Providing Structured Multimedia Learning Environments-
Mosaic for the Internet
This paper is presented at the Association for
Applied Interactive Multimedia Conference, July 21-23, 1994,
Charleston, South Carolina.
Instructional Technology Developer
Center for Learning and Instruction (MCLI)
2411 West 14th Street fax: 602/731-8282
Tempe, Arizona 85281 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Internet is primarily used as an information system.
While Mosaic, the newest Internet navigation tool, is easy
to use, it can make a person feel lost among the
information. This presentation will focus on how instructors
easily create their own multimedia learning environments
that contain links to Internet-based information, using only
a simple text editor. Results are immediately usable on both
Macintosh and IBM computers.
Current metaphors of the Internet include a futuristic
of data, an interconnected labyrinth of rodent
holes, or a globe
encircling web. New computer tools have
greatly simplified the navigation of this vast landscape of
world-wide information. Exploring the Internet is one
thing, but how does one use it in a meaningful fashion? At
Community Colleges, we have found that after
the initial excitement of "going out there," many
instructors are left with a feeling of being lost, of not
knowing where or how to look for items of interest, much
less of how to bring it to their students. This paper will
present a rapid way to design an interactive, multimedia
learning environment. These "media" available may
incorporate almost any text, picture, sound, or digital
movie stored on the thousands of computers on the Internet.
Mosaic is a
free computer program offering "point and click"
access to Internet-based information. We have expanded
Mosaic's use beyond a tool of navigation. When used in
conjunction with any text editor program, Mosaic may provide
customized learning environments, easily created by
instructors or their students. In the popular analogy,
Mosaic is not only a vehicle to cruise the Information
Superhighway, but also a utility to construct some on-ramps.
In general, Mosaic provides:
- Association: Mosaic brings together media from almost any
networked site and provides access to such Internet services
as Gopher servers, WAIS databases, file archive (ftp) sites,
news groups, and Telnet (remote login) hosts.
- Application: It is easy and quick to create original
material that is distributable across multiple computer
- Interactivity: One can create the same branching/hypertext
links as one uses in standard authoring tools. This may be
used to link together related information or to provide
feedback to a user's response.
- Multimedia: Mosaic documents can contain formatted text,
This paper will focus on the types of interactive multimedia
that may be created by a non-programmer using a desktop
The World Wide Web
Mosaic is a "client" application, with versions for
Macintosh, IBM/Windows, and UNIX platforms that view
information provided by network "servers" of the "World Wide
Web" (WWW). The Web, essentially a subset of the Internet,
pioneered by European scientists to share computer-based
information by means of linking text in one document to
another relevant document, perhaps stored on a remote site.
The first of these WWW information browsers was text-based.
A linked piece of text was indicated by a number in
brackets, such as . By typing "1" into the keyboard, the
related document would appear. The advantage for users was
that to access the information, they did not need to know
cryptic commands or Internet address schemes.
A Mosaic View of the World Wide Web
The WWW hypertext browser has evolved into Mosaic, a
graphical interface more properly termed a "hypermedia"
browser. Mosaic was developed at the National Center
Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in Illinois. Via a
environment, Mosaic provides access to documents on the
Internet that contain not only formatted text, but also
graphics, sound, video, and links to other related
documents. These multimedia documents are linked together
by an addressing scheme known as a Uniform
(URL) that points to different computers, directories, or
individual files on the Internet. Mosaic is also an umbrella
with an interface that seamlessly gives access to Gopher
servers, file archive (ftp) sites, WAIS databases, and
Telnet (remote login) hosts.
The main elements of the Mosaic screen are the display area
(the page), pull down menus, and buttons for navigating
through documents. The user action is mostly driven by a
mouse. By default, the program first connects to a "home"
server, initially pointing to the NCSA site. The links to
other media are indicated by text or graphics underlined in
a key color. Simply clicking on the text will bring up
either another Mosaic page, play a sound file, or display a
graphic in a separate window. The linked media may reside
locally on the computer or on an Internet server on the
other side of the world. The user does not have to be
concerned with the technical details; to them, the media are
simply linked together at the click of a mouse.
The major requirement for running Mosaic is having a
connection from the desktop computer to a TCP/IP network
backbone on the Internet. With a high speed modem and
appropriate hardware/software access at a central site,
users can use Mosaic at home. Several commercial companies
also offer such Internet access.
HTML- The Language of Mosaic
A Mosaic document is delivered in a format known as
Markup Language (HTML). The transmitted data of an
HTML document are plain ASCII text that contain embedded
codes, or tags, denoted by "<" and ">" characters. These
codes determine whether a given piece of text is to be
displayed as one of six levels of headers, as stylized text
(bold, italic, underline), or if the text is a
link to some
other document or media. Graphics, sound, and video are sent
in standard binary formats that different types of computers
can receive, convert to a platform-specific format, and
display (GIF, JPEG for graphics, AU for sound, MPEG for
The standard file formats are what allow Mosaic documents to
be displayed on a number of platforms. As a provider of an
HTML document, one does not have to accommodate the
hardware, fonts, or operating systems, etc, of different
users; if a user can run the Mosaic program, they use the
developed material. The transmitted data are essential the
same, plain text and binary media files. When received by
the local Mosaic client (i.e. Macintosh vs Windows
versions), the data are displayed in the appropriate format
for that platform. When binary media are received, Mosaic
may automatically launch the correct "helper application" to
display the item. These programs are typically free or
shareware programs readily available from various Internet
Creating HTML Documents
Like any other multimedia application, with Mosaic one must
initially organize the content, design its flow, produce the
media, and continually test the functionality.
Because a Mosaic HTML document is plain text, the only tool
needed to create one is a plain text editor that comes with
system software, such as TeachText for the Macintosh or the
NotePad for Windows. A wide variety of documents may be
constructed using less than ten of the HTML codes. All
images, sounds, and movies to be used are converted to
"standard" formats with free or shareware programs. The
various media may be shared between different Mosaic
documents, since a given HTML file only points to the
location of the media file.
The creation process involves embedding appropriate HTML
codes in the text of a document. Here is a short example:
<title>Demo HTML Document</title>
The words enclosed by the "title" HTML code mark the text
that will appear in the title bar of the Mosaic window.
This document was designed to show AAIM readers an example
of an HTML document. The Introduction header is level "h1"
which is the highest level; you can have headers of level 1
to 6. All of the embedded codes are enclosed in the angle
brackets and are invisible as displayed. Mosaic offers
features to display styled text; i.e. <i>Italic</i>,
<b>Bold</b>, or <u>Underlined</u>.
The "p" code forces a paragraph. Mosaic ignores hard
carriage returns and extra space characters.
HyperText links are established with the "a" or "anchor "
tag. For example, <a
Center for Learning and Instruction</a> is now set the be a
link to our World Wide Web server. The anchor tag includes a
statement "href=...." where the right side of the equal
sign contains the URL address for the document, graphic,
Gopher Server, etc that the link will connect when the user
clicks in the text between the URL and the end of the end of
the anchor tag.
Click here to view in
This is saved as a file with a name that ends in ".html".
When opened in Mosaic, this document is displayed with the
"Introduction" header as a large text font, the marked text
with the indicated text styles, and a hypertext link to
another Internet WWW server.
A number of well-written HTML
guides are already available
on the World Wide Web. One way to start is to examine the
HTML structure of an existing document. Mosaic includes a
feature to save or view any page one finds on the Web as an
HTML file. This file may then be opened in a text editor and
compared to its display in Mosaic. We have made available
several template HTML documents that new users may
customize for their own lessons
session with HTML files typically includes having
the text editor open in a window adjacent to the Mosaic
screen. After modifying and saving the HTML text file, in
Mosaic one selects the option to open a "local " document.
The user indicates the location of the file, and the HTML
text file is displayed as a Mosaic page. With more changes
in the text editor, by issuing the "Reload" command, Mosaic
updates the current page. In this process, developers
quickly see the results as their students or users will see
Providing Mosaic Documents
The HTML documents created in the described manner may
contain the same media elements and links as any other
Mosaic page on the Internet. However, one does not have to
maintain an Internet server to deliver Mosaic documents.
Mosaic only looks for a HTML file and does not care if it
resides on a hard drive, a floppy disk, or a computer on a
different continent. A single lesson may be stored on a
floppy disk, and the same files may be used with either the
Macintosh or the Windows versions of Mosaic. In a lab
situation, the Mosaic programs may even be set up to
initially open to a local home page (stored on each machine
or a local file server) that directs users to information of
A rarely-mentioned feature of opening local documents is
that Mosaic may still be used even when the computer is not
connected to the Internet. For example, a Mosaic lesson that
does not links to external Internet sites could be used by
students at home or sites where Internet is unavailable.
Also, Mosaic documents may be created and tested without
having the Internet connection.
Structured Multimedia Learning Environments
The use of "structured" environment implies that Mosaic
users have some guidance for a particular discipline or
subject. This guidance may be the complete display of all
information, an index that points to related sources
available on the Internet, or a series of suggested steps to
get started. Mosaic offers offers an advantage that the
"structure" can relieve the "I feel lost" anxiety while
leaving paths available for other users that wish to
explore. For an instructor, this can address the needs of a
variety of different students. The student has control over
the pace, direction, and order in which they learn.
Several examples of these structured environments are:
Virtual or Navigational Spaces.
These are visual metaphors
in which users may travel different branches to interact
with some model of information. In these learner-controlled
spaces, users choose their own direction or order in which
to process some content. Examples are where information is
organized into some real-life model; a library, a train
station, a museum, in which
learners can select different
"places" to view information.
Example: The University of
California Paleontology Museum lets you wander through a virtual
museum of its exhibits and then explore related Internet resources
via a Subway
For these environments, the order in which
information is presented is tightly controlled. Learners
may only have the option to proceed to the next portion or
information (or also the previous). This might be used when
it is important the learners see every step in a process.
Example: In a Geology lab exercise, the procedure for determining the hardness property of a
mineral is a linear path.
Indexed information: The reader always has access to an
all topics. The information may be viewed sequentially or
randomly via a return to the index. Information is "chunked'
into chapters, and learners may decide which are the ones
they do or do not need to see.
Example: Students in a Physics course at Chandler-Gilbert Community College
used Mosaic to build an information base on Cosmology
and Particle Physics.
Feedback to response: The environment may include pre-
designed feedback (by playing sounds, showing an "OK"
graphic) to a list of selectable responses. This could
present a multiple choice type of review for a learner or
simulate a laboratory experience.
Example: A simple multiple
choice structure with visual feedback.
Many publications are offered now in
Mosaic format. This allows portions of the text to be linked
to other relevant information (i.e. a glossary, an image
illustrating a complex device, the pronunciation of a
medical term). It can be relatively easy to convert existing
text information to HTML format, and add appropriate links
or cross references when necessary.
Example: The Labyrinth-Forum
is a publication from the Maricopa Center for
Learning and Instruction
Indices to subject related resources:
sites have already accumulated lists of pointers to other
information arranged by subject. A Mosaic document might
contain a choice of research topics and links to starting
Example: This page on Philosophy
Resources is part of larger project, The
Source developed by an instructor who completed the MCLI tutorial
on creating Mosaic documents
Portfolios: Students themselves can be shown how to create
Mosaic documents that would present stories, poetry, music,
or art they have created.
Example: Students at Grand River
Elementary School created personal Mosaic pages.
Mosaic is exciting because of its ability to easily retrieve
and deliver multimedia via the Internet. The interface is
intuitive to most people in the way it associates relevant
information. The excitement grows when one understands how
easy it is to customize or structure the access to the vast
array of information on the Internet. For our faculty,
developing multimedia documents for the Mosaic is meeting a
desire to provide their students access to up-to-date
information. Yet, the development
of a Mosaic-based lesson
is something that instructors (and their students) can do
without computer programming. It draws upon existing text
and media, and it is quick to produce and deliver multimedia
Mosaic may or may not be the ultimate means of traveling the
much discussed "Information Superhighway." However, it is a
step farther in that direction. At the Maricopa Community
Colleges, we are actively experimenting with Mosaic's use as
a means of receiving as well as providing information for
the learning of both our students and their instructors.
For those that are interested, this paper is available from
our Internet server at the URL:
Limited numbers of copies on floppy disk (both Macintosh and
Windows formats) will be available to attendees of the 1994