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Proceedings Paper

Multimedia courseware in an open-systems environment: a DoD strategy
Author(s): Lawrence A. Welsch
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Paper Abstract

The federal government is about to invest billions of dollars to develop multimedia training materials for delivery on computer-based interactive training systems. Acquisition of a variety of computers and peripheral devices hosting various operating systems and suites of authoring system software will be necessary to facilitate the development of this courseware. There is no single source that will satisfy all needs. Although high-performance, low-cost interactive training hardware is available, the products have proprietary software interfaces.

Because the interfaces are proprietary, expensive reprogramming is usually required to adapt such software products to other platforms. This costly reprogramming could be eliminated by adopting standard software interfaces. DoD’s Portable Courseware Project (PORTCO) is typical of projects worldwide that require standard software interfaces. This paper articulates the strategy whereby PORTCO leverages the open systems movement and the new realities of information technology. These realities encompass changes in the pace at which new technology becomes available, changes in organizational goals and philosophy, new roles of vendors and users, changes in the procurement process, and acceleration toward open system environments. The PORTCO strategy is applicable to all projects and systems that require open systems to achieve mission objectives.

The federal goal is to facilitate the creation of an environment in which high quality portable courseware is available as commercial off-the-shelf products and is competitively supplied by a variety of vendors. In order to achieve this goal a system architecture incorporating standards to meet the users’ needs must be established. The Request for Architecture (RFA) developed cooperatively by DoD and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will generate the PORTCO systems architecture. This architecture must freely integrate the courseware and authoring software from the lower levels of machine architecture and systems service implementation. In addition, the systems architecture will establish how the application-specific technologies relate to other technologies. Further, a computer-based interactive training applications profile must be developed. This profile, along with the systems architecture derived as a result of the RFA, provides the basis for identifying the needed standards. NIST will then accelerate the development of these standards using, but not restricted to, existing standards activities within established standards forums.

The federal multimedia courseware effort has adopted the Interactive Multimedia Association (INA) Recommended Practices for Interactive Video Portability as the baseline for the migration of computer-based interactive training systems to an open systems environment based upon international standards. The PORTCO strategy includes an evolutionary migration to a standards-based, Open System Environments (OSE). An important aspect of this migration strategy is to move to open systems via stepwise evolution rather than via quantum leaps.

Another area of concern is that of infrastructure issues, such as maintaining and supporting the technologies required for computer-based interactive training. The federal multimedia initiative will use the RFA-based architecture to differentiate between those technologies that can be maintained and supported by existing infrastructure mechanisms and those that require new mechanisms. Existing infrastructure mechanisms will be used and where infrastructure mechanisms do not exist, the approach will be to place high priority on establishing the appropriate mechanisms. Establishing an infrastructure mechanism is a nontrivial task requiring sustained investment of resources.

Paper Details

Date Published: 1 March 1991
PDF: 14 pages
Proc. SPIE 10259, Standards for Electronic Imaging Systems: A Critical Review, 102590C (1 March 1991); doi: 10.1117/12.48898
Show Author Affiliations
Lawrence A. Welsch, National Institute of Standards and Technology (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 10259:
Standards for Electronic Imaging Systems: A Critical Review
Michael C. Nier; Marilyn E. Courtot, Editor(s)

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