Blending streaming multimedia and communication technology in advanced web-based education



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Paper 202-1456

BLENDING STREAMING MULTIMEDIA and COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY in

advanced WEB-BASED EDUCATIOn
V. Uskov*


Abstract

The InterLabs Research Institute (IRI) at Bradley University (BU), Peoria, IL, USA, is hosting the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) grant # 0196015 [1] on design and development of advanced online educational materials for Web-based education (WBE) in Information Technology, Computer Science and Computer Information Systems areas. This paper briefly describes main IRI’s achievements in design and development of innovative online courseware, provides details on IRI’s solutions for applications of innovative streaming multimedia and World Wide Web (Web)-based communications technology in the developed by IRI original InterLabs Web-lecturing system, and contains summaries of faculty and student feedback on applications of innovative technologies for Web-based teaching and learning.


Key Words: Advanced Web-based education, streaming multimedia technology, Web-based communication technology, faculty and student feedback.

1. Introduction
Bradley University (BU). Founded by Mrs. Lydia Moss Bradley in 1897, Bradley University [2] is a private, independent university offering undergraduate, graduate, and continuing education programs in the liberal and fine arts, the sciences, business administration, communications, education, engineering, and the health sciences. With about 330 full-time faculty, 5,000 undergraduate and 1,000 graduate students, Bradley offers excellent teaching, and the opportunities and choices of a larger university (with over 90 degree programs in 5 colleges plus a graduate school) and the quality, personal attention, and challenge of a small private college. BU has 5 colleges, specifically: 1) College of Education and Health Sciences (EHS), 2) College of Engineering and Technology (ENG), 3) College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS), 4) Foster College of Business Administration (BUS), and 5) Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts (CFP).

* Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, Bradley University, Peoria, Il 61625, U.S.A.; email: uskov@bradley.edu


(paper no. 202-1456)

WBE at BU. Bradley University was one of first U.S. universities that, back in mid-1990s, provided their students with access to the Internet from university dorms in order to involve students into advanced technology-based education. As a continuation of this outstanding initiative, these days all Bradley students who reside on campus (about 50% of Bradley students live in dorms and additionally about 20% in fraternity houses) have access to Internet-2 from their rooms.

BU is a corporate user of the BlackBoard [3] learning management system (LMS) from 2000. Tables 1 and 2 represent some available statistics on utilization of the BlackBoard LMS at BU between Fall 2000 and Fall 2003 semesters.


Table 1.

Number of Online Courses Taught at BU in 2000-2003

(per college and per semester)


BU Colle-ges

Number of Online Courses Taught (per semester)

Fall

2000


Fall

2001


Fall

2002


Spring

2003


Fall

2003


Average per semester

EHS

75

92

134

88

177

113.2

ENG

24

26

32

43

38

32.6

LAS

60

81

81

97

112

86.2

BUS

33

70

95

109

111

83.6

CFA

16

29

34

38

56

34.6

Total

208

298

376

375

494

350.2

Table 2.


WBE at BU: Fall-2002 and Spring-2003 Statistics


Characteristic

Data

Total number of BU academic courses (either entire course or several parts of a course) being taught during Fall-2003 semester using BlackBoard system

494

Total number of Bradley students that use BlackBoard LMS during Spring-2003 semester

4,992

(or, about 83% of BU students)



Average hits of BlackBoard server per day at BU:

- Fall-2000 semester

- Fall-2002 semester


19,655


39,079

Total hits of BlackBoard server per Fall-2002 semester at BU

4,103,300

Total number of BU full-time faculty being involved into WBE during Fall-2002 semester

205

(or, about 62% of BU full-time faculty)


Based on these obvious achievements in advanced WBE, Bradley faculty continue to perform active research on applications of innovative Web-based teaching and learning that are based on advanced streaming multimedia (SMM) and Web-based communication (WBC) technologies.



2. Utilization of SMM and WBC Technologies: Comparative Analysis


    1. Utilization of SMM and WBC Technologies at

100 U.S. Colleges and Universities
Between September 2002 and October 2003, the IRI [4] faculty and students performed research on multimedia and communication technologies, and learning management systems that are actively used by various U.S. universities and colleges.

The educational web sites with free access and/or free demo versions of online courses of the following educational institutions have been investigated and analyzed: Amherst College, Bard College, Barnard College, Bates College, Boston University, Bowdoin College, Bradley University, Brandeis University, Brown University, Bryn Mawr College, Bucknell University, California Institute Of Technology, Carleton College, Carnegie Mellon University, Case Western Reserve University, Claremont McKenna College, Colby College, Colgate University, College of Holy Cross, College of William and Mary, Colorado College, Colorado School of Mines, Cornell University, Columbia University, Connecticut College, Dartmouth College, Davidson College, Duke University, Emory University, Furman University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Grinnell College, Hampshire College, Harvard University, Harvey Mudd College, Haverford College, Illinois Central College, Johns Hopkins University, Kenyon College, Lehigh University, Middlebury College, Midstate College, Mount Hollyoke College, New York University, Northwestern University, Oberlin College, Occidental College, Pennsylvania State University, Pomona College, Princeton University, Reed College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rice University, Scripps College, Smith College, St.Mary's College of Maryland, Stanford University, SUNY Binghamton University, Swarthmore College, Syracuse University, Trinity College, Trinity University, Tufts University, Tulane University, University Of California at Berkley, University Of California - Davis, University of California - Irvin, University of California - Las Angeles, University of California -San Diego, University of California - Santa Barbara, University of Chicago, University of Florida, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, University of Maryland, University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, University of North Carolina, University of Notre Dame, University of Pennsylvania, University of Richmond, University of Rochester, University of Southern California, University of Texas - Dallas, University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin - Madison, Vanderbilt University, Vassar College, Wake Forest University, Washington and Lee University, Washington University in St.Louis, Wellesley College, Wesleyan University, Wheaton College, Whitman College, Williams College, Yale University, and Yeshiva University.

Brief results of performed research are presented in Table 3.
Table 3.

Multimedia and Communication Technologies in WBE

(based on analysis of publicly open educational Web sites and/or accessible Web-Based courseware of 100 U.S. institutions)


Technology

Utilization by mentioned schools

Communication Technology Used

E-mail

100

Bulletin board (discussion forum)

77

Chat room

42

Video/audio conferencing over the Internet

33

Online project teams (collaborative learning)

15

Multimedia Technology Used

Microsoft PowerPoint slides or other types of slides

100

Hyperlinks to Internet-based knowledge resources

100

Online testing

66

Streaming video and audio technologies

41

Learning content on interactive CD ROMs

38

Recorded Computer Screen (RCS) technology (or, recorded hands-on exercises, or, narrated and animated story boards

14

Other types of technologies used to deliver learning content

10

Learning Management Systems Used

Learning management system (like BlackBoard, WebCT, etc.)

WebCT – 38

BlackBoard – 36

Other - 26


Reusable Learning Objects (RLO) Concept Used

Utilization of reusable learning objects and compatibility with SCORM, IMS or Dublin Core requirements

14

One of the most important conclusions of this research is that the state-of-the-art WBC technologies such as email, bulletin boards, IRC (chat rooms), video- and audio-conferencing are a vital part of modern WBE systems and advanced Web-based teaching and learning processes.

The other important conclusion is that utilization of streaming video and audio technologies in education had a 40% growth between 1999 and 2003.
3. InterLabs Web-Lecturing System
3.1. Founding Principles
The state-of-the-art InterLabs Web-lecturing system (InterLabs) was designed, developed and tested by IRI faculty and students [6,7,8,9,10] as a part of the NSF CCLI grant. This software system is based on several founding principles, specifically:


  1. innovative software: innovative software engineering technologies and programming languages (VB.Net, XML, J2EE, PHP);

  2. streaming technologies: utilization of innovative SMM technologies;

  3. Web-based communication technologies: active use of WBC technologies;

  4. modularity: modularity of learning content and learning processes, and orientation on Reusable Learning Objects (RLO) strategy and corresponding initiatives such as SCORM, IMS, Dublin Core, etc.;

  5. intelligence: intelligent and program agents technology;

  6. multiple teaching styles: support of various Web-based teaching styles and technologies,

  7. multiple delivery modes: active utilization of various modes of Web-based content delivery,

  8. equivalence of delivered learning content: equivalence of online (Web), offline (CD ROMs), blended and in-classroom modes of content delivery and learning.

Currently (Fall 2003), the InterLabs system supports :



  1. various Web-based teaching/lecturing technologies such as a) talking head (Figure 1), b) white board or smart board, and c) Recorded Computer Screen (RCS) technology or online hands-on exercises (Figures 2 and 3);

  2. various WBC technologies such as email, bulletin board, video/audio-conferencing, whiteboard, IRC (chat), online HELP;

  3. various multimedia technologies such as text, graphics, animation, audio, video, simulation, etc, and SMM technologies such as streaming video and audio, and animation;

    4. multiple modes of online content delivery (Figure 4) via a) 56K modems, b) DSL and cable modems, and c) CD ROMs; upon request, the InterLabs system can deliver:

    - PPT slides only;

    - a combination of audio and synchronized PPT slides;

    - a combination of audio, video and synchronized PPT slides;

    5. combined mode of operation (Figure 5) as the united BlackBoard-InterLabs virtual learning environment;

    6. multiple modes of learning such as a) offline (asynchronous) learning, b) online (synchronous) learning, and c) blended learning.





3.2. Technical Characteristics.
A list of available tools of the InterLabs systems and their technical specifications is given below. It is necessary to mention here that all used tools are based on free shareware and are available on corresponding web sites.

InterLabs Hardware Set-Up:

  1. Data Server: Compaq Prosignia 740,

- Dual PIII processors (866 MHz each),

- 108 GB HDD (SCSI RAID),

- 1.0 GB MD RAM,

- 100BaseTX network card.

  1. Video Server: Dell Power Edge 2600,

- Dual PIII processors (2.4 MHz each),

- 296 GB HDD (SCSI RAID),

- 2.0 GB RAM,

- 1000BaseTX network card.

  1. Digital Video Camera (for video taping):

- SONY HandyCam TRV98 (with both 8mm and digital

technologies),

- ATI TV Wonder-VE video capture card.

  1. Digital PC Video Camera (for videoconferencing):

- 3COM Home Connect.

InterLabs Software Set-Up:


  1. Operating System: Windows’2000 Server (Serv. Pack 2),

  2. Web server: Internet Information Server (IIS) 5.0,

  3. Streaming Video and Audio Server: Microsoft Media Services.


Audio/Video Conferencing and WhiteBoard Tool:

  1. Microsoft NetMeeting 3.01,

  2. 3COM Home Connect digital PC video camera,

  3. external or built-in microphone,

  4. Boston external speakers,

  5. Audio compression: Microsoft G723 protocol,

  6. H.323 audio and video conferencing standard.


Streaming Video/Audio and Video/Audio Files:

  1. Video Encoding (for video file compression):

- 250 kbps for video using MPEG4V3 (also known as

ASF) codec by Microsoft Corp. with 15 frames per

second,

- 320 x 240 pixels of video window size, and

- 16-bit color,


  1. Audio Encoding (for audio file compression):

- 50 kbps for audio using MP3 compression at 44.1 kHz,

  1. TCP/IP protocol is used for streaming video/audio,

  2. Playback (on client’s side) via Microsoft Media Player ActiveX Control (for both video and audio files).





Figure 4. Modes of Web-based content delivery in the InterLabs system



Figure 5. Interface of the united InterLabs-BlackBoard virtual learning environment.



  1. Student Feedback.

The introductory CIS102 Computer Information Systems course at Bradley University may serve as an excellent example of the InterLabs-based online course. This academic course is a required course for all freshman students with major in Engineering, Business, Communication, Sciences or Education areas. It is offered every semester (Fall and Spring), and every 3-week Interim Session (January and May) at Bradley. Multiple details of CIS102 course’s 1) main topics, 2) main components (reusable learning objects), 3) evaluation forms to identify student pre-course and post-course skills, 3) detailed results of those surveys, and 4) academic performance of CIS102 online students versus CIS102 traditional students, are given in [11,12].

2000-2003 multiple surveys of CIS102 students clearly demonstrated that CIS102 online course based on the InterLabs Web-lecturing system truly supports the student-centered paradigm of education [13,14,15,16,17]. “Personally, I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like being taught” (Winston Churchill).

The main principles of this paradigm are given below; they reflect the idea that each and every student/learner is unique, and, therefore, he or she should have a choice to select learning technologies and processes that are optimal for them. Main principles include: 1) individualism of each student, 2) personal learning technology, 3) personality and curiosity, 4) personal creativity and motivation, 5) individual past experience, 6) friendly and comfortable learning environment, 7) personal limit of perception and learning, 8) personal Limit of acceptance of information, 9) linkage of new knowledge to existing knowledge, and 10) eagerness to learn.

A short summary of student feedback on CIS102 online course is given in Table 9.
Table 9.

A Summary of Bradley Students’ Feedback

on CIS102 Bradley Academic Online Course


Benefit

Details and student’s comments

Conve-

nience


  • Online learning is self-paced, and, thus, very convenient for students (“I can learn at any time, any Saturday or Sunday; any holiday”; “I can slow down or speed up as necessary”)

  • Course fit students’ schedule (“I have a full-time 4-hours a week position; it was difficult for me to attend lectures regularly”); as a result, greater number of students can take online course

  • Online course did not require student’s physical attendance (except 3 midterms and final exam ) – this is very convenient for adult students;

  • On-demand access to learning content is very convenient and effective -- putting course content on both course Web server and CD ROMs is very convenient for students

  • Students are unbound by time (Web server delivers learning content24/7/365); moreover, students received a set of CD ROMS with entire learning content

  • Students are unbound by place (“I was able to study at home, at work, and even on road”)

  • Online course accommodates various learning technologies (for example, lecturing; hands-on exercises; guided research, etc.) that makes it more effective to various groups of students

  • Online learning eliminates or reduces travel time and associated costs (parking, fuel, vehicle maintenance)

  • Overall student costs of online learning are frequently less (tuition fee, residence, child care)




These conclusions motivate faculty and students of the InterLabs Research Institute at Bradley University to continue their active research on applications of SMM and WBC technologies in advanced Web-based education.

Acknowledgements


    The authors would like to thank the Course, Curriculum and Lab Improvement (CCLI) Program of the National Science Foundation that awarded them with the NSF grant # 0196015 to perform research on innovative SMM and WBC technologies, and design and development of the innovative online courseware in Information Technology, Computer Science and Computer Information Systems areas.

    The authors also would like to thank Dr. Claire Etaugh, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Dr. Jim Miller, Chair, Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, Bradley University, for their permanent strong support of authors’ research activities in the advanced Web-Based Education area.





References


  1. National Science Foundation CCLI Grant # 0196015 at http://www.nsf.gov

  2. Bradley University at http://www.bradley.edu

  3. BlackBoard LMS system at http://www.blackboard.com

  4. InterLabs research Institute at http://www.interlabs.bradley.edu

  5. AccuStream iMedia Research at http://www.accustreamresearch.com/

  6. V. Uskov, 3rd Generation Web-Based Instructional Tool for Education and Lifelong Training, International Journal on Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning, Vol. 13, Nos. ½, 2003, pp. 110-131.

  7. V. Uskov and A. Uskov, National Science Foundation Project on Web-Based Undergraduate Education in Information Engineering Technology, Proceedings of the IASTED International Conference on Computers and Advanced Technology in Education CATE/WBE-2002, Cancun, Mexico, May 20-22, 2002.

  8. V. Uskov and L. Sheremetov, InterLabs: The web-Lecturing Multiagent-based Tool, Proceedings of the IASTED International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Soft Computing ASC-2001, Cancun, Mexico, May 21-24, 2001.

  9. V. Uskov and C. Etaugh, Developing Innovative Web-Lecturing Technology and Online Courses at Bradley University, Proceedings of the International Conference on Computers in Education ICCE-2002, Auckland, New Zealand, December 3-6, 2002.

  10. V. Uskov and M. Uskova, Reusable Learning and Information Atoms Approach to Web-Based Education, International Journal on Computers and Applications, Vol. 25, No. 3, 2003, pp. 188-197.

  11. V. Uskov, Design, development and Teaching of Innovative Web-Based Introductory Computer Information Systems Course, Proceedings of the 32nd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Nov 6-9, 2002, Boston, MA.

  12. V. Uskov, Student-Centered Learning in Online and Blended Education on Computer Information Systems, Proceedings of the 33rd ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Nov 5-9, 2003, Boulder, CO.

  13. M. Rosenberg, E-Learning, McGraw-Hill, 2001

  14. C. McCormack, and D. Jones, Web-Based Education Systems, Wiley Computer Publishing, 1998.

  15. W.Horton, Designing Web-Based Training, Wiley Computer Publishing, 2000.

  16. A. Rossett, The ASTD E-Learning Handbook,McGRaw-Hill, 2002.

  17. H. Adelsberger, B. Collis, J. Pawlowski, (Eds), Handbook on Information Technologies for Education and Training, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany, 2002.

  18. B. Collis and J. Moonen, Flexible Learning in a Digital World, Kogan Page, 2002.

  19. T. Russell, “No Great Difference” Phenomenon of Distance Education” at http://tenb.mta.ca/phenom/ phenom.html


Biographies





Vladimir Uskov, Ph.D., is a professor of Computer Science and Information Systems at Bradley University, Peoria, IL, USA. He is also a co-Director of the InterLabs Research Institute at Bradley University. He published 208 professional publications in three different languages, including 3 books, 3 chapter textbooks, and 31 journal articles. Dr. Uskov is a principal investigator of the NSF CCLI grant 0196015 (2000-2004) on Web-based education. He was a co-principal investigators of the NSF ATE grant # 9950029 (1999-2003) and NSF Planning grant (2000-2001) on Web-Based Education, IT-Based Education and e-Technologies in Education. Dr. Uskov obtained M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science from the Moscow Aviation University, Moscow, Russia. His research interests are in Web-Based Education, e-Learning, e-Training, and Streaming Multimedia areas.




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