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6. Conclusions and Recommendations

It seems clear that information servers will play an increasing role in the distribution and promotion of courseware material. This study has identified some initial requirements for the use of such servers. Those requirements can be partly satisfied by the facilities currently offered by World-Wide web servers and clients. In particular advantage can be taken of the mime facility to extend the recognition of special files to include pieces of CBL that can be contained in a single file. In practice the limitation of this approach is seen when applied to existing packages (especially those designed to run under MS Windows). It then becomes necessary to construct a program to be based on the client to interpret instructions delivered from the server.

An example interpreter constructed to run on Unix clients has demonstrated the feasibility of the approach, however development would be needed if the interpreter was to be used on other platforms. Other projects have also considered the need for communication from information contained in Web pages and programs on the client machines, though without attempting to integrate the delivery and installation process with the running of the programs. The ICF developed as part of the Interact project demonstrates the potential for communication in both directions and has also demonstrated that the hypermedia facilities of the web provide a good way to describe tutorial material, particularly when examples and simulations can integrated with the hypertext. The BioNet consortium have also developed a useful launch tool W3launch that works well with MS Windows applications.

The requirements of the LTDI project where dissemination and demonstration of packages is part of their aim has revealed both the need for a network based delivery system and the complexities that occur in many of the installations. The initial version of tools to meet those requirements has meant devising a monitor for the installation process and a tool to replay and undo those installations. The configuration process uses the web while transfer uses the local area network. This restriction can however be removed to allow the installations to be delivered over the Web.


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