SVG For Teaching 2D Graphics Standards

An approach to teaching undergraduate students 2-D graphics principles, using SVG as the implementation language, is presented and the experiences gained through moving from the previous, programming based-approach are discussed.

The computer graphics course forming the subject of this paper is a modular component of the Bachelor of Science in Internet Computing, which has been offered by the Centre for Internet Computing (University of Hull) since 1999. The section of the module related to the theory and practice of 2D graphics comprises ten taught, one-hour lectures and three directed, practical laboratory sessions. The module continues into the 3D rendering pipeline and is outside the scope of this paper.

The motivation behind the change to SVG was firstly to bring the module into a coherent stream of XML-based, web-presentation languages (students are familiar with SMIL 2.0 and X-HTML) and secondly to investigate if the removal of programming overheads assisted the understanding of 2D graphics concepts.

A generic model of the 2D pipeline was presented, and throughout the course, at each pipeline stage, the core theoretical concepts were discussed, with examples and case studies addressing their practical implementation in SVG. The key focus was to follow the standards-based approach of modelling shapes and object-based groupings of shapes in world coordinates, composing the scene in an abstract, normalised device coordinate space and finally specifying views on the scene to be mapped to an output space.

The successes and failures of this approach (in the context this module) are described and illustrated with anecdotal student evidence and samples from submitted coursework solutions.

Unfortunately, some of the key benefits of SVG, namely its integration with other web-architectures were beyond the current scope of this module. However, two novel application case-studies, utilised to illustrate the integration of SVG into a wider, web-architecture are illustrated in this paper.

The proposed method is not presented as a definitive approach, but as an example aiming to address key concepts of 2D graphics in a contemporary undergraduate computing degree programme. SVG provided a balanced approach and it is felt that additional theory from other areas such as web-based visualisation and visual psychology/cognition will yield an effective web-graphics module, which should hopefully encourage more students to engage in data-driven, graphics-based dissertations in their final year.