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Monday, August 26, 2002
Guest Speak

Broadband redefines e-learning
Amit Tripathi

Amit Tripathi
Amit Tripathi, Vice President, Direcway Global Education

WITH the advent of broadband satellite communication, education delivery mechanism in the country is poised for a revolution. Traditional classrooms as well as virtual classrooms (e-learning solutions) have their own limitations and strengths. Classrooms cannot meet the current high demand of education while virtual classrooms reduce the live interactivity on real-time basis through verbal interaction.

Today, broadband satellite communication technology has made it possible to combine the best of both. The new delivery mechanism retains the live interactivity of a traditional classroom while at the same time reach out to students spread over diverse geographical locations.

The new interactive technologies provide varying degrees of interactivity — the capability to talk back to the user. A video, data and voice delivery system reduces travel costs. This new form of ‘global’ education offers the features of both synchronous and asynchronous methods.

Executives can pursue further education from premier institutes without having to quit their jobs and without having to leave their place of posting. It is because the new delivery mechanism enables two-way live audio and data interaction and one-way live video from the studio to the classrooms.

Broadband, interactive multimedia communication technology can help reduce training costs of companies because it provides a mechanism for more persons who are not physically present at a training site to share the same class from the convenience of their home, office and city. The advantages are better and consistent education, cost saving, time saving, convenience and choice.

How does this technology work? The video and audio is broadcast to a classroom on a single RF carrier and displayed on a PC. Each student is equipped with a microphone that allows students to respond to the instructor and ask questions

The central studio, maintained by the service provider, consists of a presentation server, assistant station, encoder and a shared application server. The presentation server tracks every viewer/participant in a class session. The instructor uses this server to present the material, call on viewers and give questions to monitor the comprehension of participants. The audio communication between instructor and viewers recreates a classroom environment.

Presenters or instructors from participating institutes or corporate develop the course material that is loaded on the presentation server. Real-time graphical displays show how many persons are watching and track data that reflect subject comprehension. Broadcast quality video output allows viewers to see questions and real-time results clearly. A call queue helps the presenter field questions.

Live sessions are multicast using a Ku-Band broadband hub. The remote classrooms consist of a two-way VSAT and computers with headsets for participants. The VSAT is used to receive the live sessions and transmit data and audio to the studio. There can be a maximum of two participants speaking at a given point to the instructor and all other wanting to speak to the instructor fall in a queue. The size of the classroom can vary from 10 to 3,500 PCs.

With such a vast potential, broadband satellite is poised to take higher education to a new dimension. For companies, it provides cost-effective means to re-skill their employees at all levels without having to move them to a central location. For individuals, it’s a means that they can now pursue their specialisations from highly reputed global and Indian institutions without having to go on a sabbatical.