School of the Internet: A University on the Internet
Keiko OKAWA <email@example.com>
The Internet provides the digital communication infrastructure for our society. This new infrastructure allows us to store, share, and exchange our intellectual resources in digital format anytime and anywhere. By fully utilizing this new infrastructure, we can achieve the new educational model for the university environment. In this paper, we set forth the goal of the new environment, analyze the activities in the traditional university, and propose the new model and design of the "University on the Internet (UoI)." We implemented a core set of components of the UoI based on the UoI design to demonstrate the feasibility of the design. Implemented components include (1) a lecture-on-demand system, (2) an assignment system to support collaborative learning, and (3) an Internet student course survey system. Using those components, we started the "School of the Internet" on the Internet in October 1997 as a prototype to prove the concept as a whole. In this paper we introduce the School of the Internet (SOI) experiments, evaluate the UoI design and concept through the experiments, and then discuss the direction the UoI will take in the future.
The introduction of the "University on the Internet (UoI)" concept and overview of research approach are described in this section. The detailed design of each component is discussed in the following section.
What the new educational style is, however, is not clearly defined
and established yet. Many research activities are going on to
find it out.
In order to achieve the above goals, we defined the UoI Model, developed the components, and built a prototype to see the feasibility of the concept.
UoI consists of the students, faculty and administrative body.
UoI provides a set of university functions to those members.
UoI is fully operated on the Internet and anyone who has access to the Internet resource can be a member of UoI regardless of their geographical location. Members are widely distributed on the Internet space.
We designed and implemented the following components to provide a core set of UoI functions:
Using the components listed in 1.3, we started the "School of the Internet (SOI)" from October 1997 as a prototype of the UoI concept. Currently, there is a strong demand from students to learn Internet skills but no university in Japan has a "Department of Internet" yet. One of the reasons is that the Internet is a rather new academic area, and it is difficult to have enough academic experts to build the department in one university. Another reason is that creating a new department requires a few years to be approved by the government in current educational system in Japan. UoI technology allows us to create such a new curriculum by collecting several related classes from several different universities in timely manner. The SOI is the prototype of this concept.
In fall 1997 semester, SOI served four Internet-related technical classes from two universities in Japan. In all, 276 people, including adults and university students from all over Japan and other countries, are registered as SOI students and participating in the classes, submitting assignments and discussing the courses with each other on the Internet.
After going through the operation of one semester, we evaluated the feasibility of the SOI system and evaluated the UoI concept based on the students' feedback. Also through the SOI experiment, we encountered some interesting regulation problems in Japan. We realize that we will need to revisit the current university regulations, which were established for the traditional teaching environment and will not be suitable in the new Internet environment.
In this section, we describe the UoI system design and implement the UoI concept by defining the a) members of the UoI family and b) functions that the UoI system should provide to those members as a university platform. In this paper, we are focusing on three major components as a core set of those functions. The overall design is followed by the detail design of those three major components within this chapter.
UoI consists of students, faculty and the administrative body. Anyone who has access to the Internet resource can be a member. Therefore, they are widely distributed on the Internet space. Each member category is granted a certain amount of access to the university resources.
UoI provides the following functions on the Internet environment to support each member's activities:
In this paper, we focus on the top three functions from the list above. The detailed design of those three functions will be discussed in the following subsections in this chapter.
A class consists of three components:
Class static information is the information available beforehand such as prerequisites, syllabuses, reference books and staff's names etc.
Class communication method is the necessary components for UoI for a) open discussion for all students and b) closed discussion between faculty and student.
Lectures are the main portion of the class. UoI defines the lecture-on-demand model as follows:
Lecture model - A lecture is defined as a set of digital media synchronized with time. A lecture is defined as a set of URLs representing each digital media with time information (Fig.1). This information is stored in a "lecture file," which is also specified by a URL, handled by "Lecture Manager (LM)".
Players of the each component media should have a capability to start playing at any given time and also have an interface to stop, start, rewind, change and specify URL to play, so that LM can control each media. Players are responsible for obtaining the specified URL to play over the Internet by their own methods, preferably using streaming technology.
The users specify the "lecture URL" and "start time" to the LM. LM tells the URL and start time of each media to the other media players. Then, each media player on the client side obtains the specified resources by his or her own method and plays it on the client system from the specified starting time.
For example, assume a user specifies the Lecture URL of Fig.1 Lecture Information. LM tells "URL1" and "t5" to the Media1-Player, "URL4" and "t5 - URL4_START_TIME" to the Media2-Player, "ULR5" and "t5" to the Media3-Player and "URL11" and "t5 - URL11_START_TIME" to Media4-player.
The requirements of this system are "online submission," "reference of assignments," "attachment of comments," "reference of comments" and "authentication". Assignments are required to be in HTML to support any kind of media. The submitter of the comments needs to be identified by a certain group of people as the assignment owner and faculty member, but anonymous to others for assurance of their privacy and freedom of comments. This type of communication control needs to be specified by the faculty. Authentication is required to limit submission of assignments to students (not including auditors). In addition, flexibility is required so that faculty members can set the timing of reference, degree of openness and conditions of authentication according to students' desires and the contents of assignments.
The faculty gives the assignment configuration to the assignment system. Configuration includes class-id, assignment, deadline, openness level, content type, review type, etc.
This system provides a secure polling mechanism and ensures all members can practice in the course survey in their own method easily. The requirements of the system are "authentication," "single polling," "anonymous communication," "disclosure," "validity," "handy," "general" and "effective usage."
This system is divided into three functions, which are the Startup Function, Basic Function and Supporting Function. The Startup Function allows the users to start a survey. The Basic Function permits the users to make a survey in the secure communication pass. The Supporting Function permits the users to analyze all data collected from the voters. These functions consist of some servers defined briefly as follows:
In addition to those functions, there is the ticket receiving server to update the password file automatically.
We prototyped the new department "School of the Internet" using the components based on UoI concept. In this section, we discuss the implementation of the components for SOI.
School of Internet served the following classes in the fall 1997
semester. All topics are related to the Internet.
In this section, all the computer- and network-related resources to support SOI experiments are listed in the following three categories;
The SOI admissions office has the following functions provided through WWW interface, implemented as Common Gateway Interface (CGI).
Each class has its own top Web page giving all the information about the class. Each class has a a) student mailing list, b) faculty mailing list and c) BBS through WWW interface as a communication method.
SOI implemented and tested two types of lectures.
Type A encodes the lecturer's voice and figure to the RealMedia format. SOI provides 20Kbps and 50Kbps versions of the video clip for each lectures. Presentation materials are provided in text-based HTML format. We developed the supporting utilities for HTML conversion as 1) PowerPoint to the HTML converter run on Windows platform 2) text to HTML utility, and 3) timing capture utility to record time of slide change event. Using RealMedia capability to synchronize, new page corresponding to the lecturer's voice is automatically loaded in certain timing. (as in Fig.5).
Type A only synchronizes material and audio/video. Type B synchronizes the pointer device to point to the certain place on the presentation material. We developed the Lecture Manager, PowerPoint Manager, Point Device Capture utility and Point Device Player. At the classroom, all the pointing device events and the slide changing events are captured by the capturing utility. Then the point device player plays the captured data on the client system to move the pointer on the client screen so that students can see which part of the materials is pointed out by the tutor. PowerPoint Manager controls the slides to display corresponding to the given time (as in Fig. 6).
Setup, submit and review modules are implemented as CGI running on the SOI WWW server system. Students create their own assignments on their own WWW server and register the URL through the SOI Assignment Submission System. Only the registered students can submit their work. Depending on the faculty's direction, the submitted work may become open to public as soon as submitted or only after the deadline, or it may never be opened. Students can review the other students' work on the SOI Assignment Review System. At the faculty's direction, students are encouraged to submit their review comments to each other's work (see fig. 7). Submitted comments are open to public without the reviewer's name, and open to assignment's owner and faculty with reviewer's name.
Implementation of this system is written by Perl as CGI script on the WWW client. The secure traffic is assured by using SSL (Secure Socket Layer).
The registry server holds the registry form used, the HTML FORM. The configuration file that includes the information about the users and the questionnaire (there are three types of questions, and the users can choose the question types in this file.) is very important for the users to do their own survey. After the registry server gets the configuration file, the tool kit programs develop the servers, and the users receive the class ID and URL from the registry server.
The authentication server has the password file that sends information from the ticket receiving server. The ticket receiving server adds the ID and password to the password file at the same time that the ticket is received from the ticket distributing server. When the users practice the survey, they need to distribute the ticket to the voters as the certification. The reply server shows the reply form used, the HTML FORM, to the voter in according to the voter's request with certification. All data from the reply server are calculated in the collect server and disclosed on the Internet. Therefore, we can know the result as soon as the survey is closed.
All the slides are retrievable through the search engine. All the slides have a button to start the corresponding video and audio from the specified starting time. Students can see the slides and hear the lecturer's explanation about the topic described on the slide (Fig.9). In this way, lecture materials stored in SOI server automatically become part of a multimedia type of database.
We evaluated the SOI implementation through the questionnaire to the students and faculty. Over 79% of the members expressed their satisfaction with the SOI classes and services to learn Internet. Over 85% of the members expressed interest in continuing these activities.
The effectiveness of the assignment reference system was shown through experiments in one class held in SOI, the information procedure. Students researched differences between an authentication system in real life and on Internet, submitted assignments and attached comments on assignments of other three students. The following is the result of this experiment:
At the same time, we asked students to answer the questionnaire regarding this open assignment system. The following is the result:
We have observed whether this system has accomplished these requirements. The experiment of this system was executed in SOI course survey and also in Campus Amenity Monitoring Project of Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus (CAMP2). There are some differences between these two surveys. The features of the survey are as follows:
This system is adapted in these different conditions and satisfied the requirements in both surveys. We also have had favorable opinions from the students in the survey.
In operating the School of Internet, it was found that there are several problems concerning legal issues in education, including the following three topics:
Lectures are thought to be the intellectual property of each university, and use of lectures is strictly limited, especially in national universities. But this rule was established in times when a lecture could be taken only in a classroom in one university. Development of technology has enabled lectures to be stored and accessed from a distance. Now it is time to create a new style of relationship between universities and faculties and make it possible for anyone who wants to learn to access lectures from all over the world.
Some materials used in lectures are protected by copyright law. In universities, use of them is permitted as "educational use," but it is not clear whether this rule is also applies to UoI. So that lectures can be accessed from all over the world, it is necessary to establish an international consensus about educational use on Internet; its coverage should not be limited to only universities admitted by the government of each country.
Unlike countries, UoI has no borders and should not be under the control of governments. It should be free from regulations regarding the number of students, length of classes, required subjects, and equipment. Students and faculties could build curriculums and design classes based on their own desires. The operation of university could be distributed among administrators, faculties and students. The degree system authorized by a government is not suitable for UoI. For this new environment, we have to create a global education system based on the demand of faculties and students all over the world.
We have proposed the model and design of "University on the Internet (UoI)". Based on the UoI design, we implemented and tested a core set of components including a) class on demand system b) assignment system and c) Internet student course survey system.
Using those implementation, we developed and has been operating a prototype of UoI concept as "School of Internet" to demonstrate the new possibility of UoI.
From the result of the questionnaires to the SOI students and faculty and from the usage statistics of SOI servers, we have concluded that the implementation components did work and the prototype of the concept is approaching to the goal.
SOI experiments revealed both the current technical and non-technical issues to be solved. For example, it is clear that the class-on-demand system requires a new type of presentation material player to support streaming technology and that the government educational rules should be revisited in light of the new environment.
To prove UoI concept, a complete set of implementation components is mandatory. We will continue to add new components to the SOI environment to continue the experiments. Also in order to prove the feasibility of this concept to areas other than computer science, we will widen the academic area of experiments using SOI technology and improve the implementation.
Finally, further research through the experiments focusing on
the university operation model including management, payment and
copyright issues are necessary to make this concept workable
in the real society.
The School of Internet project is supported by WIDE Project. A number of colleagues at KEIO Univ. VU research group and WIDE project SOI working group have contributed to the work which we describe here, including Ken Sakaguchi, Katsuhide Ohashi, Keiichi Kawai, and Toru Hiroishi. Special thanks to Yuri Ijuin and Yoko Murakami for their help in writing this paper.