Educational Innovations in Multimedia Systems
Burleson, Wayne, Ganz, Aura, Harris, Ian, Journal of Engineering Education
Educational Innovations in Multimedia Systems*
Multimedia systems have emerged as one of the fastest growing segments of computing systems and thus need to be well integrated into a computer engineering curriculum. Fortunately the teaching and learning of multimedia systems can be aided with novel instructional techniques based on multimedia. The Multimedia Curriculum project at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is developing a unified set of instructional materials on the engineering techniques used in the design and test of hardware, software and networks for multimedia. This large project includes three facets: 1) multimedia instructional modules using web-linked Digital Video Disks, 2) multimedia communication utilities to facilitate student interaction, and 3) multimedia component design projects. In this paper, we explain our approach to using multimedia as both content and instructional technology and briefly present preliminary results in each of the three facets.
I. WHY MULTIMEDIA SYSTEMS?
We define a multimedia system to be a computer-based communications system that delivers heterogeneous and compressed/ coded/encrypted content (text, audio, video, graphics) from a source or storage device and transfers it over a heterogeneous channel (Internet, wireless network, local area network) to an end-user while maintaining perceptual integrity (Figure 1).
New multimedia systems have emerged in many forms in the last 5 years and are now a major driver in the design of computer hardware, networks, and both system and application software. Processors, RAM, cache, disk, display, sound card, graphics card, network card, operating system, browser and editors have all been modified to target multimedia systems. Multimedia presents a new class of applications in computing that is quite different from the business and scientific applications that drove previous generations of computing systems. It spans real-time computing, signal processing, and communications issues and thus requires a very wide range of technical background. Multimedia systems engineering is an opportunity to substantially update and invigorate undergraduate computer engineering curricula while providing exciting new content for exploring new instructional methods and technology. Multimedia curricular content is exciting because it can be seen and heard, extending the sensory and cognitive experience. Multimedia is also present in everyday life, from radio, CD/DVD, video, television, Internet, video games, toys, kiosks, arcades, automobiles and appliances.
Multimedia systems also provide a motivating theme for integrating many of the fields of computer engineering thus encouraging multidisciplinary work. Three strong arguments for Multimedia as a pedagogical tool for engineering are:
1. Multimedia systems require a systems approach to design that covers the generation, transmission, storage and retrieval of widely varying content. Algorithm, hardware and software design problems can be unified in an integrated context, thus providing students with a "big-picture" view of computer engineering.1 We use this systems approach in design projects at all levels, requiring students to work in teams and deal with many design issues and constraints simultaneously.
2. Multimedia systems designs involve a significant amount of statistical and probabilistic analysis for the estimation of performance and signal quality, thus substantially motivating and enabling math and signal processing courses in the curriculum. Simulation and visualization tools are used to show how system and algorithmic choices impact the resulting media product and result in variable run-times.
3. Multimedia systems provide very tangible functionality (and misfunctionality!) to students, hopefully motivating them and showing real applications without compromising engineering fundamentals.
II. THE UMASS MULTIMEDIA CURRICULUM PROJECT: "USING MULTIMEDIA TO LEARN MULTIMEDIA"
The UMass Multimedia Curriculum project is led by 7 faculty members in the Computer Systems Engineering area within the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. …