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SIMA Presentations Event, 23 October 1996, University of Manchester

The SIMA (Support Initiative for Multimedia Applications) has funded 30projects over the last two years to look into a wide variety of multimediaapplications and issues. Eight of these projects, relating to the WWW andvideo conferencing, gathered in Manchester to present their work and describesome ongoing follow up work to over fifty participants. The day was verywell received, and a short term mailing list has been set-up to allow discussionto continue of various issues raised on the day.

The first speaker was Stuart Lee, University of Oxford, who described hiswork in developing an on-line tutorial aimed at teaching First World Warpoetry. A hypermedia version of Isaac Rosenberg's poem "Break of Dayin the Trenches" was prepared (,with forms for users to provide comments and discuss the poem. The workin this area is now continuing with a new project which will develop on-lineversions of three other poems.

Oleg Liber continued the discussion of using the WWW for teaching, lookingat how the English Department at the University of Wales provided coursematerial on-line. Initially this Department had very little technical experience,and the people involved with it provided the WWW service had no previousexperience of using HTML or managing a WWW server. Oleg felt the study showedthat it was possible for non-technical people to learn to use the WWW andprovide a valuable service with a relatively small amount of training.

Terry Hewitt from the CGU, University of Manchester, then stepped in atshort notice to look at some of the recent developments in multimedia standards,looking at existing standards and newer standards, such as PREMO (PresentationsEnvironment for Multimedia Objects), that were still under development.

The final talk of the morning was given by Tony McDonald of the Universityof Newcastle, who described a survey of WWW Tools that took place last year.The survey looked at 33 servers, 38 browsers, 82 HTML tools and 61 othertools such as web management software and helper applications ( stressed that these tools are regularly being updated and new toolsappearing, so this should not be taken as a definitive list.

The afternoon session, devoted to video conferencing, was started by SuePomfrett, who discussed the results of a survey into video conferencinguse. She felt that there was a need to recognise the high level of supportrequired to implement a successful video conference, and particularly thewide variety of skills necessary, which could only be achieved by collaborationbetween academic departments.

Chris Schnurr, now at the Glasgow Caledonian University, looked at the varietyof training resources available to support video conferencing in education.As part of this project he and Carmel Smith designed a prototype minimalmanual which can be found at

Steve Morgan from the University of Liverpool presented his experiencesin using video conferencing in a practical situation, for supporting helpdesk/advisoryactivities. He and his colleague Mary Thorp used the SUN showme suite ofvideo conferencing software over a LAN at Liverpool. They felt that althoughthe system has potential and the shared applications, such as a whiteboard,were useful, at that time network performance was too poor to allow thevideo and audio components to be useful, a standard telephone providingbetter communication.

The final presentation of the day was given by John Martin, University ofWales College of Cardiff, who looked at the University of Wales Video Network.This studio based system was originally set up in 1990 to connect sitesat Bangor, Aberystwyth, Lampeter, Cardiff and Swansea, over a high speednetwork, specifically to assist in teaching classes in all subject areasin Welsh. Much of the network use now is for committees and meetings, withsavings in travel time being a major plus point. Although teaching accountsfor only about one quarter of its use, it was felt the system had enabledcourses to be run which could not otherwise take place, for example specialisedcourses to a limited number of students.

All these and other SIMA reports can be found on the SIMA WWW pages at:

Sue Cunningham
SIMA Multimedia Support Officer
Computer Graphics Unit
Manchester Computing
University of Manchester
Manchester M13 9PL

Tel: +44 161 275 6095
Fax: +44 161 275 6040