The current development of the World Wide Web (W3), the globally interlinked hypermedia network of text, pictures and images, presents unique opportunities for education. The distributed nature of the W3, and the ease with which users can gain access and contribute to it sets it apart from any other hypermedia system. However, to date the W3 has been used predominantly as a means of delivering information, either in the form of lecture notes or virtual libraries. Such usage neglects the power of the W3 as an environment through which programs may be accessed and controlled interactively. The capabilities of the W3 in the latter respect are evolving at an enormous rate. If education is to exploit the tools so provided, it must cease to view the W3 as a simple authoring environment and instead consider how the access to applications that this environment can provide can be harnessed in support of the learning process itself and in the management of the educational environment of the student. The above argument is illustrated by examples taken from the Interact project, which was the first TLTP (Teaching and Learning Technology Programme) project to utilize W3 technology. Within this project two tools were developed, the Interact Communication Facility (ICF) and the Presentation Manager (PM). The ICF permits simulations to be integrated into the hypermedia environment provided by W3 while the PM provides greater and more convenient control over simulations so integrated. These tools permitted the creation of a learning environment, the Interact Simulation Environment (ISE), which greatly extends the availability of the simulations as a learning resource and the opportunity for dialogue about the simulations as they are used in learning. The basic principles which underpin the creation of this environment in engineering are shown to be extensible to other domains and to non-Interact based applications. In a separate but related project, commercial applications such as MATLAB are also shown to be controllable over the W3. The weaknesses of the ISE are, however, also discussed and the benefits liable to be accrued from re-implementation of this environment in Sun's new Java language are considered. The potential of Sun's new browser Hotjava to further revolutionalize the educational opportunities provided by the W3 is seen to be but further evidence of the dynamic nature and real opportunity that this new technology provides for education. Copyright © 1996 Elsevier Science Ltd.
|Number of pages||10|
|Journal||Computers and Education|
|Publication status||Published - Apr 1996|