.S. and French
companies using Russian rockets.
Electronic Document Interchange (EDI) is being used for a
growing number of international business transactions. Although it is
really just formalised e-mail, legally binding electronic documents
can be created by using digital signatures [Salomaa 1990], [Lennon
Many operations are characteristic of any large corporation:
maintenance of personnel files, payroll systems, stock control and
forecasting. A well designed database system with a good human
interface can today be regarded as essential.
Traditionally offices have tended to simply computerise existing
processes. However there is a broader view of workflow as more than
mere process automation [McQueen 1993]. New workflow tools are being
developed that include such important aspects of administration as
negotiation techniques and levels of satisfaction [Medina-Mora,
Winograd, Flores and Flores 1992]. Since students can be regarded as
customers, universities should benefit from these new programs as much
as businesses will.
6.12.1 University Administration
Certain problems are unique to educational settings. Universities, for
example, are often proud of their historical roots and many have
evolved such complex degree regulations that it is sometimes said that
prospective students need to have a degree already to understand the
We envisage that when students are able to log on to educational
networks they will be guided through mazes of regulations from the
safety of an armchair. They will be able to explore various options,
and the system will indicate what the effects of these choices will be
in both the short and long term. It is a sad fact that all too many of
today's students fail to look very far ahead to see what papers they
should be taking as prerequisites for their desired major. Within a few
years students should be able to use voice-mail to enter their chosen
courses into the university database. Any clashes and inconsistencies
will be immediately relayed back to the student, who can modify the
Early in the enrolment process students will be issued a Pin number so
that necessary levels of security can be maintained.
6.13 Supporting the " Culture" of an Organisation
In this vital area of an organisation's life the problem is not so
much how to distribute notices but how to keep control over them. All
too often expired notices are littered amongst the current ones. In
our system all electronic notices will be time-stamped when the notice
is first entered. The system will generate a default expiry date, from
the date of the event, but this may be over-ridden by the user. In
addition to this the user will be asked to say what is to be done with
the notice once the date has expired: delete the notice, or place it
in a Past Events list to be maintained by the system. This list will
be invaluable for compiling not only end-of-year reports but
histories. Decisions must be made on how to maintain the Past Events
list. We propose that, after two years in the list, certain items
should be archived - for fifteen years, or one hundred years?
The notices will be arranged by certain criteria and keywords:
training programs, conferences, public lectures, open days, and block
bookings for theatrical events (both music and drama), to name but a
Company esprit de corps will be enhanced when "virtual common rooms"
contain information such as bulletin boards, photos, best performance
awards, and names of past innovators.
In university and school settings graduation events will take on a new
dimension when photos taken at functions of the graduands in their
regalia are archived along with statistical information. They can be
presented to each graduate immediately after the ceremony as a
Employees will run all types of bulletin boards, displaying club
information, accommodation listings, sporting calendars, virtual
"flea markets" of second-hand goods including books (both paper and
electronic). In all these areas there will be the question of whether
or not outside commercial interests should be allowed to place paid
advertisements, and if so what control there should be to prevent
As to interpersonal life, workers will be able to keep in contact with
friends across the world. Networking may be the next best thing to
7 Life-Long Learning
The greatest revolution of all must surely come in the areas of
teaching and training as we move towards "on-the-job training",
"life-long learning", and "just-in-time learning". We have divided
this immense topic into two sections:
1. [Section 7.1] - Short term applications of hypermedia to teaching.
2. [Section 7.2] - Longer term projections.
7.1 Teaching and Training
Hypermedia: art or science? As foreseen by the visionary Ted Nelson
[Nelson 1987] the melding of what were traditionally thought of as
being two opposites is already occurring. In fields ranging from high
tech CAI to movie making, artists are collaborating with computer
scientists. It is a trend that we hope will extend right across
campuses (closed or open), and hypermedia networks can provide the
links. Although at school students interact with friends of varied
interests, later in life many specialise early and lose contact with
other disciplines - to the detriment of more than just the students,
interests. Staff and students need to hear other problems being
discussed to realise that their own work may hold
solutions. Fundamental theory, advanced technology, wider
perspectives, ethical, social, legal considerations - any can
unexpectedly revolutionise the way an undertaking is
viewed. Hypermedia networks can provide the needed communication
channels. Also, as it becomes more and more difficult to separate
education and entertainment, we shall see students controlling their
own education in new and probably unpredictable ways. Ideas will buzz
across the networks.
The classical "chalk and talk" lecture has certainly stood the test
of time. It is cheap, and coupled with a good duster it allows the
teacher a great deal of flexibility. The last few years have seen the
increased use of overhead projection slides. These allow the lecturer
to prepare beautiful, detailed colour diagrams in advance. However in
an OHP presentation spontaneity and audience participation may both be
sacrificed: both pose risks, because they may suddenly demand a change
in either the content or the order of the prepared slides. The whole
effect may be spoilt if a teacher has to illustrate points by trying
to draw, with an inadequate pen, in corners of the transparencies -
which now become cluttered. There is a problem too with making
references back to points on previous slides: it can be difficult to
find a particular slide among a whole pile of used ones. However since
both chalk and OHPs are so widely used, any serious alternative must
combine the flexibility of the classical blackboard method with the
ability to show prepared material. The use of electronic media with
projector or multiple screens can provide this combination, and much
In 1989 Dartmouth College was the first university to require every
student to either purchase a computer or arrange the loan of one. It
is becoming such a widespread practice it seems likely that before
long all staff and students at universities will find the possession of
a personal computer as essential as a slide rule was for engineers back
in the 1950s. This will have far-reaching consequences, as we shall
outline in [Section 7.1.3] and [Section 7.2].
7.1.1 Traditional Computer Support
Since tools such as word processors, spreadsheet packages, database
management systems and CAD packages became widely used we have seen a
revolution in the quality of the documents produced by
can be printed directly from spreadsheets. Output
from computer simulations can be captured in pictorial form and
included in reports. As mentioned in [Section 4.4] many publishing houses
accept electronic versions of papers and books for in-house editing or
as final copy for directly incorporating into edited books.
7.1.2 Multimedia Presentations
Several different metaphors are available for presenting material in a
coherent form, but the one teachers will probably feel most at home
with is surely the "Book" or "Library" metaphor. A good multimedia
implementation will support moving both forwards and backwards through
the pages of presentation material, have an index into the pages,
incorporate a bookmarking system and have the facility to iconize any
particular page needing to be referred to more than once. Students may
well appreciate seeing a graphical icon indicating both the number of
pages already viewed and the number of pages yet to be shown. The
system must support multiple windows and perhaps incorporate the
interesting possibilities associated with zooming into parts of
diagrams. Maps of all sorts lend themselves particularly well to this
sort of treatment: geological and oceanographic maps, and particularly
maps produced by special methods such as infra-red photography. Any
area can be re-scaled and points of interest visited by displaying new
windows of information. Information in the biological sciences can be
more clearly shown by displaying uncluttered diagrams where additional
details are not shown until required. Lectures in medicine can benefit
by incorporating photographic quality images and by studying the body
not only in various ways (e.g. by looking at bone structure or blood
or lymph systems) but by viewing each system under increasing (and
decreasing) degrees of magnification. Students of engineering and
architecture receive extensive training in the use of computer-aided
design (CAD) tools. CAD is not only being used in the initial design
phases of projects but, coupled with good HM systems, it is being
incorporated into training sessions for new staff, retraining for
current staff, building and maintenance specifications, and high tech
It is important that the teacher be able to annotate the material as
freely as in any traditional environment. The annotation system should
provide suitable drawing support in perhaps a variety of forms. The
used to produce the presentation should be on line so that
real time additions or deletionscan be made. There should be an option
to determine which changes are to be permanent and which are just
At any stage in a presentation the teacher should be able to capture
any page or pages of information and have the option of either
distributing them electronically to the students (or to any other
interested group, e.g. a disabled or home schooling group) or having
the pages printed out as hard copy for the students to take away. This
helps to minimise mindless note-taking.
Information invisible to the students can be displayed for the teacher
to use at will. If the presentation system is networked then even more
valuable possibilities exist. The teacher can access backup
encyclopedias to enhance the lecture as well as answer questions. Art
teachers have a particular problem in that they currently rely heavily
on slide carousels for illustrating their talks. It is difficult to
move backwards and forwards through the slides to find any particular
one they need to refer to, and they cannot display slides from
previous lectures in response to students, questions. Furthermore they
often need to show two slides at the same time to compare and contrast
them. Electronic libraries of pictures, and CDs such as Microsoft's
"Art Gallery" will provide an Aladdin's trove for users such as
7.1.3 The Electronic Lecture Room
As personal computers become smaller, cheaper and consequently more
widely used, we envisage students bringing their own laptops to class
and connecting to the teacher's computer via a network. This opens
many interesting possibilities [see Section 7.2], just a few of which
we list here:
- Students will be able to electronically read in the teacher,s notes
and then individually annotate them from the teacher,s explanations.
- Electronic question and answer sessions will open the possibility of
having lecture forums with the teacher simply acting as chairman.
- Instead of bringing just a tape recorder into lectures, students
will have the choice of voice recorders, electronic cameras and even
video recorders, and they willbe able to store the data directly into
their own computers for perusal at their leisure.
It is well established that people experience a significant mental
barrier to asking questions in large class situations where they feel
self-conscious. In future it may be desirable to provide each student
with some sort of electronic signalling device. This could enable
students to anonymously indicate to the teacher that they did not
understand a point or that the pace was too fast or too slow. In large
classes this might mean that the teachers would need some computer
support to analyse the incoming data without impinging too much on
Fully networked tutorial laboratories provide a wide range of learning
- Teacher-directed learning. Students new to the computerised
environment can be guided step by step until they are
- Teacher-guided learning. Students can be given increasing
control over what and how they learn. They can be encouraged to
explore at their own pace with the teacher acting as guide.
- Student-directed learning. Mature students can benefit by being given
control over their environment. The teacher's role will be that of a
mentor or supervisor.
- Working in groups. Many students prefer to do
computer work in groups rather than alone. This preference is seen in
many minority groups and particularly amongst women.
It can also be argued that all students benefit by a certain amount of
group activity since there is so much team work in the workplace. Work
can be divided up among the group members, results compared and
combined, and the final version prepared in professional form.
Wide-area networks can provide an immeasurable resource base for
tutorial work. Many groups will benefit from having brainstorming
sessions with various degrees of anonymity - again it is seen that
many minority students would appreciate this.
7.1.5 Computer Aided Instruction (CAI)
Amalgamation, corporatisation, expansion! As big gets bigger, and
distances between offices increase, many companies are urgently
looking for more efficient training and retraining programs. It is
worth noting that in the United States large companies like Bell Labs
and AT&T have multi-million dollar budgets for computerised training
of network maintenance workers. It is not our contention that CAI will
ever completely replace the human teacher, and certainly not in
universities, but it can complement a teacher,s activities and in
certain areas, particularly where students need to build confidence,
it has a unique part to play in education.
An outstanding example of using computing in higher education is the
Athena project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
[Balkovich, Lerman and Parmelee 1985], [Murray and Malone 1992].
7.1.6 Presentation Type CAI Lessons
A large number of applications have been written in this field. Early
on, Apple Macintosh encouraged its educational users to produce
lessons written in Hypercard by giving the application away free. Much
good software has been produced, often in the long hours of busy
teachers' nights. This is certainly an area which needs more
coordinating and cataloguing so that excellent work doesn't get lost
in proverbial "bottom drawers".
University faculties should investigate ways of ensuring that members
involved in the preparation of CAI material get academic recognition
for their work on a parallel with time expended on writing
textbooks. It should be possible to publish CAI packages just as books
Once students have access to a hypermedia system supporting CAI they
can access information as and when they need it. We expect students to
be better motivated not only to make intelligent use of basic
to probe more deeply into areas they find particularly
interesting. However anote of caution is needed here. Experience has
shown that students need encouragement and even gentle discipline to
form the new study habits required for mastering the new learning
The Hyper-G system, for example, already supports over 500 lessons
covering topics ranging from medicine, ecology, and natural sciences
to computer science. These lessons make full use of the power of
hypermedia [Kappe, Maurer and Sherbakov 1993].
In the article "Why Hypermedia Systems Are Important" [Maurer 1992]
the author states:
"It is to be understood that the visual component of a computer
supported multimedia system is not limited to ordinary digitised
photos and movies: such photos and movies of real-life situations are
valuable in some cases but lack the necessary level of abstraction in
others. At least as important are other techniques for visualisation,
- (i) diagrams, maps, and abstract pictures;
- (ii) process visualisation tools;
- (iii) data visualisation tools;
- (iv) 3D modelling, animation, and abstract movies.
These techniques, discussed further in [Section 7.1.15] and [Section
7.1.16], enable teachers to create exciting and effective learning
environments. However, even coupled with modern authorware packages
most lessons incorporating graphics inevitably need an immense
investment of time to produce. Fortunately, as mentioned in [Section
4.3], new data access methods that use modern searching algorithms are
providing gateways to a wealth of database material. One interesting
observation should be noted here. Our second most important sensory
organ, the ear, has a counterpart - the mouth. But our eyes have no
such counterpart. We cannot project mental images for other people to
capture. In the paper "The Missing Organ" [Maurer and Carlson 1992]
the authors suggest that multimedia systems may develop to a stage
where they will provide us with a prosthesis to make up for this
deficiency. We may be able to produce concrete and abstract
projections of our mental images, by computer, so easily and naturally
that they will provide us with a new dimension in communication and
transform our lives even more than books have done.
CAI programs that make full use of multimedia can certainly provide
captivating and effective learning experiences. However, to create high
quality courseware an author needs to combine the skills of educator,
graphical designer and computer specialist [Augenstein, Ottmann and
Schoning 1993]. Unfortunately many CAI packages break even the most
fundamental rules of good design:
- Too much text cluttering the windows (at worst page after page copied
straight from books)
- Cluttered diagrams
- Flagrant abuse of colour combinations
- Too little or too much flexibility in navigation paths
through the material
- Inappropriate or patronising computer generated responses
In the paper "Multimedia: We Have the Technology but do we have a
Methodology?" [Alty 1993] the author describes a study indicating
that peripheral or parallel streams of information containing
redundant information can be of importance in helping students
understand complex ideas. He also argues that the users of multimedia
systems should be given flexibility to determine which particular
medium suits their purpose best, and concludes that a great deal more
work needs to be done in this area.
7.1.7 Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS)
Currently much research is being directed into the development of
general tutoring systems involving artificial intelligence. Systems,
coupled with discourse languages, have been developed to interactively
set up knowledge bases (lessons, examples, tests, etc.) in more than
one field (ranging from biology to physics). The Exploring System
Earth Consortium is a group of universities and industries in the
United States currently developing intelligent science tutors. The
group is addressing the problems associated with choosing appropriate
teaching strategies based on students, backgrounds and tutorial
experiences [Woolf 1992].
Because a significant investment of time is still needed to create an
ITS or to tailor any general program to a specific domain, a system is
urgently required that will enable staff to find out readily what
existing work has already been done in any area of interest. Using
networked multimedia systems such as Hyper-G [Kappe, Maurer and
Sherbakov 1993], lists of available software are becoming accessible.
7.1.8 Exploratory Learning
There is still an immense amount of work to be done in this field to
determine just how students learn best when confronted with a large
information system. There may be as many different answers as there
are students. However there has been some good work done in providing
students with tours and maps [Davies, Maurer and Preece 1991].
Programs enabling students to experiment by directly manipulating
graphical objects can provide fascinating learning experiences. In his
paper "Direct Manipulation: A Step Beyond Programming Languages"
[Shneiderman 1993a] the author asks, "Why not teach students about
polynomial equations by letting them bend the curves and watch how the
coefficients change, where the x-axis intersects, and how the
derivative equation reacts?"
Many virtual instrument systems exist supporting the real-time plotting
of data in forms that can be manipulated on the computer as
required. They can, for example, generate plots reflecting conduction
in nerves or forces in muscles.
7.1.9 Student Study Aid Programs
It is often the very students who would benefit most from assistance
programs who are the least likely to hear about them. An attractive,
non-threatening multimedia environment is likely to have such wide
appeal that many more students will learn how to obtain help before it
is too late.
7.1.10 Resource Centres
Here again well designed hypermedia systems can guide users to the
various campus facilities to find out what is available. It is a fact
that most students today have no idea of the many resources available
to them: audio and video tapes held in other departments, computing
services, teaching resources, sports equipment, and of course HM
programs of many kinds.
7.1.11 Self Testing
CAI can provide unique ways for students to assess themselves in a
relaxed and non-threatening environment:
- Incoming students can
determine whether they are well enough prepared to embark on
their selected courses of study.
- Students who attain a required
standard by sitting self-administered preparatory tests will be able
to sit formal examinations with considerably less stress.
- Masters students can use tests to determine what background reading they must
do before embarking on their graduate projects.
More advanced programs can help students assess their level of
understanding on key topics and direct them to appropriate material.
It may not be necessary to build into the CAI packages electronic
marking of the students, answers. In fact it may be best for the
answers to be written or drawn on paper. Since the self-assessment
results do not influence the students' final results, it is in the
students' own interests to get as accurate an assessment as
possible. Thus the tests can provide model answers and let the
students determine the correctness of their responses. Alternatively
two students may work on a quiz together and mark each other's work
using the computer's answers as a guide.
Several types of self tests exist. Perhaps most easily adapted from
standard tests are multi-choice tests. More interesting are tests
asking the user to draw their answers or indicate them on
diagrams. Tests involving interactive animation can frequently test
students' understanding of processes more reliably than standard
testing methods. For example, in the assembling of complex pieces of
various parts can be dragged across the computer screen
to test correct assembly order. In an interactive medical simulation,
complete with awe-inspiring hospital sound effects, medical students
are tested on their knowledge of operating room procedures using
computer-controlled time constraints and lifelike animations.
Attempts have been made to design systems in which the questions
themselves are computer generated. However the results to date have
not been encouraging. In the paper "Question/Answer Specification in
CAL Tutorials (Automatic Problem Generation Does Not Work)"
[Maurer, Stone, Stubenrauch and Gillard 1991] the authors describe two
programs: one to generate functions to give students practice in
differentiation, and the other to provide sets of linear equations for
solution practice. The authors found that it was difficult to control
the generation of undesirable functions and sets of equations, and
they conclude that "with present methods, the use of such procedures
is neither cost effective nor desirable. Better results, with less
effort, seem to come from random selection of 'fixed' problems from a
(possibly large) database of such problems."
Since it is often desirable to let a student re-sit a test, groups of
questions need to be defined so that the program can randomly select
from each group during any particular run.
It is the hope of many educators that traditional examinations will
gradually be replaced by much more effective Mastery Learning programs
where students continue studying, with either a teacher or CAI, until
they are able to show by a practical demonstration that they have
mastered the subject.
As in the case of Self Administered Tests there are several different
types of testing programs available:
- Multi-choice tests that can accept answers in words, numbers, or
- Simple graphic tests where, for example, the students can
graph points or indicate the correct answer on a graph.
- Tests designed so that the student indicates the required answer by circling
It is an interesting problem to design tests that can be
electronically marked and yet test the order in which activities are
performed. For example, if students are tested on their knowledge of
the assembly of chemical apparatus they may have to assemble the
pieces in a predefined order. In order for the CAI program to assess
their answers a system is needed whereby the students' responses can
indicate order - without resorting to script numbers, which are
difficult to analyse.
There is a problem with administering computerised tests to large
classes: where there are not enough computers for each student to use
one simultaneously, multiple tests have to be devised and this too is
time-consuming. The sharing of work among colleagues from different
campuses can alleviate the problem a little, but alternative methods
of marking may have to be used. For example, if questions are answered
on well designed paper forms they can be scanned and marked
Computer networks link my office to the office next door, to
facilities across the campus, to databases in other universities, to
the American Library of Congress catalogue.... Most academics see the
computer as a way to improve teaching, research, management and
general university life, even in days of financial
retrenchment. Scientists are developing visualisation tools that
provide effective student training without expensive laboratory
equipment and chemicals. Biological scientists, who are now very aware
of the environmental impact that their students make on nature, are
experimenting with computer simulations in "dry laboratories".
Heavy use is being made of Internet in many disciplines: chemists
(particularly inorganic chemists who cannot work without up-to-date
information on the thousands of new compounds), the medical profession
(keeping up to date with the daily emergence of new, life-saving drugs)
and lawyers (with endless cases to look up for precedents). In
addition to all this, today's networks contain databases of patent
registers as well as collections of abstracts and much more.
There is no question that having material available in electronic form
is as important as having it available in print, or more important. The
statement "more important" is justified since the perusal of
electronic information, at least for "entry point" research, is much
more efficient than the use of printed volumes (and much of the
material available on CD-ROM is of the "entry-point" type:
collections of reviews, abstracts of papers, dictionaries, etc). A
wealth of bibliographic data and several complete encyclopedias of
information now exist in electronic form and are available via
This very promising resource unfortunately demands a great investment
of time to implement, and staff need more support to help them find
out what software is already available. One outstanding project is
worth mentioning again here: the Athena project developed at
Massachusetts Institute of Technology [Murray and Malone 1992]. This
includes, for example, a total immersion learning environment for
teaching French - a virtual reality. Students can walk through the
streets and buildings of Paris with fullscale video on one screen
while they interact with the plot via a computer display of maps and
dialogue boxes. They have the options of dictionary searches, replay
phrase by phrase, and even clean sterile Language Lab French if they
In the business world new techniques are being developed to enable
complex interrelations to be comprehended. One successful application
produces a simulation of the state of the stock market. In a virtual
reality setting the viewer can navigate through landscapes reflecting
the state of stock by using geometrical representations. While the user
is investigating areas of personal interest the system will note other
7.1.15 Data Visualisation Tools
Physical scientists and mathematicians have traditionally made
considerable use of graphs and diagrams, but now with computer support
the field can be further extended [Domik 1993]. Programs are now
available enabling scientists to visualise: the "greenhouse effect",
quantum tunnelling, and brain tumours [Computer 1989], the dynamics of
the atmosphere, bio-electric fields, stresses and strains, 3-D fluid
flow fields and robotic surgery [IEEE 1993] - to name just a few. A
great deal of work has already been done to enable hyper-dimensional
problems to be visualised [Maurer 1992], [Hanson and Heng 1992].
The Human-Computer Interaction Laboratory at the University of
Maryland has developed many innovative projects involving data
visualisation - projects ranging from the visualisation of nested
directories [Johnson and Shneiderman 1993] to interactive programs
that enable users to select their own ideal piece of real estate
[Williamson and Shneiderman 1993]. In the introduction to
"Information Visualisation: Dynamic Queries, Treemaps, and the
Filter/flow metaphor" [Shneiderman 1993b], the author states: "Our
eyes can carry a hundred times more information to the brain than our
ears. Adding user controlled animation can further increase
comprehension. The world of the future will be more like driving or
flying a plane through colourful three (or four) dimensional
information spaces. Users will rapidly select, combine, eliminate and
construct new displays."
Dynamic queries enable a user to control animated displays and filter
the data by using graphical sliders as well as menu options, graphical
buttons, text, etc. Programs such as these provide a powerful medium
for showing trends - as exemplified by the dramatic animation of an
influenza virus spreading across Europe. Of particular note is the
project "Dynamic Queries on a Health Statistics Atlas" or
"Dynamaps". Pages and pages of indigestible numeric medical data
form the database for the program, which displays the information
- Geographic region
- Education Level
- Smoker / non-smoker
Startling correlations can be demonstrated, such as between education
levels and deaths by cervical cancer. The authors conclude that
exploring data interactively lets researchers see correlations by
patterns, and find scientific insights that can be
demonstrated ina convincing manner.
7.1.16 Process Visualisation Tools
Animated diagrams provide a most effective way of showing many
processes, whether in commerce, medicine or the physical sciences. New
authoring tools can be used to good effect.
In the field of computer algorithm visualisation, there are systems
such as Tango [Stasko 1990] and XTango [Badre, Beranek, Morris and
Stasko 1992] that use graphical facilities to show how a program
works. There has been doubt cast on just how much these aids really do
enhance a student's understanding of any particular process, but it is
certain that the tools can be of considerable help in debugging and
7.2 Lecturing: A Future With Hypermedia
In the paper "Lecturing Technology: A Future with Hypermedia" [Lennon
and Maurer 1994b] we discuss ideas that will take future lecturing
techniques far beyond the use of computers for simply giving
presentations. There have been many highly innovative ideas on how to
use computer-based teaching theatres [Norman 1993], [Shneiderman
1993c], [Gilbert 1993] and [Fisher 1993], and we propose a system,
based on these ideas, that will:
- Allow students and teachers to interact electronically.
- Generate high quality CAI in the form of refined lecture material that is
coupled with question and answer material electronically captured from
students, interactions with teacher or tutor. This material may be
- Enable students to plug their own personal computers
into the university network, and to play and replay lectures at their
- Allow the lecture itself to develop into an
anonymous group discussion similar to that which takes place in a
- Support computer-supported collaborative work.
- Support computer conferencing.
- Support distance teaching [Hewitt 1993],
[Rajasingham 1988]. In difficult economic climates more
students have to be handled with smaller financial resources. Distance
teaching and CAI are two solutions to what is at first glance an
The consequences of any one of the above points will be
considerable. What the net effect will be no one can predict.
It is a truism that only through education will any real progress be
made. An estimated 80% of U.S. college students now have access to
networks. For everyone from kindergarten children through to
university administrators the new worldwide network links provide
educational possibilities undreamt of.
7.2.1 "Just in Time" Learning in the Virtual Classroom
The electronic lecturing system described above should now be put into
a wider educational context. It has been argued that, for a successful
future, education must shift from being teacher centred to being
student centred [Petruk 1992]. To survive in the information age
students will need to be proficient in navigating various information
pathways, and they must be provided with the necessary skills. Once
they have these skills they will be able to take control of their
learning to a much greater degree than ever before. Many large firms
such as Boeing and AT&T have "need to know" training programs
already in place. Where projects are as large as these no
trouble-shooter can expect to know everything. "Just in time"
learning has taken on new dimensions with the introduction of
multimedia programs to help technicians diagnose faults literally on
In the area of medical research new knowledge about treatments is
becoming available at such a rate that no general practitioner has a
hope of keeping up to date. With electronic help members of the public
will be able to query the world's medical databases and bring the most
up-to-date information to their own doctor's attention so that the best
treatments available may be chosen.
7.2.2 Total Immersion Learning Environments
The computer is also becoming the ultimate media machine. This in
itself will profoundly affect the way students learn and the way we
teach. Interactive movies already exist where the viewer can modify
the plot or help solve a mystery. We are very close to being able to
model complete interactive environments. As we saw in [Section 7.1.15]
we already have two and three dimensional animated data-modelling
programs. Virtual reality enables investigators to interactively
explore three dimensional models. Whether we model a human heart, a
museum, a city or a planet (either actual or imaginary), it involves
basic virtual reality research. The real thrust of virtual reality
research is not in the gimmicks like space helmets and data gloves
(exciting as they may be to use) - it is in the modelling. Some of the
most challenging research in this area is undoubtedly the work on
modelling human figures [Paouri, Magnenat-Thalmann and Thalmann 1991],
[Magnenat-Thalmann and Thalmann 1991a], [Magnenat-Thalmann and Thalmann
1991b]. The human eye is certainly amazing at noting even minuscule
imperfections in human anatomy! But we are close to succeeding even
8 The Role of the Personal Assistant
The idea of having an electronic personal assistant is not
new. Computer scientists have long dreamt of having an electronic
assistant (i.e. a supervisory program) to help them manage everything
from electronic mail to research and teaching commitments. And of
course science fiction writers have taken the idea of a personal
assistant still further by suggesting that it will assist with all our
An extensive survey of "Intelligent Agents" is given in a special
issue of "Communications of the ACM" [Communications 1994]. The
paper "From Personal Computer to Personal Assistant" [Lennon and
Maurer 1994c] also gives an overview of the subject, and we summarise
just a few of the more important points here: As software systems are
used by more and more people the problems associated with training
have multiplied. Users simply do not have the time, or motivation, to
browse extensively through printed manuals or on-line help files, so
they are frequently unaware of useful features. The
electronic assistance was already recognised back in 1985 when a
"computer coach" that "unobtrusively monitors interaction with a
system and offers individualised advice" was developed to help users
in a word-processing environment [Zissos and Witten 1985]. In 1992 a
system was developed to help users avoid repetitive formatting tasks
[Mo and Witten 1992]. A more generalised personal assistant has been
proposed by the second author of this report [Maurer 1993b].
Many of the major computer companies are committed to the development
of what they are now terming an electronic agent. Prototype versions of
systems exist in which agents arecapable of learning from repetitive
actions. In such a system the agent first of all indicates that the
user's actions are being shadowed by highlighting selections, menu
choices, etc., in a specific colour. Then if the user decides that all
actions have been shadowed correctly, there is the option of letting
the electronic agent help from then on. Computers carrying out a whole
range of voice commands are also no longer fiction: form letters can
be entirely written using only voice-activated commands.
We hope that the electronic agent will develop from this rather
primitive beginning into a fully fledged electronic personal
assistant; i.e., develop into a general background processor to help
users stay in control of their environment. The widespread problem of
information overload will be eased if an electronic personal assistant
sets up filters so that all searches can be tailored to the user's
requirements. As we have already discussed in [Section 7] a supervisory
program will also be an invaluable aid, a watchdog, for helping
researchers cross-reference and check their work. This is becoming
critically important as daily so much highly questionable data is being
quoted as fact.
9 Future Directions
In the paper "Forecasting - an Impossible Necessity" [Maurer and
Lennon 1994] we state: "In the area of information technology we are
going to witness tremendous jumps in quantity. Not just a few more
computers. In ten or fifteen years from now everyone will carry small
but powerful Notebook computers around with them. The much heralded
Newton is certainly a first step in this direction! You will be able to
talk into your notebook and have more commands, programs, and
than we can imagine. For example, if you go to a
foreign country and talk into your notebook in English out will come
Greek or French. A global positioning system will display maps for you
and show you at any time exactly where you are located on the surface
of the earth. And of course a mobile telephone will be integrated into
your notebook, giving access to all the databases of the world - so
you can look up theatre programmes and bus and train connections. It
will be your digital photo camera, and it will replace your wallet and
credit cards. It will be indispensable. Thus, we are going to witness
a jump in quantity from many computers to omnipresent computers." We
argue that while we can, and must, make short-term predictions, we
cannot make long-term predictions because of the unpredictable effects
such things as new inventions and global economics have. No one can
predict where this jump in technology will take us!
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