Meeting Minutes and Reports
B a c k 
  • Email from client to Greg Welch
  • December, 2000
  • Re: Proposed Software Project

Hi Greg,

Here's an idea for a class project that might be doable in one semester if you are still shopping for things to do. It has a nice range of composition elements:

I'm an A&S staff computing consultant and am presently consulting on a project at the Foreign Language Resource Center (FLRC) at Dey Hall (A&S/ROML) that is involved with a web-based, instructional technology application. It is called "Oral Text Learning" and is a system developed by the Director (Dr. Jim Noblitt) which involves learning language by listening to foreign language popular music (mostly straight audio, but some streaming music videos as well) from course web pages using a RealAudio server accompanied by the native and english translation texts. It is a technique that combines access to real-world examples of the syntax, dialect, intonation, etc. of the languages with a presentation method that gets (and holds) the interest of most students.

While we have the presentation-end down pretty well, what we need is help with some production-end tools. The popularity of the technology has presented some production burdens that need to be better distributed if the system is to be successful in the long-run. While we have staff available to load the web pages with the applicable materials, getting the materials represents something of a problem.

The Professors and Instructors need to provide the production staff with the audio/video, text and graphics in some form that the production people can put up the finished product with. To date, this usually comes as a music CD or tape with the track wanted annotated, a disk with the text in some file form and, perhaps a graphic of the artist or group included too. The form is not very consistent and stuff gets lost which is a problem. As you might imagine, it can be a big problem when a production person is given the text to enter in a language that they are not familiar with.

All of this makes the process very lengthy and arduous at best. What I am hoping to do is to push lots of this work back to the originators by providing them with authoring tools that they can do much of this themselves with. This will involve the packaging of a few standard technologies into a single application that is designed strictly for this purpose, i.e. no-frills, simple, drop-dead easy to learn and use. The concept WILL NOT WORK in my experience of it is not drop-dead-easy for the below-average computer-phile to learn and use. If it can be made fun to use, then all the better.

The application would take the user through the steps to create/gather the digital materials needed to put a presentation together. Here is what I am looking for it to do:

  1. Do you have an audio CD that you would like to provide a track from? All of the CCI machines are capable of digital audio extraction from their CD-ROM drives. If yes, the user is prompted to insert the audio cd. Okay. It is checked and if present, a list of tracks is displayed. Choose a track. Listen to it. Extract the track to a wave file and give it a name. The track is saved to a default network location where the production people will look for it.
  2. Do you want to include the language text? Yes. Okay, here is the template for the native language and English texts. Please enter them side-by-side. Oops! Made a goof? Want to start over? Want some help? Sorry, you can't do that! The columns must be kept this size. Ready to save it now? Wanna give it a name? Looks good. I like it! Please wait. I'm dumping your native language text into another template for displaying just the native language without the English translation. Please wait, I'm saving your work for you.
  3. Wanna send a graphic to go with this stuff if you have it already?
  4. Wanna send some instructor's lesson notes to be accessible from the web lesson? Okay, let's do it!
  5. All Done? Okay, but you'll need to complete this order form which will have some stuff we need to know - your authorization code, due date, etc. A copy is going to be packaged with your other stuff being sent to the production directory. Oh, we'll also send this order page to the production staff e-mail box and you'll get a copy for your records in yours.
  6. Oops! Don't wanna do any of the above but need to take down an existing page or put a hold on or make changes to an open production order? Okay. We can do that.

I think that you can see much of what we are going to need. We don't have anything like this now and it won't be a show stopper if we don't find something. Please let me know if you have any questions or if this project proves to be of interest to you students.

Kind regards,
B a c k