u-Annotate – An Application for User-Driven Freeform Digital Ink Annotation of E-Learning Content

I supervised the master thesis project of Tim Sodhi from RWTH Aachen the project description below is taken from taken from the blog of Amin Chatti:

User-driven annotation of learning content allows the user to interact with it in a flexible and an intuitive manner and hence personalize the content. This interaction, in most cases, follows the “paper and pen” note-taking paradigm. Though not without its advantages, this paradigm does not scale when the courses are delivered online as web pages. These paper notes are not synchronous with the content, hence may seem out of context, they may be misplaced, and don’t make allowances for collaborative learning. In this project we have designed and implemented u-Annotate, a user-driven freeform digital ink annotation application for web e-Learning content which aims at facilitating the learner to annotate the online content with the aid of pen computing devices such as graphic tablets, etc. Learners can freely mark up the content, save the annotations for recall at a later date, as well as share these with other learners.

u-Annotate endeavors to completely replace the paper-and-pen paradigm for the annotating needs. With the aid of alternate input devices, the web page can be thought of as a digital canvas where the user can enter her notes in the marginalia, and draw in a freeform way with a myriad of tools, and enter text via a keyboard into special text boxes.

Flash 8 with ActionScript 2.0 was chosen to be the development tool of choice for the provision of the front-end and rendering/retrieval based on criteria which were a) Support for overlays: SWF files can be transparently overlaid on top of the HTML content. This is the ability to be transparently overlaid in a separate DIV layer with Z Index greater than that of the underlying content. b) Browser Independence: The Flash program once embedded in a web page, can be run on any browser that supports the Macromedia Flash 8 player plug-in. c) Performance: The suitability of the application depends in great part on the basis of how well it performs i.e. speed of rendering, the amount of CPU stress it entails etc. The Flash application performs quite well on these tests.

Project participants are Informatik V, RWTH Aachen University, Germany, bureau42 GmbH in Cologne, Germany and the Open University of Netherlands at Heerlen (NL).

For more informations, please visit the project homepage.