IIMS 96 contents
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Multimedia wine making

John Messing, A. Birks and E. L. Cardosa
Charles Sturt University

A gold medal Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon or vintage Port from the slopes of the Douro are not normally things that one would associate with the development of a multimedia CD-ROM. Equally, the making of world class wines is not something that one normally associates with academia. These elements have however, come together in a project which has generated a great deal of interest among vignerons and students of oenology both in Australia and Europe.

Charles Sturt University (CSU) is one of the major providers of distance education in Australia and like all similar institutions, primarily uses print media to deliver its teaching materials. The School of Agriculture at the Wagga Wagga campus is responsible for, among other courses, a wine making course which has a world wide reputation as being of a high standard. As well as the teaching component, CSU operates a commercially viable winery which has produced wines of an exceptional quality that have been repeatedly recognised both in Australia and overseas. The research centre attached to the winery has conducted leading edge research into grape and wine production methods. Quite clearly, the staff responsible are extremely competent in their discipline areas. One of the courses is offered overseas through Escola Superior de Biotecriologia (ESB), Universidade Catolica Portuguesa, in Portugal.

While the text based material was adequate, it could not hope to convey nearly the same level of detail and sophistication found in good quality pictures and video segments of critical techniques. Grape and Wine Production (WSC110) is a subject which relies very heavily on the visual medium to convey many of its concepts correctly. Language was also a difficulty in that while the standard of English at ESB is very high, explanations in a native tongue were obviously preferable.

Challenges in designing a multimedia system

Making a multimedia system about grape and wine production presented some unique challenges. The subject matter almost demanded nothing less than full multimedia treatment. However, the highly practical nature of the content cast doubts whether anything except face to face demonstration was viable. Despite the general satisfaction with the result, there were some challenges that it could not possibly meet. Foremost among these was the inability to cater for two critical senses involved in the production of wine; taste and smell. It was agreed from the outset that the sensory evaluation module would be limited by what could be achieved using just visual means.

Since the time period covered by the content is essentially an annual cycle, there was a long time span over which material had to be collected and processed. At critical times such as harvest when the activity is at its peak, it was difficult to interrupt some processes to set up for video or still photography. Planning was even more important in such a situation than for many other multimedia projects because failure to get the right material could mean a delay of another twelve months. In retrospect, the skills of a movie producer would have made a valuable contribution to the project team.

While many of the techniques involved in the creation of a CD-ROM had been used before, the optimising of video material still posed a considerable challenge. The upper limit of 90k/sec for the data transfer from CD-ROM is a severe limitation. While faster CD-ROM drives may increase this limit, restrictions on frame size, colour depth and frame rate are likely to be around for the foreseeable future. Re-processing video footage using different settings in the compression software sometimes made a difference but whether it did or not could not be predicted. This resulted in having to spend considerably more time on manipulating video data than one would have liked.

The WSC110 materials

This subject is an amalgamation of a number of quite different aspects of the field of study. Each is a small introduction to the greater detail that will follow in later subjects in the course. While there are connections between some of these basic areas, their dissimilarity lent itself to a system which is composed of a number of discrete modules. A simple diagrammatic representation of the system is shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1

Figure 1: The major components of the WSC110 system

The four modules identified permit navigation between each other. A introductory screen was used for a variety of purposes including the setting of certain system parameters such as the language for sound files, whether a user history/ bookmark feature is activated, copyright and authorship details and as a table of contents to access the various sub systems in the first instance.

The educational and system design features that are common to each module include:

A typical screen is shown in Figure 2. Links are indicated by the grey underline below words. Where the links are to specific resources, a P or M precedes the link to indicate that it is a picture or movie. Glossary links do not have a prefix.

Figure 2

Figure 2: One scene from the Wine Making section

Implications for MM development

Use of redundancy

Apart from the widely reported potential for user disorientation (see for example McKnight et al, 1989 or Edwards and Hardman, 1989) one of the major problems associated with large information systems is catering for the different ways that users will want to achieve the same end result. It was a design requirement that redundancy would be built into the system to cater for this. Navigation is the most important function. Therefore the redundancy used to support this is the highest. There are at least five different methods of navigation in addition to those which are provided as part of the software system.

Redundancy was also built into the design in the way that users could access resources such as the pictures and movies. As well as clickable links from within the text which displayed these resources, buttons were provided to allow users to scroll through these without having to refer to the text. In evaluations of the system, the provision of such redundancy was rated as a very positive feature by students and staff. It facilitated a much more flexible approach to the way that students made use of the system.

Content maps

De Vries and Kommers (1993) claim that concept mapping has proved to be a valuable tool in the navigation of complex hypermedia networks. The design of a content map component which would also display the relationships between various sections did indeed, prove to be a valuable navigation and user orientation aid. A significant improvement over many implementations of such a feature is the use of a separate window to display the content map. Ibis allows the user to browse the content map without forcing them to "leave" that location. Research (Messing 1990) has shown that in some hypermedia usage trials, access to a content map can account for the single largest navigation action; almost 20% of all navigation actions. Providing access to a content map as an additional window reduces the disruptive effect and disorientation that users experience.


A great deal is written on the design and development of hypermedia and multimedia systems. Projects which are reported in the literature are invariably at an early stage in their life cycle, either just established or even still in development. Maintenance has not really become an issue. However, this has to be an issue with distance education materials which require frequent revision to retain relevance and credibility. Systems which take too long to revise or indeed, defy revision altogether, are not viable vehicles for most educational settings.

The revision of text or graphic material is relatively straight forward and is little different from traditional publishing methods. What is difficult with hypermedia systems is the revision of the links. Systems which rely on manually linking each hotword or button are error prone and extremely cumbersome to deal with unless the number of links is small. As Woodhead (1990) points out, the ability to generate links from a batch of dynamic data items is one of the highly desirable characteristics of modem hypermedia systems.

Embedded text links, as well as the index and the graphic and movie button links, are created and maintained using a master table approach. Each resource has entries in a master table. To add an additional entry is a relatively simple task. A procedure can then be activated so that the entire system is searched for all references and appropriate links or other structures created. This makes the task of maintenance much more manageable. Unfortunately, the way that the content map was developed could not accommodate a similar process. This still remains a manual task but since each module only has one content map, it is an acceptable overhead. A diagrammatic representation of how the data is organised is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3

Figure 3: The data organisation within each card of the system

The procedure which makes these modifications provides a summary report of the links created that includes the screen number of every instance as well as a total count. In the case of the glossary, this proved to be a valuable tool for the content experts. On more than one occasion it turned out that terminology included in the glossary was omitted or under-used in the main body of the text. While the creation of links worked well, the initial version made a common error in that no provision was made to remove redundant links. This is a serious problem in the maintenance of hypermedia systems. Erasing and re-building the links is a time consuming process but one which can be carried out without human intervention or supervision.

Multilingual hooks

The data structures that were used to construct access to resources also had to cater for multilingual access. Selection of either Portuguese or Australian for the text in the captions or glossary explanations was a critical design feature. While the Portuguese students' grasp of English was generally of a very high standard, the explanation of key pieces of information in their native language was an important part of the design specification. The system of master tables described above, also makes it relatively easy to extend the system to include other languages.

Use of sound

Sound is a commonly used medium in multimedia systems. It was considered an important part of the system in the original specification. However, on further investigation it was removed for a number of compelling reasons. These reasons have implications for developers of multimedia systems for education. The final system was to be used in both a stand alone as well as computer laboratory environment. Sixteen different sounds all playing simultaneously in a computer laboratory was not considered conducive for the users' concentration. This could have been remedied by the inclusion of a feature which allows for optional turning off any sound resources, a feature which should be compulsory in any multimedia system, but there were other reasons as well.

Video, sound and to a much lesser extent, graphics, are voracious users of storage and processing capacity. Their inclusion needs to be justified on the basis of the value that they add to the purposes of the system. Sound is often used for its entertainment rather than educational value. In this particular case, sound could not be justified. Simply hearing an explanation read out did nothing to improve comprehension. Audio explanations on their own are not good sources of learning material. They result in misinterpretation and because they play at the one rate, frequently require replaying for the correct meaning to come through. Text on the other hand, may be read at the user's pace and is far less ambiguous and open to misinterpretation. This was especially important given the multilingual nature of the users.

MM team composition

The need for a team in developing any computer based material, especially multimedia, is widely reported in the literature and accepted as a logical extension of traditional computer systems approaches. Tasks such as project management, graphic design, programming and instructional design are important activities and are often carried out by different members of the team. While some studies such as Canale and Wills (1993) report on the role of the project manager in affecting the project, very little is actually written on what were considered two significant aspects of the team's activities; communication between team members and creation/specification of the source material.

The great deal of time was consumed in meetings which discussed things that one would have thought would be relatively straightforward. The content maps for example, were critical to the organisation and development of the system. After several meetings where the purpose of the content map were outlined, other examples examined and ideas brainstormed, one would have thought that the development of the content maps could proceed. However, the results were extremely variable and the final results took a great deal more time to develop. It was an assumption that the content experts, extremely capable and knowledgeable in their fields, could easily translate this expertise into appropriate structures for the project. This assumption proved false! It took a considerable amount of effort on everyone's part to make this translation.

Canale (1993) reports a similar phenomenon and expresses disappointment at the slow progress that was made but offers some explanations. Some of these were also found as part of this project. One the whole, the content experts took a 'wait and see' approach, preferring to see what the others had produced before committing themselves. This greatly slowed progress. The development of this material was in addition to other duties and it was inevitable that deadlines were not met due to the high priority of other pressures. Contrary to popular opinion, giving the content experts some time release from their teaching and administrative duties would have done little to help. It was often not possible to release them when they were most needed and in periods where they had available time, there may not have been an appropriate task for them to do because of the stage of the project. It is not simply a scheduling problem!

Conventional wisdom about multimedia development uses a production model involving specialists for project management, graphic design, programming/production, instructional design and content. This involves a considerable amount of communication between all the members of the team. Modern industrial strategies are based on multiskilling rather than specialisation. There is no doubt that a multiskilled approach would have been more productive even if only from the point of view that the communication process would have been easier.


Evaluations by students, staff and instructional designers have praised the end result as a considerable improvement in the style of learning material used within the course. All the usual predictions of the value of video and graphics to present complex situations and accurate concept formation have been vindicated. The Grape and Wine Production subject embodies aspects which are directly transferable to many other subjects and courses within CSU and the wider educational community. While the use of multiple media and educational features is relatively routine, the use of data structures which support maintenance and the incorporation of multilingual components is considered a significant achievement.


Canale, R. (1993), The production of discipline specific clip media and some of its problems: A case study. In Lo, B. W. N. (Ed), Reaching out with IT. Lismore, Australian Society for Computers In Learning In Tertiary Education.

Canale, R. and Wills, S. (1993), Producing professional interactive multimedia: Project management issues. In Lo, B. N. N. (Ed), Reaching out with IT. Lismore, Australian Society for Computers In Learning In Tertiary Education.

De Vries, S. and Kommers, P. (1993), Concept mapping as a mind tool for exploratory learning. In Maurer, H. (Ed), Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia Annual 1993. Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, Charlottesville.

Edwards, D. and Hardman, L. (1989). Lost in hyperspace: Cognitive mapping and navigation in a hypertext environment. In McAleese, R. (Ed), Hypertext: Theory into practice. Oxford, Blackwell.

McKnight, C., Dillon, A. and Richardson, J. (1989). Problems in Hyperland? A human factors perspective. Hypermedia, 1(2), 167-178.

Messing, J. (1990). The use of content and teaching strategy control features in computer assisted courseware. MEd dissertation, Charles Sturt University.

Woodhead, N. (1990). Hypertext and Hypermedia: Theory and Applications. Wilmslow, Sigma Press.

Please cite as: Messing, J., Birks, A. and Cardosa, E. L. (1996). Multimedia wine making. In C. McBeath and R. Atkinson (Eds), Proceedings of the Third International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 274-279. Perth, Western Australia, 21-25 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1996/lp/messing.html

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