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CIMEL: Constructive, collaborative Inquiry-based

Multimedia E-Learning*


Glenn David Blank, Associate Professor, 610-758-4867,

William M Pottenger, Assistant Professor, 610-758-3454,

G. Drew Kessler, Assistant Professor, 610-758-4818,

Martin Herr, Undergraduate Developer, 610-758-6305,

Harriet Jaffe, Research Assistant, 610-758-6305,

Soma Roy, Research Assistant, 610-758-3737,


Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science

Lehigh University

19 Memorial Drive West

Bethlehem PA 18015


We are developing a multimedia framework for constructive and collaborative, inquiry-based learning for introductory, upper-level and graduate computer science courses. Constructive learning goes beyond learning by receiving knowledge, to learning by building systems, with immediate, visual feedback. Collaborative learning encourages students to interact with instructors and librarians, via both live links and remote-controlled “show me” sessions or by reviewing a multimedia FAQ of recorded “show me” sessions. Inquiry-based learning guides the student into pursuing exploratory research in a community of students and scholars. A reference librarian persona will suggest research topics, then help extract content from both traditional library resources as well as dynamically mined material, answer typical questions and help construct annotated bibliographies, reviews and research proposals.    The framework will be an integrated, multi-track model, allowing students to select content according to their background, interests and course requirements. Within this general framework, we plan to develop content for three courses in the Computer Science curriculum, ranging from Introduction to Computing (CS1) at the freshman level to Object-Oriented Software Engineering (OOSE) at the graduate level.  We have gathered baseline evaluation data for the CS1 and OOSE courses that is currently under analysis.


Since the project began in October 2000, we have developed a prototype for OOSE with Abstract Data Types as our sample content. The prototype includes an exercise to find emerging trends in topics related to students’ research interests by mining relevant textual databases. The reference librarian persona guides the user through the process of detecting such trends in a “show me” session. A network interface specification outlines how CIMEL will facilitate collaborative sessions between students, instructors and librarians.  A review panel, consisting of the project team and external experts, will  assess the prototype, analysis and design documents, programming guidelines, and evaluation plan.  We will then design and implement an alpha version of the multimedia, collaborative interface and hot topics engine by the end of the summer, and evaluate it in classes next fall.  The prototype, documents, and evaluation materials can be seen at



* This project is funded by National Science Foundation (Grant No : EIA-0087977)