The project MATHESIS originates as a consequence of two converging markets: that of Education and that of Multimedia.
Two very significant facts about the Education Market are:
the Technology Based Learning used in real-life is much simpler than the results of previous R&D; actions (such as the previous DELTA Programme) suggest
education publishers are very interested in new technologies, such as multimedia and CD-ROM, but are also quite reluctant to commit due to the diversity and incompatibility of tools.
The market of multimedia applications has emerged recently and is growing rapidly with the commercialisation of both software and hardware tools by some of the largest producers in information technology and computers (Apple, Philips, IBM, Microsoft, etc) with the cost of multimedia hardware platforms for running Interactive Multimedia Applications is decreasing drastically, with commercial prices of a diversity of platforms targeted at under 1000 ECU.
In this context, a real and practical issue for publishers is to master the production of the contents of multimedia applications independently of the multimedia platforms used for their delivery.
MATHESIS proposes to take into account these two market orientations by providing learners and authors with an Educational Workbench which :
operates on the most popular stand-alone workstations i.e. Windows and Macintosh
provides an innovative functionality of Interactive Multimedia Applications, especially for delivering multimedia courseware on CD-ROM;
is strongly oriented towards Training and Education.
The project produced a workbench providing the user with a coherent and flexible 'look and feel' both on Macintosh and Windows hardware platforms for accessing either local resources or distant facilities via local area networks and to some extent, ISDN. It contained features to support production and execution of multimedia and hypermedia courseware.
Following trials in real-life environments and validation of the courseware production environment delivered by an interactive multimedia CD-ROM for teaching algebra to teenagers, the project defined a methodology of production under commercial constraints, in close co-operation with two educational publishers.
MATHESIS reported differences in the likely uptake of the workbench between the publishing and the professional training area, with the former showing more interest in the complete system and the latter more in the methodology applied to commercial packages.
In the frame of MATHESIS courseware is seen as:
an interactive multimedia application (IMA): The IMA objects encapsulate the interactivity of the application and provide all the advanced multimedia features taking advantage of the hardware platform capabilities
controlled by Education oriented strategies: The structures controlling the organisation of the courseware can be program oriented, information oriented, simulation oriented or strategy oriented.
Such an organisation of the courseware reflects the complementarity of:
the production of basic materials, usually with such tools as word processors, drawing software, multimedia composers, etc.
the design of the course, usually with such tools as a CASE tool or a program designer to organise the access to the basic materials of the course.
A Courseware Editor provides the author with the functions required for producing the courses. The Courseware Browser is a run-time environment enabling a learner to launch a MATHESIS courseware on several platforms, independently of the production platform. A key issue for the project is the possibility to use distinct hardware platforms for the production and the subsequent use of the courseware. Two hardware platforms are considered within MATHESIS: Macintosh and Windows.
In producing or consulting courses, the author and the learner also need an environment supporting their educational activities and providing some general interest services: annotation, session management, accessing remote educational servers, etc.
Such an environment, called the MATHESIS Workbench, will provide its services through a platform dependent 'Look & Feel' for both Macintosh and Windows.
The basic objective within the project MATHESIS is to reach the stage of pre-industrial products for the Courseware Editor & Browser and for the Workbench the only remaining stage being their packaging. Two environments will be defined incorporating the above components:
The production environment which will be available on Macintosh and under Windows.It will contain the Courseware Editor and the Workbench.
The run-time environment for courseware developed with the MATHESIS tools will also be available on Macintosh and under Windows.It will contain the Courseware Browser and the Workbench and could be delivered with the courseware, mainly on CD-ROM.
Another objective is to prototype an Educational Server which will be accessed through LANs and ISDN by the MATHESIS Workbench. Tools will be included in the Workbench to enable:
an author to store a new courseware on the server
a learner to select a course and to launch it from the server.
Such an Educational Server is developed within MATHESIS to evaluate the Workbench and the reaction of customers to several strategies of courseware delivery, but this is not intended to be a product in itself.
MATHESIS aims at developing and testing a multi-platform, multimedia editing environment for the production of interactive multimedia courseware. In order to evaluate the success of MATHESIS, the third year of the project will be devoted to real-life experiments in the two following market areas:
a) The market for a multi-platform, multimedia Production Environment
This market is the one of publishers and owners of author rights who intend to create courseware on CD-ROM, and who nowadays cannot find any real tool available for producing multi-platform multimedia titles. The MATHESIS Production Environment is therefore a professional tool targeting publishers in the business of producing commercial interactive multimedia courseware.
The titles developed with MATHESIS will be distributed on CD-ROM with the MATHESIS run-time for consultation. The strategy is to include royalties (about 1 ECU per copy) in the price of the distributed title.
b) The market of Interactive Multimedia Courseware
2.5 million CD-ROM drives were installed throughout the world in 1992 and this figure is forecast to reach 10 million in 1994, when the MATHESIS tools will become available. Nowadays, a good title has a distribution of 20.000 copies for a price of 30 ECU (publisher's price), generating an income of 600 KECU per title.
The basic idea of the MATHESIS project is that courseware developed with the MATHESIS production tools will enable at least the same income.