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Syracuse Pilots Web-based Distance Education Program

Using web-based technologies developed by researchers at the Northeast Parallel Architectures Center (NPAC) at Syracuse University, a distance education partnership is piloting cost-effective ways to deliver cutting-edge university courses to students and government users of high-performance computing. The partnership includes NPAC; the Computer Science Department at Jackson State University (JSU) in Mississippi; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station (CEWES) in Mississippi; and Nichols Research Corporation in Alabama, under the sponsorship of the Department of Defense (DoD) High Performance Computing Modernization (HPCM) Program.

The project has resulted in a computer science course at JSU that is being taught for credit by NPAC professors over the Internet. The DoD is using this testbed to produce new distance learning solutions for geographically distributed laboratory personnel.

"CEWES is fortunate to have Syracuse and Jackson State conducting this demonstration project," says N. Radhakrishnan, director of the CEWES Information Technology Laboratory. "We look forward to rapidly leveraging these capabilities for the benefit of our HPC users."

The Syracuse-Jackson State effort uses the NPAC-developed WebWisdom, a package of newly emergent technologies that includes hypertext markup language (HTML) and Java to provide a robust teaching environment capable of two-way audio and video, a whiteboard that is broadcast to the desktop, and a mechanism for projecting viewfoils on each student's computer screen.

"WebWisdom integrates a database core with public key-based security, collaboration, multimedia streaming delivery, online computer laboratories, audio-video conferencing, and legacy and JavaBean-based authoring, with tools for assessment, administration, and searching," says CRPC researcher Geoffrey Fox, Syracuse professor and director of NPAC. Fox will conduct WebWisdom demonstrations and other education technologies at SC97 (see "Roadmap to CRPC Events at SC97," this issue.) Fox and NPAC instructors Nancy McCracken and Tom Scavo are teaching the JSU students about these same technologies in this fully accredited, semester-length course.

Initial development of the technologies and the course materials was funded by the U.S. Air Force Rome Laboratory and Syracuse University's L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. The current effort was funded under the Programming Environment and Training (PET) portion of the HPCM Program, which supports technology transfer from university HPC centers to the DoD.

For more information, see http://old-npac.ucs.indiana.edu/projects/jsufall97, http://www.webwisdom.org/papers/jsu/jsuexpt.html, and http://www.webwisdom.org/papers/sc97/webwisdom3.html.

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