WWW Strengths & Weakness

Evans Craig (bilbo%TRITON.UNM.EDU@vm.ucs.UAlberta.CA)
Tue, 6 Jun 1995 08:27:38 -0600


Thanks for inviting me to this conference, Terry.

Again, Is the World Ready for serious distance education delivery?

David put some real _heart_ into his description of the web capabilities.
That shows that we are going to be real compatible with our Webbing.

I would like to concentrate more on what's *possible* than *pratical* or
even *useful*. Once the possiblilities are realized, then it becomes
pratical to make it more useful.

I try to stretch the basic services that the Web offers, so that it's
strengths will overcome the weaknesses.

All of the strengths that you described are my tools to change the current
paradigm for distance education. I am attempting to integrate all of the
technologies into the Web's _basic service_, * an easy-to-use- interface.
I use the current Internet applications as my arsenal of tools.


Applications

The Webs' applications used today include all the text-based applications curren
tly on the Internet, and the graphical side which includes video, graphics, and
audio.  The applications on the Internet today are mostly text-based.  The Inter
net applications are mainly used to search across the network for specific types
 of media.

 * Gopher, Veronica, Archie, and WAIS

Other command tools are:
 * Telnet, FTP, newsreaders, and electronic mail

All of these tools are available within a graphical environment such as Mosaic.
 There a lots of different types of Browsers available that create a graphical t
ype of environment on a text-based platform.  These Browsers can utilize all sor
ts of media such as graphics, video, audio and text. These types of Browsers wil
l be the key to integrating digital technologies on the Internet.

By using these tools, the strengths that i will identify include long term cost
effectiveness, availability, and diversity of media.

* Cost effectiveness

Today, institutes across the world are creating research and the resulting conte
nt for distribution and delivery by publishing books and delivering them to book
 publishers for distribution.  This process may include several years of work be
fore teachers or students can access them. Today an institute will conduct a cla
ss or set of classes to create content for research and to ultimately publish th
e results. As an Internal web server is setup to house a certain type of content
, its costs go lower and lower as content is added. If an institute wants to cre
ate content on a Web server instead of just accessing other Web pages, the cost
of maintaining the server to publish on, diminishes rapidly.

* Availability

Putting the research on-line, on a Web homepage, will immediately create a globa
l presence and initiate global response to the research. Using an _Internal Web
server_ to house the research and ultimately publish the results, will make acce
ss to the on-going research accessible to teachers and students across the world
, before, during, and after the whole process is completed.

* Diversity of Media

The existing strength of the Internet today is content dependent, providing all
types of media, such as graphics, video, audio, and text as content.  By combini
ng the types of media available to present the accumulated research results, con
tent becomes rich and interesting.  By providing access to research and publicat
ions from across the world at a click of a button,  the cost of creating content
 and accessing existing content in conventional ways increases, while the costs
of doing so on the Internet continues to fall.

The Web's weaknesses are short term costs, accessibility, and limited formatting
 ability.

* Short term costs

When institutes decide to not setup a Internal Web server and just use the Web a
s a World Wide Library, the costs of setting up accessibility to teachers and st
udents is large and will continue to be an ongoing cost, since no content is bei
ng added to the Web.  When no content is added, there is the expense of accessin
g while there are no diminishing returns on the expense, except for time needed
to find resources.

* Accessibility

For an institute to access the Web, there are certain requirements needed as ini
tial costs and on-going costs.  The initial costs is for equipment; 386 or bette
r computer, 14.4 or higher modem, a phone line, and a SLIP or PPP account.  All
of these will have to be in place prior to accessing the Web.  Once you are on-l
ine, an on-going on-line cost according to the amount of time on-line will be bi
lled to the institute.  This will be needed for each individual accessing the We
b.  The costs of individual connections tend to be higher than server connection
s and installations.

* Limited formatibility

Once accessibility is established then the limiting factor is with the Browser.
 Formatting text and other types of media in a Web homepage are currently limite
d to the amount of information on each line.  This limits the presentation techn
iques to not include such formatting as columns or tables.  When a publisher des
igns a book or magazine or other publication, having them to do so without colum
ns or tables severely limits the artistic ability to present information.  This
type of limitation is currently being addressed by the HTML standards committees
 and will become a limitation of the past.

The existing weaknesses of the Web today will diminish as the costs of accessing
 keep going down, and the limitations of the Browsers keep decreasing.  By combi
ning the cost of accessing the Web with the rewards of publishing on the Web, th
e costs start to diminish.  By providing Browsers with more formatting capabilit
ies, the path to creating content on the Web becomes shorter.

To optimize the current Web applications, the current opportunities will have to
 overcome the weaknesses and the strengths will overwhelm the current threats to
 the Web.  The Webs' applications used today include all the text-based applicat
ions currently on the Internet, and the graphical side which includes video, gra
phics, and audio.  Browsers that use all of the Internet commands and applicatio
ns are available that create a graphical type of environment on a text-based pla
tform.  These Browsers utilize all sorts of media such as graphics, video, audio
 and text.

_HTML Browsers_ will be the key to integrating digital technologies on the Inter
net.

Integrating the types of media available for presentation of the research result
s, makes the Web content rich and interesting.  The cost of creating content and
 accessing existing content in conventional ways increases, while the costs of d
oing so on the Web continues to fall. The initial costs of accessing are high, y
et keep going down, while the limitations of the Browsers keep decreasing.  Comb
ining the cost of accessing the Web with the rewards of publishing on the Web, d
iminish the costs.  Browsers with more formatting capabilities, shorten the path
 needed to creating content on the Web.  If the current  Web applications are to
 be optimized, the long term cost and use of a Browser will overcome the short t
erm cost and limitations of Browsers.  The rewards of publishing will overwhelm
the current limitations to the Web.