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Annotate imageBy Devasena Inupakutika and Steve Crouch, Software Sustainability Institute.

The ability to add annotations is recognised as a good practice to enable collaboration around digital content. In a multimedia context, annotations prove to be important for effective search and organisation of document collections. Web-based multimedia annotation tool, Synote (Synchronised Annotation), meets the user need for making multimedia web resources such as podcasts, video lectures, and so on. It is also easier to access, search, manage and exploit through technologies that support creation of synchronised notes, bookmarks, tags, images and text captions. The Software Sustainability Institute is working with Yunjia Li, Synote developer (Research Fellow), and Mike Wald, Professor at the University of Southampton, to help them overcome the barriers to the commercialisation of their software by investigating their current development processes and infrastructure, and help them develop general practice guidelines for development and deployment, and writing automated web-user interface testing.

These days multimedia is technically easier to produce. Although, users can easily bookmark, search, link to, or tag the podcasts or video recordings that are available on the web, they can’t necessarily find or associate part of the recordings to their notes or resources—just as any book is difficult to use if it doesn’t have a contents page, an index or page numbers. The vast and growing amount of information and knowledge, i.e. available in multimedia format, have yet to achieve that level of interconnection and manipulation present for text format. Synote makes this possible by provisioning synchronised text captions and images with audio and video helping learners with disabilities or different learning styles and preferences.

Synote has a large user base at Southampton. It has been used for the past seven years. It is a successful software that has won the ICT Initiative of the Year Award and was a runner-up in the Individual Award category in the 2010 Association for Learning Technology (ALT) Learning Technologist of the Year Award. The team is keen in deploying and supporting Synote instances at other 23 UK universities. They plan to provide them with demonstrator and trial deployments once the system is tested. They have acknowledged that they require improvements to their testing procedures, development and deployment processes to reach out to a wider community and operate at this scale.

The Software Sustainability Institute is working with the Synote team initially by reviewing the existing development, deployment and testing processes to start with and then by providing guidelines and quality assurance to improve these aspects. The work would help to identify and resolve any issues with Synote’s deployment across these stakeholder institutions at an earlier stage. This would make its uptake faster and allow the team to proceed more rapidly with these deployments, enabling the team to look forward supporting deployments at more institutions.

The Institute’s work will benefit a large number of institutions which are planning to use Synote for educational teaching purposes, and it addresses its goal of providing training in good practices for software development.

For more details, please see our who do we work with page or the experiment deployment of Synote on Amazon Web Services (AWS).

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