Curriculum, Education and Training about Multimedia

Curriculum, Education and Training about Multimedia


Edward A. Fox
Dept. of Computer Science
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0106


There is a growing demand for people with knowledge and skills in the areas of multimedia information, systems, and technology. Universities are just beginning to help in this regard, and a curriculum effort by SIGMM may be in order to provide guidance and support. This panel will lead a discussion with the audience regarding when and how to develop such a curriculum, dealing with issues such as:
  1. At what level should courses be offered (e.g., first vs. final year of undergraduate studies, or for graduate students)?
  2. Should such courses be taught by Computer Science, Arts, Communications, or other faculty, or by interdisciplinary teams?
  3. What are the needs of industry, e.g., research vs. development, that should be concentrated upon?
  4. What case studies, courseware, demonstrations, online resources, textbooks, toolkits, etc. can assist with education? Would a clearinghouse be of value, and if so, how should it be organized, built, and supported?


courses, courseware, curriculum, education, instruction, learning, training


Florian Brody
Art Center College of Design, 1700 Lida St., Pasadena CA
New Media Consulting, A-1070 Vienna, Lerchenfelderstr 63
Taught Dynamic Media course in Spring 1995.
John F. Buford
Dept. of Comp. Sci., UMass. Lowell, Lowell, MA 01854
Taught a graduate level multimedia class and edited a
book used as a text at a number of locations.
Joseph A. Konstan
Dept. of Comp. Sci., U. of Minnesota
Developed lab for students to edit multimedia presentations.
Brian Smith
Dept. of Comp. Sci., Upson Hall, Cornell U., Ithaca NY
Taught Multimedia Systems (CS 610) in Fall 1994.

Strawman Position Statements

J. F. Buford, Impact on Computer Science Curriculum

Many computer science faculty are starting to use the web and multimedia computing as tools in delivering instruction.

Some things we have tried with the web include:

  1. Putting course syllabi on the web;
  2. Providing a reference page with links to course-related resources elsewhere on the net;
  3. Providing forms by which students can submit projects, homeworks, and exams to the instructor;
  4. Providing on-line copies of lecture materials for students to review later;
  5. Keeping previous years' student projects archived on the web so that they can be referenced by the current class of students.

For computer-literate students, these facilities are an enhancement of the existing process. Students have found the availability of on-line materials and references to be helpful and convenient. We are now collaborating with a political science faculty member to try these tools with non-CS students.

Some educators have reported presenting lecture materials to classes via HTML projected from the computer screen. The conclusion at this point is that the formatting and layout limitations of HTML are an impediment when compared to using presentation programs. However this is probably a short-term issue, and lecture delivery via the web has a number of potential uses, including integrated live demonstrations, immediate archival access for students, and distance learning.

Four years ago we offered our first multimedia systems course in the computer science curriculum. Last year we split this course into two, multimedia information systems and multimedia communication systems, because of the growth in the topics that could be discussed. The MIS course includes a significant component on hypermedia technology. Over time, some of the material in these courses will be assimiliated in to related courses. For example, an OS course might add a section on system support for multimedia. However such courses provide an integrative view of multimedia technology which would be more difficult to achieve if the content were partitioned among related areas.

Multimedia concepts are an interdiscplinary matter and we try to provide some introduction to the interdiscplinary issues while keeping the courses focused on the computer science topics. Video tapes of systems and products and tool demonstrations provide a quick way to expose students to the basic ideas.

Our graduates are reporting that familiarity with web and multimedia technology is helping them in locating positions. Courses aimed at this area are currently electives in our curriculum and will probably remain so.

J. Konstan, Infrastructure: Physical and Educational

Developing an effective curriculum for multimedia systems and technology requires substantial infrastructure. First, there is the need for physical infrastructure--the laboratories and facilities where students can actually experiment with multimedia tools. At Minnesota, we are working on two such laboratories: a presentation editing laboratory where students can compose and edit class presentations, and a networking laboratory, including a virtual laboratory, where students can experiment with a variety of networking technologies using both real equipment and simulations.

Second, and more important, there is a need for educational infrastructure. Multimedia systems cannot be introduced as a senior-level elective without support in the rest of the curriculum. At the very minimum, students need to be familiar with using information systems and working in groups on sizable projects. Too many computer science programs never ask students to use the World Wide Web or other information systems (and we find out that, as seniors, the students cannot even use our libraries). In our focus on individually measurable performance, we too often "protect" students from group projects, particularly with heterogeneous groups drawn from different disciplines. Yet, multimedia is an area where we know we must work in heterogeneous teams to bring together the skills we need for significant projects.

Fortunately, the infrastructure needed for multimedia education is beneficial in many areas. It is good for students to learn about information systems, since they will increasingly benefit from using them. Group work and large projects enhance learning in a wide range of areas. And, the laboratory facilities that may be critical for multimedia will be used by a wide range of courses that view multimedia as a tool, and not as an end to itself. The multimedia community, and SIGMM in particular, should aggressively push for this infrastructure and we can help sell it by showing how effectively it can promote education in general.

B. Smith, Graduate Course in Multimedia Systems at Cornell

Last fall, Professor Ramin Zabih and I developed a computer science graduate course in multimedia systems that attracted over 75 senior, masters, and graduate students from fields including computer science, electrical engineering, art history, and physics. The course surveys the field, covering the psychophysics of human perception, technologies for the compression, processing, storage, transport, and display of audio and video data, and systems that integrate these technologies. We drew course material from papers published in the literature, providing background where necessary. Students worked in groups of two or three on course projects that involved significant new ideas and was modeled after a real research project. The projects were either taken from a list of suggested projects or proposed by the students. Through the project, the students produced a white paper, a detailed proposal complete with milestones and required resources, conducted novel research projects in groups of two to four, wrote a conference style paper reporting their results, and gave a 15 minute presentation at a two day "conference." The top six projects were presented during the last week of class. This format resulted in three of the course projects being published at ACM Multimedia 95.

We plan to teach this course again this fall, and to develop an undergraduate version of the course as a set of core results emerges for multimedia, but what those results are remains an open question.