AGOCG logo
Graphics Multimedia VR Visualization Contents
Training Reports Workshops Briefings Index
This report is also available as an Acrobat file.
Back Next
Multimedia Presentations Workshop



This section outlines three different approaches to the preparation and delivery of electronic lectures. Each one differs with respect to the type of resource used and the kinds of facility that can be provided.

3.1 The Book Emulator

In their work, Benest and Hague (1993) describe the use of a powerful preparation and delivery tool known as the 'Book Emulator'. It runs on a UNIX platform and incorporates a book metaphor. Therefore, during their construction and subsequent presentation (either in a lecture theatre or to an individual student at a workstation) the electronic slides that are used have much the same appearance as the pages of a conventional book. An interesting feature of this approach is the fact that the slides contained within any given electronic 'lecture book' are accompanied by an audio narrative. Depending upon how the slides are used - single stepping (within a live presentation under the control of a lecturer), browsing or continuous play (for private study by students) - the narrative can be either enabled or disabled.

According to Benest and Hague:
'the primary motivation for on-line lectures is to produce a lecture that is of higher quality than chalk-and-talk Quality gains arise from the production of electronic slides that are readable from the back of a lecture theatre, and that definitely indicate specif c items without human hands covering up vital material in the vicinity'

Bearing these comments in mind, as far as these researchers are concerned, a major advantage of electronic lectures is the wide range of 'revelation' techniques that can be employed (that is, the different ways in which the various parts of a slide can be covered and uncovered during an exposition). They also propose that the ability to use animation within electronic slides is an important attribute which can make such slides much more meaningful than their static celluloid counter-parts.

Although Benest and Hague do not necessarily advocate its widespread use, the continuous play presentation mode offered by the Book Emulator could be used to facilitate the automatic delivery of lectures - without any human intervention. Consequently, they have shown that this approach could be used to achieve significant productivity gains, for example, in lecturing time; the time that is saved could then be used to support a different study mode - such as tutorial discussion or problem solving.

3.2 Using Commercial Packages

A more conventional approach to the preparation and delivery of electronic lectures has been described by Anderson (1995). In his work, he outlines the use of a commercially available package for the delivery of course material. For a number of reasons he strongly advocates the use of Microsoft's PowerPoint (Grace, 1994). In addition to aiding lecture presentations, Anderson emphasises how easy it is to use this package in order to prepare paper-based course documentation and student handouts.

Within the University of Teesside we have been exploring the use of PowerPoint as an in-house standard for course delivery. Many members of staff now use this system as a means of delivering their lectures and making lecture material available to students (and other staff) by means of a local-area network. When asked to comment on his use of this development tool, the author of one electronic lecture course replied:

PowerPoint allows me to produce handouts ... copies of the slides... the students get these, 3 slides on an A4 page with room to make notes. ... Production of the lectures was no slower than word processing slides in fact I produced a template lecture and worked off that The background, transitions etc I use are different for each but if kept the same then the process would be even quicker. .... Student reaction has been positive the colours, effects etc make the material attractive I've seen students previewing the coming lecture and viewing ones missed.

Many other academic organisations are also using PowerPoint in a similar way to that described above. Busbridge (1995), for example, is using this system as part of his 'Electronic Course Delivery' project at the University of Brighton; this involves converting eighteen physics lectures into electronic form and then augmenting them with sound and video. Similarly, in his lectures on Demand project at the University of Ulster, Anderson is also exploring the problems of adding audio narrations to his PowerPoint presentations (Anderson, 1995). As is the case in our own work, audio augmentation is intended to compensate for the absence of a lecturer - for example, in situations where the electronic lectures are being used as a support for private self- study by students.

3.3 Using a Programming Environment

In the early work that we undertook into the creation of electronic lectures, we used a conventional object-oriented programming environment in order to develop our materials (Kowalewski, 1995; Barker, 1996a). The authoring tool employed was the Asymetrix ToolBook system (Barker, 1993). Since ToolBook is a relatively 'open' programming environment, and because it supports OLE technology, the implementation of tools to support the development and use of electronic lectures is fairly straight-forward. Once lecture material has been produced, it can be made available to students by means of a copyright free 'runtime' facility or as executable files (depending upon the version of ToolBook that is used).

When designing and developing our electronic lecturing support environment it was necessary for us to provide software resources that would enable seven basic processes to take place: (1) the creation and maintenance of a set of electronic lectures; (2) the storage of these lectures within an appropriate database facility; (3) the delivery of the lectures within a suitably equipped lecture theatre; (4) the augmentation of basic lectures using hypermedia techniques (in order to convert them into suitable self-study resources); (5) the provision of student access to the stored lectures; (6) the provision of appropriate student-oriented tools to support self-study using the augmented electronic lectures; and (7) the collection of appropriate monitoring data and usage statistics.

Bearing in mind the above objectives, a generic presentation shell was prepared using the ToolBook environment. Essentially, this shell consisted of four basic types of slide: (1) an 'opening title slide' (giving the title of the lecture, its relationship to previous lectures and the name of the presenter); (2) an 'overview slide' (which provided access to more information - such as the objectives of the lecture, its viewing statistics and an overview of the material to be presented); (3) a 'conclusion slide' which was used to summarise the key points that had been made during a lecture; and (4) a 'template slide' which could be replicated and used as a basis for creating each of the remaining slides that a lecturer needed to use.

The template slide referred to above consisted of a fixed background within which was embedded a number of basic reactive control buttons that could be used for navigation purposes. Two basic types of navigation were possible: within-lecture (from one slide to another) and between-lecture. Three buttons were used for within-lecture navigation. These were labelled: 'next slide', 'previous slide' and 'goto slide ...'. The latter facility provided a mechanism for randomly accessing any of the slides within a given lecture sequence. The between-lecture navigation button was used to return control to a top-level menu facility that allowed users to move from one lecture to another. An additional background button labelled 'help' was available to provide basic information about using the system.

As a means of testing out and evaluating the package described above, we decided to convert a series of existing previously used OHP transparencies into electronic form. For this purpose the first ten lectures of a final year BSc course on human-computer interaction (HCI) were used for the experiment (Kowalewski, 1995). As far as was possible the first set of electronic slides that were created (Batch 1) directly mirrored the contents of the original OHP transparencies. As well as making direct copies, another sequence of 'augmented' lectures was also produced (Batch 2). The first batch of slides was intended for use by lecturers whereas the second batch was aimed at supporting students' self-study activities. Batch 2 lectures were derived from those in Batch 1 by modifying them in two basic ways. First, by converting certain words and phrases into reactive hotspots; and second, by adding 'information icons' that could be used to 'bring up' extra information relating to particular topics referred to in a particular slide.

Back Next

Graphics     Multimedia      Virtual Environments      Visualisation      Contents