<---- Poster from CAUSE97 Conference ---->
From WinCALIS to WebCALIS:
Re-creating a Multimedia Windows Learning Application in Java for the Web
Richard A. Kunst
Director, OIT Humanities Computing Facility, Duke University
What is WinCALIS?
- WinCALIS is the "Computer Assisted Language Instruction System for Windows," a language learning and authoring system for DOS and Windows under development at Duke University since 1979.
- WinCALIS permits language teachers to create multimedia materials for learning almost any language in the world, using the Unicode/ISO 10646 worldwide character set.
- It encourages active language production, via user-friendly interfaces, for languages ranging from Arabic to Japanese, with extensive facilities for analyzing user responses and generating rich and meaningful feedback.
What is WebCALIS?
- WebCALIS is a new version of WinCALIS rewritten in the Java programming language.
- For the past year Humanities Computing Facility staff have been re-creating WinCALIS as a World Wide Web application, written entirely in the Java programming language.
- WebCALIS can run either as an applet in a Web browser or as a stand-alone program.
Presenter's Contact Info:
Director, Humanities Computing Laboratory
301 W. Main St. Suite 400-I
Durham, NC 27701 USA
Java - The Promise
- Cross-platform support for Windows, Macs, and Unix ("write once, run anywhere")
- Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP) support, giving seamless integration with the World Wide Web
- Built-in Unicode-based Internationalization support (whereas in WinCALIS Unicode support was all roll-your-own)
- An elegant, attractive, and relatively easy-to-learn object-oriented development language
Java - The Problems
- An immature, unstable, and constantly changing development environment
- Especially weak Java "virtual machine" support for Macintosh computers
- Problems in reconciling differences in "look and feel" within a single product
- a mouse with 1 button on the Mac, 2 buttons in Windows, and 3 buttons in Unix
- multiple application menu bars in Windows, a single menu bar on the Mac
- Slow speed of execution of Java byte code (not as big an issue as is claimed)
- More intermediate layers for something to go wrong in
- Slowness to achieve full implementation of Sun's Java Development Kit (JDK) 1.1 within the Web browsers, Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer
- Internationalization difficulties, especially with rendering characters beyond the local code page faithfully in a "text area," rather than a "canvas"
- Security restrictions imposed on Java applets, preventing them from accessing the user's local hard drive--i.e., no opening and saving of local files
- Political squabbling between Sun and Microsoft
The Conversion Process
The conversion of WinCALIS to Java WebCALIS includes:
- Translating C code into Java code --sometimes this involves a loose re-creation, sometimes a direct line-for-line modification.
- Redefining Windows-based graphics, audio, and video standards (.BMP, .WAV, .AVI) for the multi-platform Internet (.GIF and .JPG, .AU, and .MPEG).
- Attempting to achieve cross-platform operability on Windows, Macintosh, and Unix computers, despite the different look and feel of the user interface on these platforms.
- Delivering Unicode-compliant worldwide language support on the Web, including "input method editors" (IMEs) and cross-platform character fonts.
- Replacing binary-coded scripts (.WCL files) and subsidiary files used in WinCALIS with plain-text equivalents, using a markup language, for delivery across multiple platforms in WebCALIS.
How Does it Work?
- WebCALIS, like WinCALIS, interprets "scripts" written by authors using an authoring system, WinCALIS Author. WinCALIS Author generates scripts in a high-level scripting language called CALIScript.
- A WebCALIS user first launches his or her Web browser, such as Netscape Navigator, then goes to a site on the Web to load the WebCALIS applet.
- He or she can then go anywhere else on the Web to load and execute interactive learning exercises.
- Exercises can draw on components gathered in one site or scattered all over the globe.
- To try out WebCALIS yourself, point your Java-enabled (JDK 1.1) browser, such as Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 or Netscape Communicator 4.03 (with "Java patch" installed) to:
Return to the Main WinCALIS Page