This report is also available as an Acrobat file.
Executive Summary and Recommendations
This is the report of the workshop organised by AGOCG as part of the Support Initiative forMultimedia Applications (SIMA) funded by the JISC New Technologies Initiative. The eventwas held at Loughborough
University on 13 and 14 February 1995. The first day consisted ofpapers from experts in the field. The second day built on that through group discussions of theissues raised to result in recommendations to the community for activity and funding. The firstday was attended by 80 participants from 54 institutions of whom 41 stayed for the second day.
The World-Wide Web provides a distributed multimedia hypertext system which can be usedin teaching, research and administration. Using WWW we can:
- retrieve multimedia documents from around the world
- publish documents globally
- run programs on remote servers
- download and run programs locally
Many institutions have developed Campus Wide Information Systems (CWISs) usingWWW. Students can access resources from around the world to assist them in their learning.Also, and perhaps more significantly, a number of distance learning courses are now beingprovided on the WWW.
Researchers are beginning to take advantage of control systems and collaborative toolswhich are emerging. Conferences, including reports, video, slide images etc. can be publishedon the WWW, allowing greater and more rapid dissemination.
The WWW is clearly an important tool for many applications and is expected to be so forsome years to come. This workshop was concerned with addressing the issues in the context ofUK Higher Education and with making recommendations for activity and funding which wouldhelp UK Higher Education make efficient and effective use of this im
Despite the apparent popularity of the WWW, many sites have not installed a server andmost do not have well developed strategies. One thing which did emerge from the workshop isthe need for support of those sites in developing servers and strategies based on good practisesand experiences elsewhere.
The World-Wide Web - a Tool for Many Applications
Providing Information on the WWW
The World-Wide Web was created to support remote collaborative research, but it has developed
primarily as a means of providing information which can be linked to other information sources.
It is an essential medium for accessing, delivering and exchanging information.
There needs to be an emphasis on the provision of quality information using the tools in an
appropriate way. The provision of information and effective use of the tools available requires
specialist expertise which needs to be recognised at sites. Training and access to appropriate
tools (browsers, authoring, editing, conversion, validation tools) are needed to ensure good use
of the WWW for information provision.
Teaching and Learning
The WWW is providing a number of opportunities for teachers and students. Resources can be
accessed which might otherwise have been unavailable. These include virtual libraries and
museums. Other resources can be built up and used by students, for example questions and
answers which can be searched or routed through to an expert if it is a new query and then the
answer logged for future use. Teaching programs can be accessed and used by students as part
of their modules. There are also a number of complete distance learning modules being mounted
There are a number of issues relating to the use of the WWW in teaching and learning. These
include: how widely do we wish to avail people in other institutions worldwide of our best
resources; how can we judge the quality of the information; where is the competitive edge in this
global information age; how can we make most effective use of the opportunities an how can we
best train staff and students to do so?
We need to help teachers with the pedagogic issues associated with this medium. There is
a need to equip students with the necessary research and information access skills. This points
to the need for training of teachers, library and computing staff.
Opportunties for Administrators
The WWW offers administrators opportunities for a number of their area of work. Any such
change would need a change of culture towards more open access to information while making
use of emerging tools for security where appropriate. The exchange of information is clearly one
area of expansion, although there may be security considerations for much of this. We are
already seeing the Times Higher providing job advertisements on the WWW and sites
advertising job details in a similar way. It is a potential way of promoting the institution through
having the prospectus available, perhaps less to schools in the UK, but certainly to potential
overseas postgraduates. The availability of papers from central online sources may make them
more quickly available than traditional methods of departmental circulation on paper. There are
plenty of possibilities and administrators need to be advised on how best to take advantage of
Developing National and Institutional Strategies
WWW - an Important Network Tool
The WWW is clearly becoming an important network tool and its use is growing. It has the
potential to swamp network use with users accessing images and connecting to information
round the world. In order to make best use of the medium, we need to have appropriate policies
at national and institutional levels. These policies need to include: caching strategies which
locate caches at bottlenecks; replication of frequently accessed resources; indexing of
information to facilitate access. They also need to include strategies at national an institutional
levels as to the kind of use which may be mad of the WWW in terms of information provided,
linked to and accessed. These need to be in line with JANET Acceptable Use policies and with
Guidelines from UCISA.
National and Local Caching and Indexing Strategies
One of the problems many people find when using the WWW is the delay as (sometimes
gratuitous) images, or sometimes just text, are downloaded, particularly from the US. Other
bottlenecks may occur locally. It is important to minimise these bottlenecks for the sake of all
network users. The WWW may be the "killer application" for the network but perhaps we do not
wish it to soak up all the available bandwidth.
In order to maximise efficiency we need to develop national and local caches. HENSA have
a national cache, but national facilities need further consideration. Local sites also need to be
advised on using caches. There is also the need to build on current research in this area and
consider more sophisticated strategies. Replication and cascading caches need also to be
Indexing is also a way of making WWW use more effective. We should encourage people
to make use of tools when they develop pages and use the WWW. There is a need to make use
of more advanced tools which can help automate the process. Good indexing does require a high
level of manual resource.
The community needs to address how best to allocate resources to making information
accessible. The Social Sciences Information Gateway (SOSIG) funded by the ESRC is an
example of effort being put in to making a wide range of quality information available by
reviewing potential sources, indexing and describing them.
Some sites are providing indexing tools, such as ALIWEB, as part of their high level
There is considerable concern regarding the legal issues of using the network generally and
WWW in particular. There are many issues regarding both individual, site and community
responsibilities. The individual has a right to have their work protected under copyright law. A
site has to consider issues such as freedom of expressions and the need to educate their staff and
students in the use of new tools. Tight, restrictive use may not be the answer. Education may be
the best way forward. There is no case law in this area, which makes advice difficult.
Institutions need to develop advice to staff and students. The advice needs to cover use of
resources outside the institution and development of those within it, including personal home
pages for both staff and students. A number of sites have developed such guidelines, including
Imperial College and Edinburgh University. There are also the emerging guidelines on network
use from UCISA and the JANET Acceptable Use Policy.
There is a great deal of momentum behind the development and support of the WWW. There are
now development organisations based in Europe (EuroW3O based at INRIA in France) and the
USA (W3O based at MIT). Fortunately the intention is to have membership which is linked.
Developments of new versions of the mark up language and protocols are being progressed as
well as standards for resource identification. Applications for collaborative work (for example
using whiteboards) and remote teaching (through MOOs and MUDs) are pushing forward the
possibilities for use of WWW. Significantly, we are also seeing commercial developments, for
example the Netscape browser.
There is a need to support the community in its introduction and use of the WWW. This could
be achieved in a number of ways which might include: training; development of training
materials; employment of people for specific tasks; ensuring dissemination of examples of good
practices. We should look to develop self-help on various aspects relating to the Web including:
- technical issues such as caching, indexing
- gathering and exchanging information on good practices
- exchange of advice and support on WWW tools
We need to:
- develop (or build on existing resources) training materials on good practices which can be
incorporated into courses at sites which should include social, legal and institutional issues as
well as technological ones
- run a seminar for Staff Development Officers about the WWW with the aim that this could
be built into induction courses for staff at institutions
- hold subject-based symposia to discuss ways in which the WWW could be used within
specific disciplines including advice on pedagogic issues
A mechanism should be established to provide exchange of information on institutional
guidelines and good practices. These need to link to JANET Acceptable Use Policy and to
Legal advice on the use of network information should be sought and maintained. This might
include taking advice on particular issues in the absence of any case law. We should also look
to set up a mechanism for access to ongoing advice and to keep a database of questions and
answers. The CCTA mechanisms should be investigated.
Caching could improve performance at bottlenecks thus improving on efficiency and providing
a cost effective way of delivering information. A national caching strategy and associated local
caching strategies should be developed. In order to define the nature of this further discussion
an evaluation should be carried out to define the location and requirements for caching at
national level. In the future we need to address the use of cascading caches and replication.
We need to educate sites and individuals mounting information to use appropriate caching.
This could be provided as an extension of the report by Brian Kelly on "A
href="../handbook/hndbk.htm">Running a WWW
Service" which is part of the AGOCG/SIMA output. We should document good
We need to develop an indexing strategy to ensure efficient use of the WWW and thus of the
network. We need to address how we can advise sites to link their information. There is a need
for national indexing into UK HE sites with relevant information and links to site home pages.
We should evaluate relevant software and advise CHEST on suitable software for which good
pricing structures should be negotiated. The software includes: document creation/conversion
and management tools; graphics tools; gateways; collaborative application tools; quality;
validation; clients, helpers and servers.
Quality of information is the key to the success of a WWW service. We should develop a code
of practice relating to quality for providers of materials on the WWW.
We should encourage the production of good quality WWW delivered courses. We should also
promote examples of good practices which are currently available. One possible way of
achieving this recommendation is to offer a competition and prizes rather than tendering for good
material to be produced.
We should ensure that there is a WWW site contact at all sites who can answer questions both
within the site and from outside (along the "postmaster" model). There needs to be local support
at all sites.
W3O and Euro W3O
The workshop welcomed the decision of JISC to join W3O and felt that the way the community
can input ideas and receive information needs to be agreed and promoted widely.
Virtual Environments Visualisation