WWW Conferencing

peter Murray-rust (p.murray-rust%MAIL.CRYST.BBK.AC.UK@vm.ucs.UAlberta.CA)
Thu, 8 Jun 1995 23:07:06 +0100

I'd agree with everything that has been said and add a bit more from our
own experience.  On Principles of Protein Structure we had three type of
human-human interaction:
        - MOO (specifically BioMOO)
        - mail/HyperMail (7 different lists)
        - posting WWW pages
These all have different time scales and serve different purposes.  The
MOO allows you to find someone instantly (if they are logged in).  We
didin't use it for teaching, though the next VSNS course (Biocomputing)
is doing so - as far as I know very successfully.  It's a great way of
getting people together (if they like MOOs - my own experience is that
about 15% seem to take to it).  It's useless for presenting reasoned
arguments , computer code, etc.
        mail / hypermail is valuable and well worth having several lists
for a course (ours were: general, technical, admin, projects, students,
backbone (i.e. core material), and hyperglossary).  This allowed us to
separate the "What are we doing this week" from "I can't get X to compile".
There were threads within those lists, but I agree that hupermail doesn't
organise them brilliantly.  I think it's useful to have the choice
between mail/hypermail - I prefer to read this course in hypermail since
there is a lot of traffic.
        (Be aware that setting up mailling lists isn't always trivial and
depends on good relations with your postperson.  We had a lot of initial
problems, epsecially depending on who could mail whom.  An all-mail-all
list is a disaster for a course with 250 people!  We also found that 10%
of the mail addresses bounced - even immediately after people had mailed us.
(As an example, I cannot 'reply' to this list - I have to post to a
different alias).)

        In technical subjects WWW pages are probably the only simple way
of transferring complex data (computer code, chemical diagrams, etc).
(We are working towards trying to mail chemical structures).  If people
have there own servers - or accounts on a central server - it can be
quite quick to post pages which give technical material.  We didn't do that
very much, but there was a LOT of pointing to other pages - e.g. "Where
is an example of a protein that... "  "have a look at ... on http:// ..."
I can see this sort of thing being very useful for many subjects (art,
mathematics, geography, ...) where resources already exist on the web and
part of the skill of the course is to discover those which are relevant
to a particular problem.


Peter Murray-Rust, Glaxo Research & Dev. (pmr1716@ggr.co.uk); (BioMOO: PeterMR)
Birkbeck College, ubcg09q@cryst.bbk.ac.uk, CBMT/Daresbury mbglx@seqnet.dl.ac.uk
http://www.cryst.bbk.ac.uk/PPS/index.htm, http://www.dl.ac.uk/CBMT/HOME.htm