Introducing Diploma in Multimedia:

A Multi Disciplinary Course

David Taniar Wenny Rahayu

Department of Information Studies School of Comp. Sc. and Comp. Eng.

Swinburne University of Technology La Trobe University

P.O.Box 218, Hawthorn Bundoora

Victoria 3122 Victoria 3083

Australia Australia


Multimedia technology has become increasingly popular. This paper presents a course outline in multimedia. It includes a description of the subjects and resource requirements. The main objective of the course is to prepare students to become multimedia designers and engineers in their areas of expertise.

1. Introduction

Multimedia systems combine a variety of information sources, such as voice, graphics, animation, images, audio, and full motion video, into a wide range of applications (Fuhrt, 1994). Multimedia is often associated with the information superhighway, with interactive TV that has anything on-demand (such as video, products, and information), or with hypermedia (Rodriguez and Rowe, 1995). Others see multimedia as the effort to combine different types of media to convey enriched information to users (Grosky, 1994).

Multimedia has gained its popularity not only because its attractive features (eg., images, animation, sound), but also its usefulness in many areas (eg., sciences, arts, business). Practitioners from diverse disciplines and backgrounds are motivated by the promise of multimedia. Many of these people are interested in new applications or enhancing existing ones with multimedia.

Formal courses in multimedia offered at an undergraduate and postgraduate levels are rare. Universities are generally not prepared to provide courses, partly because of not knowing what to offer, what facilities are required, and what kind of expertise is needed. In this paper, we propose an innovative course in multimedia at a diploma or a graduate diploma level. This proposal can be used as a guideline to establish such a course at any university. Although this course can be registered under the department of information technology/computing sciences, it is not merely a computer-based course, as students are to be familiar with other areas where multimedia can be used.

The main objective of this course is to prepare students to become multimedia designers and engineers in their areas of expertise. This one-year full-time diploma course is targeted to students from multi disciplines.

The rest of this paper is organized as follows: section 2 describes the course structure and section 3 explains the resources needed to support the course. Finally, section 4 gives the conclusions.

2. Course Structure

The course comprises 6 subjects and 1 full-year project (equivalent to two subjects). The subjects include:

1. Introduction to Multimedia Information Systems,

2. Multimedia Programming,

3. Multimedia Design,

4. Multimedia Technology,

5. Multimedia Networking,

6. Multimedia Selections, and

7. Multimedia Software Development Project.

The descriptions of the subjects are as follows.

2.1. Introduction to Multimedia Information Systems

Topics: Multimedia Computers, Multimedia Technology, Media Taxonomy, and Multimedia Applications.

The aim of this subject is to provide an introduction to multimedia information systems, which includes multimedia technology, multimedia media, and applications.

The complexity of multimedia applications stress all components of a computer system (Gemmell et al., 1995; Ramanathan and Rangan, 1994). Multimedia requires great processing power to implement software codes, multimedia file systems, and corresponding file formats. The architecture must provide high bus bandwidth and efficient I/O. Storage and memory requirements include very high capacity, fast access times, and high transfer rates. In this subject, basic aspects of multimedia computers will be studied.

It is important to be familiar with different types of media, as multimedia itself refers to "many media". Typical media types are text, graphics, sound, and motion (Heller and Martin, 1995). These media contain several characteristic, such as temporal endurance (permanent or transient), granularity (continuous or discrete), baggage (low or high), detectability (low, medium or high), and media type (aural or visual).

To date, multimedia applications can be found in most disciplines. It is beneficial for students to explore multimedia applications in the areas they are familiar with. The purpose is to exploit the advantages of applying multimedia to non-computing areas.

2.2. Multimedia Programming

Topics: Introduction to programming, Program constructs, Multimedia objects, User interface programming, and Authoring.

Multimedia programming gives different emphasis from that of conventional programming. Multimedia programming is an exercise in building multimedia applications using visual languages and/or multimedia packages (Buford, 1994, Furuta and Stotts, 1995). Multimedia programming deals with user interface programming (Blattner, 1994). The languages used are very much visual based, rather than imperative based.

At the end of the semester, students are expected to master one visual programming language and one authoring package.

2.3. Multimedia Design

Topics: Scripting, User Interface, User Needs Analysis, Modelling, and Design.

This subject teaches how to design multimedia applications. To give a deep knowledge of multimedia design, an application in hypermedia is chosen. Hypermedia is selected because it is the science of relationships (Buford, 1994; Ginige et al., 1995). It concerns structuring, presenting, and giving users direct access to content and interconnections within an information domain. Hypermedia functionalities, such as navigation, annotation, and information overviews, enhance applications.

The importance of hypermedia design is based on the following (Garzotto et al., 1995; Ginige et al, 1995; Nanard et al., 1995). First, hypermedia applications involve many different components, such as navigation, user-interface, content storage, and existing preparation. Second, conventional data models such as data flow diagrams, entity-relationship diagrams, and object-oriented diagrams cannot represent the detailed elements of hypermedia applications. And third, many hypermedia developers have little experience incorporating hypermedia into their designs and implementation effectively. They also have little experience in evaluating hypermedia systems. Hence, there is a clear need to address a number of important issues in hypermedia design.

In this subject, several multimedia design methodologies are studied, particularly structured multimedia design (Isakowitz et al. 1995), object-oriented multimedia design (Schwabe and Rossi, 1995), and the HDM model (Garzotto et al., 1995).

2.4. Multimedia Technology

Topics: Digital Video, Image Compression, File systems and Operating systems for continuous media applications.

The study on digital video and image compression is important because reducing the amount of data needed to reproduce images or video saves storage spaces, increases access speed, and it is the only way to achieve digital motion video on personal computers (Buford, 1994; Fuhrt, 1994). Compression techniques clearly plays a crucial role in digital multimedia applications, since audio, image and video signals require vast amount of data. A number of compression techniques exist, such as JPEG, MPEG, etc (Buford, 1994; Fuhrt, 1994). Digital data compression relies on various computational algorithm, implemented either in hardware or in software.

The achievements of multimedia information systems faces a variety of technical problems, which are due in part to two characteristics of multimedia information: large amount of data and stringent temporal constraints of both delivery and recording. Conventional file systems and database management systems are not designed to meet the performance requirements of multimedia information systems (Buford, 1994). Knowing the problem faced by conventional file systems and operating systems, it becomes critical to find a solution for an efficient storage and retrieval of multimedia data.

2.5. Multimedia Networks

Topics: Multimedia Networking, Real-Time, Synchronization, Teleconferencing, and Distributed Multimedia.

Multimedia systems include multiple sources of various media either spatially or temporally to create composite multimedia documents. Consequently, synchronization plays an important part in orchestrating different medium to perform harmoniously (Buford, 1994).

A central issue of multimedia computing is how to provide real-time execution to enable delivery and presentation of continuous synchronized media (Rodriguez and Rowe, 1995; Fuhrt et al., 1995). In addition to requiring real-time execution, multimedia computing and networking methods must perform reliably. This imposes new requirements on network system components (Nahrstedt and Steinmetz, 1995). In this subject, the student studies the use of networking in multimedia applications.

Multimedia conferencing systems enable a number of participants to exchange various multimedia information via voice and data networks (Buford, 1994; Fuhrt, 1994). Each participant can send and receive video, audio and data, and can perform certain collaborative activities.

2.6. Multimedia Selections

Topics: Non-computing subjects with a focus on applying multimedia to those areas.

Each student is to choose a subject offered by a non-computing department, such as health/biology, film/television, arts, psychology, arts, marketing, with an emphasis on how multimedia can be applied to one of these areas (Schank, 1994; Simon et al., 1995; Woolf and Hall, 1995). Each student is to complete a minor multimedia project in this subject area. The project is presented in a seminar format at the end of the semester.

2.7. Multimedia Software Development Project

Topics: Software engineering, Project management, Team work, Software process, and Quality control (Testing).

This is a one-year project where students develop professional multimedia projects. Apart from developing projects, students are also taught project management, and conventional software engineering.

Sample projects includes: Computer-Based Tutorials (CBT), Multimedia Presentations, Multimedia Database Systems, Simulations, Multimedia Questions Banks, Experimental Systems, etc.

Computer-Based Tutorials (CBT)

CBT is a self learning tool. It consists of both lessons and assessment (Alonso et al., 1995; Schank, 1994; Woolf and Hall, 1995). The project is to develop a CBT for a subject which involves not only text, but also images, video, and animation.

Multimedia Presentations

Multimedia presentations are typically linear sequences of information, so the interfaces for users have often been organized along the time dimension. A presentation project can be developed to promote a product, to provide information, etc (Bieber and Kacmar, 1995; Buford, 1994; Vetter, 1995)

Multimedia Database Systems

Research and prototypes/products of multimedia database management systems are not matured yet (Buford 1994). However, it is possible to develop a database application with emphasis on storing and retrieving images, video clip, animation, etc, using an existing DBMS. This DBMS usually provides a data type, such as bitmap, to store objects. Students can experience developing a database application that contains many binary object fields (Kemp, 1995).


Most authoring tools provide simulation features. Simulation program can in fact be implemented by animation. Thus, this project concentrates on animation component of multimedia.

Multimedia Question Banks

Multimedia question banks typically consist of queries with multimedia features (Taniar and Rahayu, 1995, 1996). This means that the questions can be presented not only in text, but also in any other forms, eg., images, video. Students can experience building an on-line test 'paper' with multimedia features.

Experimental Systems

This project is concerned with implementing theoretical research projects, so that the benefits can be more recognized (Alonso et al., 1995; Carrier et al., 1995; Vetter et al., 1995)

3. Resources

Resources needed to run this course can be categorized into three classes: hardware, software, and personnel.

3.1. Hardware

Hardware requirements can be classified into basic requirements and optional. Basic hardware requirements include common equipment to run computer courses with an addition of multimedia kits (eg., CR-ROM, Sound Card, etc). Optional requirements list additional equipment which may also be used to support the course.

Basic Hardware Requirements: Pentium PCs with CD-ROM, Graphics/Video Cards, Multimedia Kits, Scanners, Laser Printers, Video Camera, and Photo Camera.

Optional: SGI Multimedia Workstations, Touched Screens, and Voice Recognition.

3.2. Software

The software requirements can be categorized into a) visual programming languages, b) database management systems with capability to store and retrieve images, c) authoring packages, and d) internet browsers.

Visual Programming Languages: Visual Basic, Java, and Visual C++.

Database Management Systems: Microsoft Access (or other Windows DBMSs), and O2 (or other OODBMSs).

Authoring Packages: any authoring packages which offer features such as animation, video clipping, sound, etc.

Internet Browsers: Netscape, etc.

3.3. Personnel

Personnel requirements for this course are a little different from those of computer science/information technology. Teaching and support staff must be innovative in multimedia. Thus, not all current computer science staff are qualified.

Teaching Staff

A person who is familiar with multimedia information systems to teach "Introduction to Multimedia Information Systems".

A person who is an expert in visual programming to teach "Multimedia Programming". Existing lecturers in imperative programming may or may not be experts in visual programming. It must not be mistaken that this subject is not a conventional programming subject. It is rather a programming subject with an emphasis on user-interface programming, visual programming and authoring. A person with a background of CBT coding and authoring may be suitable to teach this subject.

A person who is an expert in scripting and hypermedia design to teach "Multimedia Design". This subject is different from conventional analysis and design subject in computer science and information technology courses. An ideal person to take this subject would be a professional instructional designer.

A person who is an expert in image compressions and multimedia storage to teach "Multimedia Technology". It must be emphasized that the file systems and operating systems taught in this subject concentrate on multimedia aspects.

A person who is an expert in networking and its applications in multimedia to teach "Multimedia Networks". This subject covers not only basic networking but also problems and issues of networking for multimedia applications. Although the basic networking aspects are important, this subject must balance basic networking with multimedia networking. After all, the aim of this subject is to teach multimedia aspects of networking, not a conventional data communication or networking subject.

A person who is an active researcher in multimedia to become a convenor of the full-year project.

Support Staff

Technical support staff to handle hardware and software are required. A multimedia programmer to help students with programming problems is desirable.

4. Conclusions

We believe that we have entered an era where multimedia technology engages in most professional areas. This is an exciting time as the impact of multimedia technology is unavoidable. The proposed course prepares students to be leaders in their areas of expertise by employing multimedia technology.


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Taniar & Rahayu (c) 1996