To view multimedia teaching materials through the Internet and access online computer labs, a computer system on the client side should have some of the following hardware and software installed. Some of the software and hardware can also be installed on server computers.
Workstation Operating Systems
The operating systems on the client side should be able to access a remote server and run some application software required by a technology-based course. For example, instead of using the Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition, a client computer should use the Microsoft Windows XP Professional Edition. The Windows XP Professional Edition allows a user to install the Web server software, Internet Information Services (IIS), which is needed to run the application software such as Microsoft VisualStudio.NET or Virtual Machine Remote Control. Another option is to use a Linux operating system. Some vendors provide the desktop version of Linux.
A multimedia-based lecture requires audio equipment to be installed on client computers in order to handle voice, music, and other sound. Usually, a computer has built-in audio equipment such as a headphone port, speaker port, and ports for powered and unpowered microphones. Some of the computers have low cost built-in speakers. For e-learning purposes, these devices are good enough. If a speaker
and microphone are not included in a student’s computer system, he/she needs to
purchase them for the online courses.
It can make big difference if voice, sound effect, and music are added to a text-based lecture. In e-learning, audio can be used to explain complex concepts, and express the emphases in a lecture’s notes. Digital audio comes in many different formats.
The following are some commonly used digital audio file types.
• Pulse Code Modulation (PCM): PCM is a generic digital audio data format. It is commonly used for storing and transmitting uncompressed digital audio. It can be read by most audio applications.
• WAV: WAV is the default format for digital audio on Windows PCs. WAV files are uncompressed and take up a lot of space.
• AIFF: AIFF is the default audio format for Macintosh. AIFF format can be compressed and is supported on most other platforms and by most audio applications.
• AU: AU is the default format for Sun systems. The AU format can be compressed and is supported on most other platforms and by most audio applications.
• MPEG audio: MPEG created by Motion Picture Experts Group (MPEG) is a family of open standards used for compressed audio including MP2, MP3, and AAC.
Usually, different types of audio files are not compatible with each other. Fortunately, most of the audio players are able to support multiple formats. There are many tools available for converting digital audio to different formats. To have better sound quality, you can use the data streaming technique, which stores several seconds of data in a buffer before playback.
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