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Working Towards a Shared Corpus of Material — Phil Willis

Goals of Students

Different students have different goals. This is also true within a university classroom but far less so. Material freely available on the web needs to be more like night school:


• prepared for all ages and backgrounds

• accessible to those studying for interest

• accessible to those studying for academic qualifications

• accessible to those studying for professional qualifications

• retraining is not the same as training


Target Audience

If I write a lecture course, I know my target audience is (say) second year undergraduates. This is not necessarily the case if I contribute a section to a web-based publication. The audience may be anywhere but at any level of background Understanding or experience. This encourages a take-it-or-leave-it attitude among authors, making the reader decide what is appropriate. Superficially this is not different to books: does the new medium offer anything new, apart from the delivery mechanism?


Timeliness of the Material

A potential win for the web is the ability to do instant updating. But:


• How do you avoid annoying existing readers?

• How do you synchronise multiple authors?

• How do you ensure the integrity of the document?

• Do you need to revise income-sharing/ownership/


Virtual Universities and Classrooms

• Why not offer classes/laboratories, rather than chapters of a virtual book?

• Does a group of like-minded authors become a virtual university?

• In general, do we need to reinvent the existing structures, or are there alternative, better ones?



Layout Style

The issue here is how to give all pages a consistent appearance. This is not the same as saying all pages are identical: the problem is harder than that.


Some possible tools:


• Cascading style sheets

• Adobe Acrobat

• Yale style guide

• Documentation: the paper stuff!


Legal Issues

A potential nightmare!


• Who owns what?

• Who may copy what?

• Which country's law applies?

• Which country's taxation applies?

• How can you get income to support the world?


Content Style

The issue is a consistent style of writing. Compare:


Hey dudes this is the hottest thing from Sil Val since they nuked LA…


Silicon Graphics are pleased to announce a new high performance workstation…


Solving this is much harder than getting the layout right.


Interactive Laboratories

A novel feature of the net is its ability to support interactive experiments.


• Java and Perl

• Physical simulations, e.g.

the Virtual University
Frog dissection

• Real experiments e.g. the Bradford telescope:

A Shared Corpus of Material

To be effective, sharing requires much more than the will to share. At least the following will have to be addressed:


• Layout style

• Content style

• Target audience

• Goals of students

• Timeliness

• Legal issues

• Interaction?

• The virtual classroom

• The virtual university


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