Asynchronous Collaboration Around Multimedia Applied to On-Demand Education
Journal of Management Information Systems
Multimedia content is a central component of on-demand training and education delivered over the World Wide Web. Supporting asynchronous collaboration around educational multimedia is potentially a significant tool for delivering online educational content effectively. A multimedia annotation system tightly integrated with email provides a powerful platform on which to base such functionality. In this paper we describe a series of studies of such a system. First, we built a prototype annotation
... system and refined it based on results of laboratory tests. We then extended the system to support asynchronous collaboration for on-demand training and studied its effectiveness in two corporate training courses, assessing student experience, instructor experience, and user interface appropriateness. Having identified possibilities for enhancing engagement and collaboration with the tool, we conducted another set of laboratory studies. Through this iterative process we are creating a platform and identifying processes for its use that enable students and instructors to exploit the advantages of asynchronous education while compensating for the reduction in face to face interaction. This scenario suggests how asynchronous environments can enjoy many of the benefits of the question-andanswer and discussion that occurs in "live" classrooms. Our multimedia annotation system, MRAS, is designed to support this scenario by implementing multimedia annotations, a fine-grained access control structure, and close integration with email. Related Work Annotations for personal and collaborative use have been studied in several domains. A number of annotation systems have been built and studied in educational contexts, primarily focused on personal annotation. CoNotes  and Animal Landlord  support guided pedagogical annotation experiences. Neither focused on multimedia lecture scenarios, and their functionality is not as general or rich as MRAS (e.g., tight integration with email). Some studies of handwritten notes  have shown that annotations made in books can be valuable to subsequent users, the benefit we hope to extend to video content. The Classroom 2000 project  focuses on capturing all aspects of a live classroom experience (including whiteboard strokes) and making it available for subsequent student access. The same is being done, with less rich indices, by most major universities exploring the distance learning market    . Although MRAS is a powerful system for storing indices, our focus is on more dynamic, asynchronous content. WebCT  and Lotus LearningSpace  are commercially available systems for creating educational web sites. They support chat, email, and bulletin-boards for communication, and a degree of association between the artifacts of communication (e.g., email messages) and the context in which they were created (e.g., a particular web page). The CoWeb projects at Georgia Tech  explore similar functionality. None offer MRAS's rich support for multimedia, for video annotations, and for fine-grained organization and sharing of annotations. AnswerGarden  and Organik  support the collection of questions and answers in indexed, searchable "FAQ" databases. Both are integrated with email to route questions to the most appropriate expert. These and other systems  can provide high quality access to information; however, they do not generally maintain a connection between the information in the database and the context in which it was created. Unlike MRAS, they do not consider questions to be annotations which have meaning and significance in a specific context. The Vicarious Learner Project  explored several ideas related to our work and demonstrated that student dialogs can be a valuable learning resource for subsequent students  . The Computer Supported Intentional Learning Environments (CSILE) project  and its commercial outgrowth called Knowledge Forum have shown that collaborative learning can enhance the depth of each students' understanding of the subject matter  . Our present work takes this a step further by tying student dialogs to the context in which they occurred. The MRAS system architecture is related to several designs. OSF  and NCSA  have proposed scalable Web-based architectures for sharing annotations on web pages. CritLink  is a web note-sharing system; ThirdVoice , NovaWiz , Hypernix , uTok , and Zadu  have all recently released commercial systems. These are similar in principal to MRAS, but do not support fine-grained access control, annotation grouping, video annotations, and rich annotation positioning. The web-based Knowledge Weasel  offers a common annotation record format, annotation grouping, and fine-grained annotation retrieval, but does not support access control, and it stores meta data in a distributed file system, not in a relational database. The ComMentor architecture  is similar to MRAS, but access control is weak and annotations of video are not supported. And to the best of our knowledge, no significant deployment studies have been reported for any of these systems. Considerable work on video annotation has focused on indexing video for video databases. Examples include Lee's hybrid approach  , Marquee , VIRON , and VANE . They run the gamut from fully manual to fully automated systems. In contrast to MRAS, they are not designed as collaborative tools for learning and communication.