Since the early days, when computers had been interconnected for the first time, they were used to share information. In other words, they were used to establish a flow of information, not only between machines, but between people. Over the years, the number of connected computers has grown exponentially. At the same time, the communication speeds have been increasing significantly. Almost all networks are now connected together and can be summarized by the term ''Internet''. The Internet now is fast and versatile enough to be seriously used in every day life. We don't limit the Internet to simple communication tasks any more. We also work and learn together over the Internet. The use of computers and computer networks is especially conducive to learning since they are basically information tools.
Currently, the United States educational system spends large amounts of money to expand the usage of computers and networks in education. The Internet21, for example, is a collaborative effort to build an improved network for science and education. Over 140 U.S. universities are working together with partners in industry and government. When complete, it should improve applications like telemedicine, digital libraries and virtual laboratories on a large scale, which are only limited possible with the networks of today. Another project is the Next Generation Internet2, which is a federally led initiative driven by similar goals. It works close together with the Internet2 project in many areas.
This thesis describes the development of a collaborative education communication tool, called the Distributed Virtual Graphics Laboratory. This application is mainly intended to be used by geographically distributed users like researchers, and teachers and students in order to work together on image based material. The system provides a virtual shared space, which is visible and accessible interactively by all participants. This virtual space is used mainly to share images, but also other objects like drawings, annotations and provides a group discussion facility.
The first chapter of this document gives a brief introduction of the world of Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) and explains where the developed software fits into the world of cooperative work. Examples of similar existing products are given. Chapter 2 gives a more detailed description of the distributed virtual graphics laboratory itself. Chapter 3 covers design aspects and preparatory work that had been done prior the actual implementation phase. Finally, chapter 4 describes the implementation and internal structure of the application. The last chapter, chapter 5, gives some concluding words about the project and discusses future work that should be done.