Abstract

With the increasing diversification, complexity and globalization of our society, distance learning is gathering wide attention because it is expected it will provide a very flexible learning environment.

But most of the conventional distance learning systems are still of such presentation types as TV, Video, etc, which passes information only from a teacher to students, and they are developed without any consideration to the interaction among students. Thus, although the system may be described as being the system for one to many relation, the fact is that a teacher has to take care of each student independently so that the burden of a teacher increases tremendously with the increase of the number of students.

Although TV conferencing type systems have been introduced into the area of distance learning recently, the consideration of the interaction among students is still poor.

In the conventional classroom, at least in Japan, not only teacher-student relation is important, but also student-student relation is none the less important, because it will constitute a buddy system among themselves and they learn interactively by playing the role of a teacher from time to time. And this serves a great deal in letting them find important points by themselves and raise new questions.

This has an advantage on the part of a teacher, too, because it will greatly reduce his or her burdens, and make it possible for him or her to adapt to each classroom situation and change their pace or contents of teaching.

Therefore, we developed a networkcentric prototype system for interactive distance learning, considering not only interaction between a teacher and a student but also among students. This system will largely reduce the burden of a teacher because it will facilitate the collaboration in learning among students and because it is developed based on a client/server approach and by evaluating the progress of each student.

The introduction of a client/server approach makes it possible to manage the personal records of each student’s achievement level on a server and to construct a hierarchical structure automatically based upon them. Thus, well advancing students can play the role of a teacher when needed and students can learn very interactively and very collaboratively, thus reducing the burden of a teacher to a great extent.

It should be stressed that the same kind of problems arise between a designer and manufacturing engineers. Up to now, our information flow is one way from designer to manufacturing engineers and although concurrent engineering succeeded in realizing interactions between designers and manufacturing engineers, the interaction between manufacturing engineers are still very poor so that it will eventually increase the burden of designers which will result in poor quality design or in poor decision making at the earlier stages.

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