Letter to Participants (Sept 30)
THIS MESSAGE IS ALSO AVAILABLE IN THE PPS-HYPERTREE IF YOU PREFER TO
READ IT THERE RATHER THAN IN YOUR MAIL
State of Play at Sept 30
Since I wrote to you inviting you to become a consultant a lot
has happened. Firstly, almost everyone has replied, and everyone
who did said 'yes'. There is a lot of excitement and enthusiasm
about the idea, and Marcus and I arranged for coverage of the
VSNS to be featured in the
Times Higher Education Supplement of Sept 16. From the interest
that this has generated it's clear to us that virtual education
is going to be very important, and this will be the first course
to use many novel and powerful techniques:
- Distributed teaching (many different servers and hyperdocuments).
- Graphical interaction with the material.
- Specialised viewers and scripts to drive them
- A MOO with graphical and other objects
- Methods for communal creation od documents.
- A set of extensible
- A fluid and interative approach to
- Several new ideas for
Please look at all the material in the course
and try it out. It took Marcus about an hour. Please don't assume
that any of it is final - it's just a starting point for the
Please try everything out - there may be some missing hyperlinks and also
some of the technology may not work on your browsers - we need to know!
I shall be away next week but
Alan Mills will be back. If there are problems with the course,
please copy Alan in; if there are problems with the Daresbury server,
please contact Alan Bleasby.
Please look very carefully at the timetable,
the proposed structure of the course,
the suggested prerequisites
(note: these are very rough suggestions - I expect that many students will
come in knowing a smallish percentage, but they must know some!),
and the way that I hope we can
put the course together. Please be very open with comments - my role is
facilitator, not enforcer.
I'd like you then to provide me with as much of the following information
as you can:
That's probably enough for now :-)
- Are there others in your group you would like to be involved?
- Are there any other people we should invite specifically at this stage?
(I plan to advertise for consultants in ca 2 wks time, but probably on
an indivdual basis).
- Do you run a server? If so, please can you set up a URL for this course
under which all information will go. If not, can we help by either helping
you set one up (it's straightforward and doesn't need root priv.) If not,
can you find somewhere to post your material? (I am sure that BBK, DL and DESY
will oblige :-).
- Please can all consultants have a personal URL. This will be useful to
find e-mail addresses, MOO hours, etc. You don't have to have a gif .. :-)
- Now we'd like to know about what you think we should do; what you can
offer (experience of RL courses, existing material, suggestions for additional
topics, new technology, etc). Don't be reticent about what you have to
offer - for example hand-drawn material can be re-vitalised by
- Do you want to have a group of
real life students? If so, do you want them to be able to participate in
- How would you like to communicate? Some people don't like too much mail.
- Do you have access to a MIME-compliant mailer (e.g. PINE) so that we
can mail each other gifs?
- How would you like to prepare material? Do you know how to use
LaTeX; if so, consider whether LaTeX2html might be a useful way to go.
What do you think of preparing documents communally (assessment, glossary,
etc). If you create a hypertree of resources, how would it be accessed?
On your server? Or woudl you want to send it to us? If so, what about
We need to start thinking now about which technology we can get onto
people's local machines. I've noted RasMol (now runs on Mac - haven't
yet seen it Roger :-), Kinemage (?which platforms), tcl (for running
scripts to drive RasMol - not essential, but nice to have and portable).
Do we intend to have movies?
For the MOO gurus :-). What recommendations about clients? Do we know
which run behind firewalls? Do they all work with Web-MOO (I can't
see why not...). I assume we are going to have a classroom in the MOO.
Any thoughts on what it might have? Also, if we announce this course
in 2 weeks time you'll probaly get a lot of visitors - will this work
(For other consultants who don't have experience of MOOs, Gustavo and Eric
and others have built an interface
which works with Mosaic but allows you to interrogate objects in the
MOO. The MOO has a rich OO data structure which we should be able
to put to use, and also, of course, you can talk to people. Despite
what you might have heard about other MOOs, BioMOO has an excellent
atmosphere and you can find your way around very quickly. I suspect
the PPS will have quite an impact on the MOO, especially if we start
holding classes with graphical material and access to databases.
Gustavo, do you think any present inhabitants will want to be students or
consultants on the course? - I'd be happy to treat them as a special case.
Registration and Admin
Alan, I'd be very grateful if you hold the fort here. I have specifically
said that we are not registering yet, but there may be some anyway.
We don't want to lose their names, and they deserve an encouraging reply.
(Other consultants - if you get enquiries, can you plase copy names to
Alan and let him know whether you have replied to the students.)