Virginia Tech CS4984 Spring 1996 Syllabus

General Information

Course Name (generic): Special Study
Course Name (specific): Multimedia, Hypertext and Information Access
Course Number: CS4984 (later will be 4624)
Prerequisites: CS2604 or equivalent, senior standing
Lecture Location: McB 209
Shared Lecture Time: Mon 3-4:20 pm
Lab Location: Derring 2069
Section 1 Index Number: 1327
Section 1 Lab Time: Tue 12:30 - 1:45 pm
Section 2 Index Number: 1328
Section 2 Lab Time: Thu 12:30 - 1:45 pm
Textbook: Multimedia Systems by John F. Koegel Buford, ACM Press / Addison-Wesley, 1994. Recommended: Premiere with a Passion, 2nd ed. by Michael Feerer, Peachpit Press, 1994.

Detailed Descriptions

CS4984 Catalog Information

Catalog Description for CS4984

This is a Special Study course that will become a regular
course (CS4984) in subsequent years.

Introduces the architectures, concepts, data, hardware, methods,
models, software, standards, structures, technologies, and issues
involved with: multimedia information and systems; hypertext and
hypermedia; networked information; electronic publishing; virtual
reality; and information access. Students will learn how to capture,
represent, store, compress, manipulate, interact with, and present:
text, drawings, still images, animations, audio and video. They will
work with video conferencing, authoring systems, and digital

CS4984 Course Description

Additional Course Description for CS4984

This course is designed for seniors to become familiar with a range
of information technologies, much like Database Systems covers
certain types of data, and Artficial Intelligence covers certain types of

Coverage includes text, electronic publishing, search, retrieval,
browsing and related issues of information access. Other media
types are considered separately and in combination, when
synchronization and time-based performance are crucial to achieve
adequate quality of service. Linking, hierarchical structures, streams,
layers, and similar organizations and views will be considered.

A wide variety of hardware, software and application demonstrations
will be given. Students will gain expertise working with key
packages such as AuthorWare, Mosaic/Netscape, and Storyspace.

CS4984 Course Objectives

Objectives for CS4984

Students should be able to:

1. obtain an entry-level job working with multimedia,
hypertext, hypermedia or related technologies;
2. begin graduate or other studies working in this area;
3. effectively author hypertext, hypermedia or
multimedia works;
4. learn and become an expert user of specialized software for
this area;
5. critique software and hardware systems in this area,
considering functionality, interface, quality of presentation,
and other important criteria.

CS4984 Grading


The final will be Tuesday May 7 --- 7:45-9:45am. The open book, open notes final is worth 100 points and will have at least 50 points worth of questions taken from the A versions of unit tests. ALL ANSWERS MUST BE IN STUDENTS' OWN WORDS, NOT COPIED FROM THE TEXT OR OTHER REFERENCE MATERIALS!


Student groups will undertake class projects, which are worth 90 points.

Special Handling During Last Week

In response to various comments and suggestions, the following policies are in effect.

Requirements and Scores

Attention to reading, labs, demonstrations and class discussions is imperative. Students must demonstrate mastery of a body of knowledge and its application. The course has 6 units, worth a total of 100 points. Units IN, AC, NC each are worth 10 points; units MC and PI are each worth 20 points; unit CR is worth 30 points. You must demonstrate mastery (e.g., quiz grade of 90%) of each unit you wish credit for, and will be allowed two retries (against different questions) or an oral exam on each unit. Mastering a unit gives you full credit as long as you have also completed (possibly in a group) all assignments for that unit.

A grade of
The instructor reserves the right to adjust grades for unusual performance on the final. There may be extra credit assignments.

The Virginia Tech Honor Code

The Honor Code will be strictly enforced in this course. All assignments submitted shall be considered graded work, unless otherwise noted. All aspects of your coursework are covered by the Honor System. Any suspected violations of the Honor Code will be promptly reported to the Honor System. Honesty in your academic work will develop into professional integrity. The faculty and students of Virginia tech will not tolerate any form of academic dishonesty.

CS4984 Projects

CS4984 Project Overview

Project Rationale

Projects are a key part of this course since they help tie together the concepts learned from reading, listening to lectures, and undertaking exercises. Whenever possible, you should do the exercises in a way that will help you carry out your project, to reduce your workload and to provide highly motivational variations of what would otherwise be "toy" exercises.

Student groups are expected to complete their project during the semester, so the scale of effort should be sensible. Each student is likely to spend up to 90 hours on the project, so it should be something you want to do!

Many projects are likely to involve use of the special equipment available at Virginia Tech, such as to prepare videotapes and/or interactive multimedia materials.

Project Teams

Since multimedia project development is almost always carried out by teams, you will work in a group of 4-6 students. Thus, each section is expected to have 5 groups. Please be sensible in forming your groups, making sure people can work together. You should develop a written agreement or "contract" on working together, that will cover how to balance the workload. Groups are entirely responsible for their own interaction and for ensuring that everyone does their fair share --- they are empowered to rate each other on quantity and quality of effort, and that will be considered in assigning individual grades on the projects.

Each project will have an outside contact person (usually the instructor, unless otherwise stated). The contact person will act as a client, helping with requirements and ultimately gauging the suitability and quality of the project.

Project Deliverables

Each project must be documented (covering requirements, design, operations, and use). A final version of the project will be turned in at the end of the semester and will become property of Virginia Tech. The last 2 lab periods will be devoted to demos of the projects.

Chosen Project Ideas

See the student lists for the two labs to find assignments to projects, for Tuesday and Thursday. The selected topics are:
  1. Tue - CCR = Collaboration/Conferencing room:
    designing McB 104 conferencing/collaboration room, working with grad student J. Gabbard and Prof. Mary Beth Rosson.
  2. Tue - DLB = Digital library:
    working on building a digital library for computer science, along with grad student Madhan Subhas.
  3. Tue - LIT = Computer and information literacy, related to Provost's request:
    training materials for Virginia Tech students to assist with computer/information literacy. Contact Dean E. Hitchingham. CEUT will host a brown bag lunch on this topic Feb. 15!
  4. Tue - TUR = Tours of multimedia labs on campus:
    tours of multimedia labs on campus, for WWW. Please see the partial tour already set up by N. Dwight Barnette about Library information services which can be extended, with possible video assistance of the VRL group.
  5. Tue - VRC = Virtual reality for campus:
    developing VR models for campus. They will do an overall model, and then perhaps work on the new planned ACITC (Advanced Communications and Information Technology Center) that will bridge across the Mall to the Library. A contact familiar with Virtus software is Dennis Neale (
  6. Thu - BEV = BEV video/interactive history:
    documentary, history of the Blacksburg Electronic Village. Contacts include Dr. A. Cohill, grad student Neill Kipp, and Prof. J. Carroll.
  7. Thu - HST = WWW CS history museum:
    virtual museum of computer history. Dr. Lee has wonderful materials to capture (images, video, audio-tapes, documents) and will help design this so people can move through the history of our field.
  8. Thu - IFM = Infomercial and other video/interactive on CS Dept.:
    recruiting materials for the Department of Computer Science (contact Prof. J. Carroll); the first part of this should be an infomercial which has already been sketched out by Dr. Lee and which is needed before March 1996.
  9. Thu - VRL = Virtual Reality of the Library on Campus:
    developing VRML models for Newman Library. Contacts are: Alan Armstrong ( and Ginger Young ( who have been asked by the Dean of Libraries, Eileen Hitchingham (, to work with you. A contact familiar with Virtus software is Dennis Neale ( Please see the partial tour already set up by N. Dwight Barnette of Library information services which can be extended, with possible video assistance of the TUR group.
  10. Thu - WOO = MOO+WWW (+VR):
    extending EIEIOmoo to tie in with VR and the WWW. A group of graduate students has already identified an information page and the Brown system mentioned looks promising. See also SenseMedia's technology description. There are some good pointers from pages at UNC on education.

CS4984 Course Format

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


Since 1992, several CS courses has been offered in a new format that synthesizes educational and technological approaches oriented toward improvements in motivation, comprehension, test performance, grades, study skills, retention, and student satisfaction. This same approach is used in CS4984, but enhanced further through use of a Computer-Integrated Classroom with AV Macintosh systems.

The key features are discussed and explained, including: modularity, personalization, testing of mastery, tutoring, computer demonstrations, illustrative exercises, and use of a digital library. All students should read this explanation carefully, and follow all relevant instructions given in the DLPSI and Timetable and Events sections.

Digital Libraries

Improvements in storage technology and computer networks have made possible the creation of collections of articles, books, multimedia documents, and other results of an emerging electronic publishing industry. Advances in information access theory, techniques, and systems allow these collections to become easily accessible for searching, browsing, reading, research, and re-use - transforming them into value-added digital libraries.

Building upon various research projects at Virginia Tech, and using resources of the Computing Center and the Department of Computer Science, Project Envision was funded for 1991-94 by the National Science Foundation, and aided by ACM. This project, to build a User-Centered Database from the Computer Science Literature, has supported courses by providing access to readings, hypertext collections, algorithms, images, and specialized software. Another project, Interactive Learning with a Digital Library in Computer Science, has NSF support for 1993-96 and continues these efforts. In particular, CS4984 has been developed in conjunction with work on this project, whose results will be made available for class demonstrations, laboratory exercises, homeworks, and independent research.

In early 1996 IBM, through its SUR program, has donated $250K worth of digital library equipment, to go along with additional equipment purchased with Virginia Tech ($80K) and NSF funds ($90K). This large system includes a large 4 processor SMP machine building on RS/6000 and PowerPC technology, a hierarchical storage manager, and over 2 terabytes of DLT-based tertiary tape storage.

Personalized System of Instruction

Keller Plan

In the 1960's, Fred S. Keller, J. Gilmour Sherman, and others developed a synthesis of educational methods and practices that has often been called the Keller Plan or the Personalized System of Instruction (PSI) [3][2]. Key aspects of this teaching method include [1]:

so students can proceed according to their abilities, interests, and personal schedules;

unit-perfection requirement
which means students must demonstrate mastery of a unit before proceeding to other units;

lectures and demonstrations for motivation
instead of for communication of critical information;

stress on the written word for teacher-student communication
which helps develop comprehension and expression skills; and

which allows repeats on exams, enhanced personal-social interaction, and personalized instruction.

Research studies have shown PSI to have a number of advantages over conventional educational methods, and few disadvantages. Students, especially those who would normally perform at the lower or middle levels, learn significantly more, as measured by final examinations and by tests of long-term retention (given years later). They like the classes and tutoring, and develop good habits that carry over to other courses and learning activities. Disadvantages are mostly concerning extra effort being required by the instructor, a higher drop rate in some courses (especially by students who cannot break their habits of procrastination), and extra room requirements.

Adapting to our Program

To adapt PSI to CS4984, several changes or additions seemed appropriate. First, given limited GTA support, it is necessary for the instructor also to play the role of proctor and tutor, during office hours and during specially scheduled appointments. Use of MOO technology extends those times of contact to any time the instructor or GTA are in EIEIOmoo. Second, given space limitations and the current lab situation for Computer Science regarding multimedia technology, it seemed necessary to hold class sessions in Derring 2069 twice, to accomodate two sections. Thus, a combined lecture for both sections takes place Monday afternoons, and each section has a session on either Tuesday or Thursday. Third, given the availability of computing resources, it seemed sensible to use MOO technology, electronic forms and electronic mail as much as possible, to encourage additional communication with the instructor and to avoid needless use of paper. Finally, given the lab availability and limited software licenses, it was arranged that students would be able to work directly with some software (either in the Derring classroom or in one of the labs on campus), but for other software would only watch a demonstration.


The course format for CS4984 is thus an adaption of PSI, making use of digital library support, and adjusting for the situation at Virginia Tech in Spring 1995. The main elements of this Digital Library Personalized System of Instruction (DLPSI) are given below. Students should read these explanations carefully, and ask about any questions that come to mind. Remember that improved reading comprehension is a key objective of this course, but that the instructor is happy to provide tutoring assistance to all students as needed.

Units, Grades, Procrastination


Timetable and Events

For the course as a whole, the overall timetable is given in the syllabus. For each unit, a handout will be provided, on or before the first date listed for that unit in the syllabus. Please read this over right away. During the dates listed, any special lectures, discussions, demonstrations, lab exercises, field trips, etc. that relate to that unit will take place. Students are invited and encouraged to attend.

If nothing is scheduled, students are encouraged to come to class to pick up any new information or materials provided. Also, they can read or do exercises, and ask questions of their colleagues or the instructor. As in many senior classes, some students have little background in the field, while others are involved in research projects and have a great deal of specialized knowledge. When students with diverse backgrounds work together, all benefit - those who tutor others often learn more than those who are asking for help.

Working in the laboratory is of particular value when nothing is scheduled, and when there are demonstrations or exercises involving computers. Part of the DLPSI experience is to use computers and software to obtain some insight into how digital libraries of the future might operate. Be sure to share your comments, preferably in writing, with the instructor, so we can improve things for others.

Remember that the core of the course is made up of the project, readings and exercises, so concentrate on them until you thoroughly understand each unit. Other activities should supplement these, make the course more enjoyable, and provide other educational and experiential benefits. You are free to work a bit ahead or to in other reasonable ways adjust your work schedule to harmonize with demands from other courses or special circumstances, but please, please, DO NOT PROCRASTINATE!

We hope that DLPSI works for you, and helps you learn even more effectively in the future!


1 Fred S. Keller. Goodbye, teacher ... J. of Applied Behavioral Analysis, 1(1):79-89, Spring 1968.

2 J. Gilmour Sherman and Robert S. Ruskin. The Personalized System of Instruction. Educational Technology Publications, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1978. Vol. 13 in The Instructional Design Library, series ed. Danny G. Langdon.

3 J. Gilmour Sherman, Robert S. Ruskin, and George B. Semb, editors. The Personalized System of Instruction: 48 seminal papers. TRI Publications, Lawrence, Kansas, 1982.

CS4984 Outline
Sun Feb 24 1995