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
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?
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
Yale style guide
Documentation: the paper stuff!
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?
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.
A novel feature of the net is its ability to support interactive experiments.
Java and Perl
Physical simulations, e.g.
the Virtual University
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:
Goals of students
The virtual classroom
The virtual university
Graphics Multimedia Virtual Environments Visualisation Contents