A Distributed Virtual Learning Centre in Cyberspace CHRISTOS BOURAS Computer Technology Institute-CTI, Kolokotroni 3, 26221 Patras, Greece Department of Computer Engineering and Informatics, University of Patras, 26500 Rion, Patras, Greece DIMITRIS FOTAKIS Computer Technology Institute-CTI, Kolokotroni 3, 26221 Patras, Greece Department of Computer Engineering and Informatics, University of Patras, 26500 Rion, Patras, Greece ALEXANDROS PHILOPOULOS Department of Computer Engineering and Informatics, University of Patras, 26500 Rion, Patras, Greece Abstract. In this paper, we present a user-friendly 3D Distributed Virtual Environment (DVE) that would be used for on-line access to educational multimedia material over the Internet. We design and develop this application and the corresponding Graphical User Interface (GUI) in the framework of the European project “Virtual European School” (VES) whose aim is to develop a comprehensive resource of teaching material for secondary school education and to provide access to this material over Internet. It is a web-based application that is being developed as a client/server architecture using standard protocols and technologies such as TCP/IP, HTTP, HTML, Java and appropriate 3D formats. 1. Introduction Distributed Virtual Environments (DVEs) represent a rapidly expanding area of research. Most commercial VR systems provide some kind of networking, albeit often only to limited extent, and an increasing number of VR research platforms are appearing which support more sophisticated and scalable forms of distribution [2,10,11,16,17]. At the same time, the Internet has also become a viable platform for DVE deployment and DVE capabilities are entering the Web browser. For example, the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) [1,5] enables users to download interactive 3D models over the World-Wide-web. The Living Worlds standard  adds multi-user access capabilities to these VRML models and other extensions to VRML, such as the recommended practices for SQL database access , enable the development of DVEs for corporate and business applications. With standard web browsers as an execution engine for DVEs and while new networking protocols are evolving [3,4], the Internet will increasingly become the most common DVE enabler. This paper describes the concept and implementation of a “Distributed Virtual Learning Centre” as a site in the Internet that will provide educational multimedia material. In particular, in Section 2 we first provide general information about the European project VES, in the framework of which we develop this particular application. Then, Section 3 presents the main characteristics and functionalities of the Virtual Learning Centre. Section 4 gives a detailed information about the technical issues that we deal with. Finally, in Section 5 we provide some concluding remarks and the plans for our future work.
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