Using Distributed Technology for Teaching Distributed Systems
Thornton, David Willson
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Current developments in multimedia and Internet technologies are enabling their wide use as a means for delivering education and training. There is much diversity and no single architecture has yet emerged as the standard. This dissertation presents a unified architecture for course development, design and delivery and a set of collaborative and multimedia tools to support it. A course design and management architecture is discussed. A relational database lies at the centre of the system. Course developers use the tool via a standard database GUI; all students access the system via the Web. The course structure and presentation seen by the student is configured on a per person basis. The architecture was implemented and used to develop a demonstration course. The prototype demonstrates the application of technology to course design and administration, content development and collaborative activities. Its key features are openness, flexibility and a distributed architecture. An evaluation of the prototype implementation showed that current technologies could be integrated to provide a unified architecture. A large number of commercial content development and conferencing tools are available to support educational activities. The set of common media formats supported by them allows a rich variety of content and interactive activities to be combined for presentation on a single client. However, the range of existing multimedia formats and diversity in client applications must be addressed if the potential demonstrated by the prototype can be exploited fully and simply by all teachers. Work is on going in this regard and may be expected to produce results in the near future.