From the Director's Desk

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From the Director's Desk

  1. 1. Vol. 14 No. 2 December 2008 Inside Guest Column.............................2 Case Study............................... 15 Spotlight On...............................7 Smart Tips................................ 17 CEMCA Bulletin Board................10 Regional News...........................23 Forthcoming Events...................25 From the Director’s Desk team for their dedication, motivation and sheer hard work. But, life for us has not come to a stop… we even participated Another three months have gone by! It seems only yesterday in an ICT Mela, a CEMCA first. By now you must have guessed we began a new volume (Vol 14) to be precise of the Educomm what this issue is all about… Technology that's it! Educational Asia and now the second issue is already out. Does this mean Technology or ET as some prefer, to call it. And we have time is passing more quickly??? Or does it mean that we are some wonderful articles from across Asia in this issue. Our so tied up with various pressures/issues/call it what you may webmaster has a special section dealing with technology that we don't really have the time to watch the seasons savvy tips. We have also initiated the India Chapter of the change…? The hot humid days in Delhi give way to cool and Wikieducator and in our teacher development for Open School almost chilly dusk??? Anyway, having said that, it is definitely Teachers initiative we, will be initiating them into the use of time for the Educomm Asia to hit the press even as I write Wikieducator. Apart from all this our other major project - this! And let me give you an update of everything that has the Community Radio Awareness Consultation Programme happened in the past few months really quickly… Since the is still going strong. We have completed five successful last issue was published we've been to Malaysia, and Regional Consultations across India and have four more Singapore, and Malaysia again. Regional Consultations lined up. But that will be the matter We were in the Open University of Malaysia conducting a for the next issue of Educomm Asia. We are also thinking of training programme in EasyNow. You are all aware of what turning the Educommm Asia into an electronic newsletter EasyNow is right… well for the uninitiated it is a single and publishing just one major, annual issue. We would be electronic source that allows flexibility and choice of multiple grateful for any feedback on our new scheme of things. In delivery modes suited to the ODL System. Then we were in December we had our Advisory Council meeting at Delhi Singapore once again, initiating the Asian Media International and were happy that we were able to deliver all that was Centre at the Nanyang Institute of Technology to EasyNow. suggested by members last year. I am also happy that we Our next trip was to Wawaswan Open University, Penang, did really get encouragement from all the members lead by where we went for two things: 1) We were to conduct a the President and Vice President of COL. workshop - cum - training programme on presentation skills suited to Teleconferencing and here is the interesting part, With this, I leave you to read through the magazine, while I 2) To demonstrate a low cost IP based teleconferencing retire to plan our next quarterly activities and initiatives. system!!! Needless to say our demo was quite something. But before I leave I would like to wish you all, a Very Merry Well, we were in Malaysia recently because CEMCA has been Christmas and a Great New Year Ahead. May the spirit and coordinating a fast track activity between academics, industry good cheer of Yuletide be upon each of us and may we all and accreditation bodies of two countries … India and Malaysia remember to pray for world peace and a terror free world. on Quality Assessment of Multimedia Learning Materials. We have completed version one of the QAMLM Document and it Best regards, was presented in Malaysia. We thank all the members of the R. Sreedher 1
  2. 2. Guest Column... Balancing the Quest for Knowledge with ICT in ODL Mode above. However, it was the ICT bit that kept nagging on our minds. This led to a research that identified the factors that Prof Dr Abtar Kaur, would determine a "system" which could be implemented to ensure online learning was carried out effectively. Before that, Faculty of Education & Languages two OUM staff had already created a learning management Open University Malaysia system, and they possessed prior knowledge about integrat- Jalan Tun Ismail ing such a system into a traditional university environment. 50480 Kuala Lumpur So the challenge was not that serious: it was more to check the available systems and evaluate them against each other in the How does an Open Distance learning (ODL) institution balance terms of cost effectiveness and usability. At that point of time, the use of ICT in a teaching & learning environment when the the two most available LMS platforms were Blackboard and main participants (the community of practice - CoP) are geo- WebCT. After some deliberation and testing, it was agreed that graphically distant? Quite a question, but not a tough one to all OUM learners will be provided with WebCT. More issues tackle if someone has a good sense of the following: ICT readi- after that with regards implementation surfaced after that. ness of the Community of Practice (CoP) such as the learners, Capacity building of all COPs: learners, tutors, support staff, teachers, experts, support staff and management; the need to administrators and more. It was a rewarding and challenging provide pedagogical variance in achieving learning outcomes experience that consisted of periods of testing, trying and im- of the various disciplines and the technical set-up of the whole plementing. Tutors had an added skill to acquire - some system. With this as a background, I will relate the balance that enjoyed it, whilst others avoided having to interact online with we at the Open University Malaysia (OUM) are trying to achieve. learners due to fear. It was no surprise when it came to the Seven years ago in August 2001, OUM opened her doors to the next semester and they were dropped from the teaching list. first batch of 753 learners promising a new pedagogical approach: We were confronted with remarks such as "How could you blended learning. Learners had the flexibility to study at their drop me out, I am the leading expert in this discipline". own pace as they could have access to specially prepared mod- Learners were confronted with larger issues; mainly time man- ules and their tutors (through face-to-face and online interac- agement on ICT related task and the availability of such tech- tions). This lead to an array of issues: how do you determine nology. As a high percentage of OUM learners were from sub- how much of face-to-face and online interaction is sufficient? urban & rural areas, the issues compounding the integration of Do you assess learners on their online discussions? How do you ICT became more challenging. It ranged from opposite polars, know tutors are providing the desired learning support?; and the "haves" to the "have nots". Some had the skills, knowledge what kind of technological infrastructure is needed? Along with and attitude, but not the technology. Some had the technology, these came the most appropriate solutions at that point of time. but not the skills, and attitude. However the most challenging The only way to start answering some of above questions were were the two deadly combinations: the absence of the right atti- through "hunches" combined with general statistics of learners tude and technology. It was easy to always blame the unavail- and tutors. The technology was not all that perfect, learners and ability of technology when the attitude was not there to unlearn tutors had barely heard about "online discussions" and e-learn- and re-learn. OUM was quite firm in her ways with the need for ing experts were a rare breed! But OUM was in top gear with a our learners to integrate their learning through the technology. very visionary founding President: Prof Tan Sri Abdullah Sanusi All kinds of support were given to students: from making com- Ahmad. He attracted experts to the institution with his astute puters available at learning centers, to providing OUM Lead academic, visionary and business sense. He gave them enough Tutors with laptops which could be connected where ever there expert autonomy to contribute towards the development of a was an available telephone outlet. Thus, the perseverance, sup- culture of blended learning. As such, a balance was achieved as port and continuous research into all factors affecting learners per the pedagogical approach: about 75% of student learning gave OUM the boost in encouraging more students to come on should be self-managed with the availability of specially pre- board, existing ones to stay put and further increasing the "tech- pared modules, 15% of their time in face-to-face (f2f) interac- nological sense' of the population at large. The above were tions and the rest through online interactions. achievable with the setting up of four unique and crucial sup- But still the big question loomed. How will this be implemented? port centers: the Centre for Instructional Design & Technology Having a concept was good, but when it came to the implemen- (CIDT); the Open Distance Learning Pedagogy Centre (ODLPC), tation, that was a whole different ball-game. Face-to-face inter- the Digital Library and ICT Services. The four centers above made actions were the least challenging bit of the pedagogical approach the Blended Learning Model practiced at OUM a success. 2
  3. 3. Blended Learning Model development involved content experts (writers), instructional designers, graphic experts, desktop personnel, moderators, and The Blended Learning Model is effectively practiced by close editors. In the design of the module, sound pedagogical 'class- to 75,000 students. OUM provides learners with the freedom room-like' techniques were incorporated, which included terms to choose where, when, and what they want to learn and how such as: "think," "your idea," "activity," "take a break," and "prac- they are going to go about completing their preferred study tice exercises." Prior to the writing process, module writers were program. Constructed learning modules were specially pre- trained to write for adult learners and emphasis was given to pared to assist learners throughout their learning period. Due the following characteristics of adult learners: self-driven, moti- to the unique capabilities of OUM learners, namely their vated, disciplined, and practical. OUM takes the process of mod- diverse educational and working knowledge backgrounds, ule design and development as something pivotal as it is essen- their access to the nearest learning centers, their availability of tial in making sure learners are able to better manage their own learning time, and their accessibility to the Internet, OUM was learning. We believe in the adage: "when something can be read able to offer the Blended Learning Model to its learners via without effort, great effort has gone into its writing." three modes (refer to Figure below): To further support SML processes, all new learners are required 1. Self-managed learning, to go through a three credit hour course titled: "Learning Skills for Open Distance Learners" which covers the following 3 broad 2. Face to face learning, and areas: (1) learning-to-learn skills, (2) ICT skills, and (3) informa- 3. Online learning. tion skills. The course has had considerable success in helping learners manage their time and overcome problems related to ODL methods of learning. According to a OUM student counselor: "the number of students seeing me about coping with learning at OUM has reduced substantially after they started taking the Learning Skills for Open Distance Learners course" (Assoc Prof Dr Zainal Abidin, August 3, 2004). Variations of self-managed learning occur depending on learner characteristics, content area, resourcefulness of the tutor and learner, the overall quality of the module, availability of the learn- er's time, and accessibility to other learning resources. While initially charting the blended learning approach, we envisaged that a learner should put in an average of 2 hours of self-study time per day and a minimum of 1.5 hours of online time weekly. This was to ensure that learners would be adequately ready for the 2 hours of F2F meeting (every 2 weeks). Face-to-Face (Actual Classroom) Learning F2F (actual classroom) learning brings OUM learners into a socialization stage. Adult learners at the OUM demand that their OUM's Blended Learning Model F2F classroom interactions be as personally gratifying as possi- ble. As such, the role played by our part-time tutors is extremely Self-Managed Learning important. Consequently, we greatly emphasize on characteris- Self-managed learning (SML) is the most important of the three tics such as tutor effectiveness and competence. blends. In fact, on average about 70 percent of the expected 40 In F2F (actual classroom) interactions, OUM learners are given hours of student learning time per credit is achieved through the option to attend classes five times in a normal 15 week se- this method. Self-managed learning at OUM is essentially based mester with each meeting lasting for 2 hours per course/sub- on print-based materials (specially constructed modules) sup- ject. During the meeting, tutors are advised to conduct a mini- ported by other forms of learning resources (CD-ROM lesson for about 20-30 minutes in an area that is perceived by courseware, specially designed software) and digital content learners as difficult to comprehend. The rest of the time is to be from OUM's Digital Library. At OUM, print material is the foun- used to conduct discussions on the given tutorial questions and dation of blended learning and the basis from which all other also to address learner's concerns. The teaching strategies em- delivery systems evolve. ployed consist of a mix of the following: mini-lectures, discus- As such, the modules developed at the OUM underwent a sions, exercises, hands-on activities, and presentations. rigorous content and instructional development process, Although students are required to meet five times a semester whereby it took approximately 6-8 months to produce one learn- for 2 hours each time, the F2F blend may range between meet- ing module that consists of 200 pages. The process of module ing twice to eight times and lasting anywhere from between 3
  4. 4. 1 hour to 4 hours depending on the need to conduct laboratory ment, intellectual engagement of students, continued insight, and work. Certainly, the appropriate blend will depend on the the ability to model an understanding of subject matter. In ef- number and variety of students, the overall classroom climate fect, online lessons must be highly interactive and collaborative. (structure, interactions, and resources), tutor experience, and In resource centered learning, the online learner can get access learner as well as tutor readiness. to at least 40,000 titles of digital books; 150 titles of the follow- Where tutor readiness is concerned, high priority is given to- ing: online dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, and thesau- wards tutor recruitment, selection, and training. Towards this, ruses; close to 11,000 journal articles; and about 1,000 journal the ODL Pedagogy Center has been established to study the titles. Apart from that, digitized versions of print modules, spe- issues pertaining to tutor effectiveness. The ODL Pedagogy cially designed digital content, and other tutor created content Center has the support of close to 40 Lead Tutors which were (e.g., PowerPoint slides, word documents, excel sheets/files) are specially selected based on their performance in OUM. To- available. These resources are highly important as OUM learn- gether, tutors are constantly trained, monitored, advised, and ers are geographically dispersed and such immediate access to counseled so that they are giving their best to the learners. Thus learning resources will aid them in obtaining the right mix re- far, evaluations on tutor effectiveness from 4,903 students quired for the maximization of their learning time. To support among others show that more than 90 percent of OUM tutors OUM's online endeavors, a learning management system called were eager to support learners in their learning processes, were myLMS was created and is successfully utilized by close to 80 well prepared for all tutorials, were competent in their sub- percent of our current 75,000 students. jects, were effective in helping learners understand the content area, and should be retained. The Centre for Instructional Design & Tech- nology (CIDT) Online (Virtual Classroom) Learning The Centre for Instructional Design and Technology (CIDT) was At OUM, online learning is another method used for reaching established as the sole content developer for OUM, focusing on and supporting our learners by providing the best possible the development of learning materials used by OUM learners method of harnessing resources on the Internet and related tech- and tutors. These include printed modules as well as online and nologies to create an effective and efficient learning support sys- multimedia content. CIDT works closely with the faculties in tem to complement self-managed learning and F2F classroom OUM and content writers (subject matter experts) to produce interactions. Presently, the online or virtual classroom consists learning materials that fit learners' requirements and are con- of all elements found in an actual classroom. In addition, the sistent with the blended pedagogy approach. following instructional perspectives and practices are expected The CIDT team consists of instructional designers, multimedia to evolve: resource-centered learning and learner-centered learn- programmers, desk-top publishers, editors and graphics design- ing. In learner-centered learning, the focus is on the learner's ers who collaboratively produce learner-centred learning mate- engagement in active and interactive learning. In active learn- rials which are both interactive and engaging. A large part of ing, the learner may take a pre-test to determine their level of the material development strategy is based on an instructional understanding of a particular chapter in the module, or enhance design model that was formulated on the generic ISD (Instruc- his/her knowledge by trying out the digital learning options; tional Systems Design Model) and used for design, development both which are individual and self-paced activities. In interac- and production of learning materials (see the diagram below). tive learning, the learner may engage in an asynchronous dis- cussion forum to contribute ideas related to a particular topic of interest with the intent of achieving the following end results: elevated content understanding, improved cognitive ability or higher-order thinking, and enhanced collaborative and coopera- tive learning skills. In fact, OUM learners receive up to 5 percent of their total grade score based on the level of their participation in online discussions. The role of the classroom tutor who is also the online tutor is important here. OUM notes that the online tutor is to provide "learning support by stimulating discussions to enhance learners' col- laborative, content and thinking skills, support learners in increasing ownership of learning and enable flexible, lifelong learning". Since the virtual classroom is an extension of the actual classroom where F2F learning occurs, we expect our online tutors to play an equally effective role. Effective online lessons, like its F2F counterpart, requires instructor enthusiasm, continued involve- ADDIE Instructional Design: Classic “Waterfall” Development Model 4
  5. 5. Open Distance Learning Pedagogy Centre (ODLPC) The ODL Pedagogy Centre (ODLPC) was established to enhance the teaching & learning processes at OUM. Its aim is to ensure OUM becomes a world class leader and innovator in pedagogi- cal sciences in relation to open and distance learning with the following objectives in mind: ICT Support Systems To provide innovative quality services and products exceed- To ensure all ICT systems at OUM were well integrated and ing our academic staffs' expectations; worked at an optimal level, the ICT Support System Centre was set up and now operates with a staff of 44 personnel in the fol- To continually attract, retain and develop excellent lowing areas: campus management system, portal and LMS, ICT teaching staff; Infrastructure, helpdesk and business development. The follow- To find ways of increasing the quality of academic staffs' ing will be discussed in detail: interactions in the actual and virtual classroom environment; Knowledge Management (KM) Portal; To help our academic staff integrate new and innovative Learning Management System (LMS); print and e-learning content into their teaching & learning Learning Content Management System (LCMS) and processes Supporting Information System (SIS) OUM's academic staff consists of full-time academics, part-time (a) Knowledge Management (KM) Portal tutors and lead tutors. This portal enables and promotes data, learning resources and the sharing and exchanging of knowledge among CoPs. The KM The Digital Library portal has the capability to deliver the right information to the The digital library provides learners with the information they right person in the right context at the right time. Thus, it is an seek to assist their learning through the knowledge databases integral part of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. and resources via online resources which are accessible any- (b) Learning Management System (LMS) where, anytime i.e. the virtual learning environment. Learners This system is a comprehensive and flexible e-learning system have the option of learning when they want and where they that enables OUM teaching staff to manage ODL teaching inter- want. The digital library successfully provides dispersed learn- actions effectively and at the same time, allow learners to capi- ers and tutors with knowledge databases and information serv- talize on tacit and institutional knowledge. This system also al- ices for their learning and research activities. lows the institution to track and monitor learning and teaching The Online Distance Learning method of delivery relies on the progress among teaching staff and learners. rapid advances in ICT and easy access to the Internet. Such re- (c) Learning Content Management System (LCMS) quirements were met by the information technology infrastruc- This system is a combination of a content management system ture of Malaysia which is rather well built and advanced and and a learning management system which enables lecturers to this ultimately led to a greater degree of acceptance of a virtual create and plan learning objectives, quizzes, tests, assignments or digital library. and other learning resources. This system also helps structure The basic library and information needs of ODL learners were how the resources should be delivered to learners based on their identified as: learning styles. Access to information resources, (d) Supporting Information System (SIS) This system integrates all the previous systems such as KM Por- Knowing how to find the information they need, and tal, the LMS, the LCMS, and sub-systems such as online track- Developing skills to apply the information to their assign- ing, help-desk, grade assessments, registration, and fee payment. ments, studies, and exams. All users use a single log-in process to access related databases and support systems. OUM has gained much experience in plan- The OUM Digital Library consists of the following components: ning, implementing, and innovating the use of ICT to comple- i) Technical infrastructure consisting of the hardware and ment the overall function of the university. This is something software; which is highly desirable when considering the fact that the CoPs are so diversely distributed. As a result of this, some recent ii) Knowledge databases consisting of commercial and in-house developments in the increased use of ICT include: databases; and 1. More digital content; which will be spear-headed by the CIDT iii) User education. 2. Increase use of online technologies, especially Web 2.0 5
  6. 6. 3. Further research on Mobile Technologies and technology, the Open University Malaysia (OUM) and the Com- 4. New Pedagogical Models monwealth of Learning (COL) agreed to formalise this collabo- ration through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Here I will substantiate a programme that will be offered in Janu- ary 2009 – the Master of Instructional Design & Technology COL is an intergovernmental organisation created by Common- which will be implemented using a new pedagogical model wealth Heads of Government which encourages the develop- which renders it as a fully online model. ment and sharing of open learning/distance education knowl- edge, resources and technologies and to help developing nations Full Online Programme improve access to quality education and training. The Master of Instructional Design and Technology (MIDT), is a COL is also helping governments and institutions to expand purely online Masters programme that has been designed to cater the scope, scale and quality of learning by using new ap- to the needs of numerous individuals such as university, proaches. COL promotes policies and systems to make inno- college and school educators, continuing/adult education pro- vation sustainable and collaborates with international partners viders, other specialized personnel, corporate trainers and to build models, create materials, enhance organisational ca- instructional designers. pacity and nurture networks that facilitate learning in support of development goals. The programme is available to students throughout the world, and it capitalizes on the best academic staff, up-to-date teaching To this end, the OUM & COL has jointly agreed to explore and and learning pedagogy, and varied learning resources. As such, coordinate activities related to the following areas: this programme will bring together geographical, cultural, and (a) Collaborate on the co-development of instructional resources professional diversed communities in Internet-mediated ses- for Master of Instructional Design & Technology (MIDT); sions. This innovative online version of the degree includes the (b) Promote the use of instructional design and technology prin- core principles of instructional design and technology, a func- ciples in the development of learning resources, especially tional analysis of computers and e-learning, applications of tech- for e-learning; nology-supported curricular tools, effective use of telecommu- (c) Collaborate on the teaching of MIDT courses; nications, global learning qualities and cross-cultural literacy, applications of hypermedia, and emerging trends in technolo- (d) Adopt technological advancements made by either party for gies all encased in a dynamic online learning environment. teaching & learning purposes; and Learners of this program will break the barriers of classroom (e) Collaborate on research activities and innovative practices. walls through electronic networking. Cutting-edge online peda- To conclude, OUM has broken many barriers in teaching and gogical strategies will be infused into every course to foster col- learning in an ODL environment within a short span of 7 years. laboration, interaction and a sense of belonging to a learning Student enrolments have increased by almost a 1000 fold, learn- community. The curriculum will consist of a state-of-the-art ing pedagogy has improved from a blended model to a modi- coursework and when necessary, internships will be arranged fied blended model and finally to a full online model. We hope to enable learners to analyse performance problems and learning will become just that - Learning! with no more adjec- provide solutions using a systematic and systemic method. All tives to it. With the full online learning pedagogy, learning students will be connected through a powerful online learning interfaces are beginning to morph into new dimensions and management facility, which will be assisted by a robust and learners and OUM teaching staff and associates (from all over proven online communication system. An international faculty the world) are beginning to explore even more online dimen- has been chosen based on their excellent online-based track sions. To suit the "Y" and "Z" generation of learners, people and record. Students will be given the opportunity to construct technology need to merge into one intuitive system. Our hope is deeper understandings of subject matter compared to the tradi- a total evolvement from: tional way of learning through the connection of a larger profes- sional community whilst working on meaningful projects in collaboration with peers and faculties. Enrollment into the pro- gramme will be limited to ensure every learner acquires the qual- ity interaction that is needed in an online learning environment. Though there are no required face-to-face meetings, opportuni- ties for such meetings will be provided using synchronous virtual settings. The programme has received much support from experts in the related area and the strongest backing from the Commonwealth of Learning (COL). Noting a significant cooperation in the exist- ing working relationship in the field of instructional design & 6
  7. 7. Spotlight On... A Low Cost Interactive Webcasting System for Open and Distance Learning Institutions The early teleconferencing systems used by open and distance Video Conferencing education institutions required dedicated proprietary networks It generally refers to two way video communication among three for transmitting and receiving audio and video. To reach out to or more people using some telecommunications medium. How- a large number of learners these systems used dedicated satel- ever the variation in the form of one way video and two audio lite network to send video through TV broadcasting and to has been very effectively used for large disperse population. receive the audio feedback a different network of PSTN lines Teleconferencing whether audio or video can be point to point was used. With the development in Information and Commu- or point to multipoint. A point to point conferencing takes place nication technologies, it is possible to use a single integrated pub- between two points in which, one point acts as a transmitting lic network and to have conferencing using video from sender end and the other acts as a receiving end. In case of point to side as well as receiver side. In this article, a low cost system for multipoint conferencing, communication takes place between a conducting video conference using webcasting and free internet transmitting end and several receiving ends. based Skype or Yahoo messenger is explained. This system ena- bles the learners to access the teaching resources and interact Teleconferencing systems can use proprietary network or inte- from their home, using their personal computer. grated services digital network (ISDN) or a public network like Internet. A few years ago, ISDN lines and computers were used The teleconferencing systems have been used for a long time by for audio and videoconferencing systems. The H.320 standard the education institutions for teaching purposes. India has been supported by ISDN was adopted as the videoconferencing net- using a satellite for education since 1975 and for higher educa- work of choice. Both the proprietary and the ISDN systems tion since 1981. In mid-seventies (1975-76) India and US collabo- required substantial investment and high management and rated in carrying out the world's largest experiment on mass operation costs. Video/audio conferencing services can also be education by launching satellite instructional television experi- availed from a conference service application provider (CSAP) ment (SITE) using NASA's application technology satellites in case the educational institution does not want to invest in the (ATS)-6 satellite. The Indian national satellite (INSAT) system, infrastructure for teleconferencing. In that case, the resource building on the positive SITE experiments was deployed start- person and the learners come to the transmitting and receiving ing with the INSAT 1B in 1983. With the INSAT 2 series the centres of CSAP. Indian space research organization, deployed four satellites providing television and radio based mass education to tens of The Internet is a worldwide collection of computer networks, thousands of villages. In 2004, first Indian satellite built exclu- cooperating with each other to exchange data using a common sively for serving the educational sector (Edusat) was launched. software standard called TCP/IP (Transmission Control Pro- tocol/Internet Protocol). Through telephone wires and satel- These educational teleconferencing systems used a teaching end lite links, Internet users can share information in a variety of and several learners or user ends. The resource person or teacher forms. Today, the Internet is a public, cooperative, and self- at teaching end (TE) used television cameras for demonstrations, sustaining facility accessible to hundreds of millions of people activities, discussions, presentation of slides. The learner groups worldwide. The dramatic growth of the Internet and the capa- located at the learners ends (LE) could see as well as listen to the bility of IP networks to carry multimedia along with the resource person through video monitors. Interactivity between reduced cost of videoconferencing equipment, affordable desk- the learners/participants and the resource person was supported top stations, cheaper bandwidth, ever-improving video qual- through audio using a separate telephone network. Learners ity and the availability of enhanced video-related services communicated with the resource person through PSTN tel- attracted educational institutions to adopt IP based video ephone lines. A separate data network was needed for transfer- conferencing as a cost-effective means. Implementing IP based ring data files. audio and videoconferencing solutions is less complex than There are broadly two types of teleconferencing which are men- implementing ISDN-based solutions. tioned below. The most widely used part of the Internet is the world wide web (often abbreviated as "www" or called "the web"). Using the web, Audio Conferencing users have access to millions of pages of information. With the It refers to two way audio communication among three or more latest advancement in ICT it is possible to conduct both types of people using some telecommunications medium. teleconferencing through web. In that case these will be known 7
  8. 8. as web based audio conferencing and web based video conferencing respectively. Web based teleconferencing also al- lows conference participants to view shared files/applications for data collaboration. In fact, multiple conference participants can actually work in an application running on one of the par- ticipant's machine for data sharing. With promises of ever-increasing and affordable bandwidth, IP is much more versatile and lends itself to cost effective au- dio and videoconferencing with the additional option of data collaboration. More recently, Internet telephony hardware and software have been utilized for real-time voice and video con- versations. An increasing number of carriers and service pro- Figure 1 Equipments at the teaching end viders are introducing new value-added converged free serv- The video camera captures the presentation from the resource ices. Companies like Yahoo and Skype are offering free point person. The inputs from different sources are fed to the mixer. to multipoint audio conferencing and point to point video As there are multiple inputs, there is a need to have a display conferencing facilities through their software and basic user which can show which of the multiple input is being webcast. end hardware like microphone, speakers, web camera of an The audio/video monitor displays the input which is being Internet connected desktop system. These conference systems webcast. There is a requirement of having additional hardware can be used by the institutions for their administrative work in the form of a streaming server and encoding sever. A local and internal communication. area network (LAN) switch is used to connect all the computers and servers at teaching end with the LAN of the institution. This The cost of the video conferencing system rises proportionately connectivity support is to be managed by the IT support staff with the number of participants. This cost will be exorbitantly team of the institution. high if the educational institution wishes to reach out to a large number of students through video conferencing systems. In case the institution cannot afford the high cost of a video conferencing system, it has the option of selecting the low cost Interactive webcasting system which is explained here. Interactive webcasting uses the web to broadcast the audio and video and utilizes Skype or Yahoo messenger for interaction thus bringing down the cost drastically. Low Cost Interactive Webcasting System In most of the teaching learning transactions, the initial learning content flows from the resource person and the learning proc- ess is activated by the interaction in the form of queries raised by the distributed learners. It is, therefore, a prudent use of the resources to have one way broadcast facility supported by an interaction through free facilities like skype etc. The low cost Figure 2 Reception at learners end and interactivity through Skype with TE interactive webcasting system thus tries to integrate affordable resources into a single workable application. Web casting allows Figure 2 shows the reception of TE at the desktop of the learner. one way broadcasting through web. In case of the educational The learner is communicating with the teacher using Skype con- institution, the demonstrations, activities, discussions, presen- nection. At the LE, the learner is required to have a computer tation slides which are used by the teacher at teaching end can with Skype connection and a browser. The learner will start get- be broadcasted to the desktops of the students using web cast- ting the live webcast after typing the address of Institute's website ing. The video interactivity from the student with the teacher at in the browser. Learner can communicate with the teacher us- TE can be supported by using the Skype or Yahoo messenger ing his/her Skype connection. This interactivity will also be shot connection. This combination of webcasting (TE to LE) and video by the camera at TE and it will also be broadcasted through web. interactivity (LE to TE) through Skype makes this system a low This way the other learners will also know which learner is cost video conferencing system. communicating with the teacher. At the teaching end, a computer for Skype connection and This model allows any media including public telephone lines, another computer for showing presentation slides, animation Satellite links, fibre links, Wifi, 2G, 3G networks which make etc are required. The teacher will manage the entire teaching use of TCP/IP protocols to be used. It does not require the com- session with these two computers. Figure 1 shows the devices plex control room, expensive studio at the TE. A simple room which are used at the teaching end in this system. with proper lighting arrangements, video camera, servers, 8
  9. 9. Internet connection and Computer with web camera, micro- Acknowledgement phone and speakers are enough at the TE. The system was conceptualized and refined over time by the CEMCA working group in collaboration with resources from IGNOU and WOU. The authors Issues for Consideration in the Context of gratefully acknowledge the contribution from Dr R Sreedher, Director, CEMCA, Dr Pema E Samdup, Programme Officer, CEMCA, Mr Yashpal of Computer Adaptation of the System Division, and Mr Rakesh Chauhan of EMPC, IGNOU for helping in setting up the pilot test runs of the system. The system has been tested as a pilot run at IGNOU, WOU and CEMCA. The performance of this system was found to be good References when the number of LE were limited. This system is scalable 1. Video/videoconferencing in support of distance education, http:// and can easily accommodate more number of LE with the www.col.org/colweb/webdav/site/myjahiasite/shared/docs/KS2001- deployment of enhanced IT hardware. 02_videoconferencing.pdf 2. Interactive videoconferencing in distance education www.uidaho.edu/evo/ At the TE, the dual processor servers with sufficient main dist10.htm memory (about 8GB) will be more than sufficient to support more 3. www.skype.com than 50 LEs. The internet bandwidth at TE is also an important 4. http://messenger.yahoo.com/ factor for better performance of the system. 2Mbps of Internet bandwidth will be sufficient to support 50 LEs. The overall cost 5. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki Satellite_Instructional_Tele-vision_Experiment to implement this system for supporting about 50 LEs will be 6. Sanjay Jasola, Kinshuk, Analysis of QOS for DVB-RCS based IP network, Journal of Campus-wide Information Systems, Emerald Publishers, UK, ISSN- around $10,000. It is always advisable to have testing done 1065-0741, Vol 25 (1), pages 4-17, 2008. before the actual transmission and an IT support person avail- able when the transmission is going on. Dr Sanjay Jasola is an accomplished Compu- The system presupposes that the resource person will be ter Science academics and an expert in the IT trained in respect of live video presentation. As there is a 2-3 and networking infrastructure aspect of elearning/ online education. Presently he is seconds lag between the transmission and reception, the working as Associate Professor at School of resource person at TE will need to synchronize his/her Science and Technology, Wawasan Open Uni- delivery to cover the lag. versity, Penang, Malaysia. He received Bach- At the LE, the internet bandwidth is also an important factor for elor of Technology degree in Computer Science receiving a good quality video presentation. It is observed that and Engineering Master of Technology in the use of headphone at LE during the interactive session Computer Science and Technology from Indian Sanjay Jasola, Associate eliminates the audio loop back problem. Professor, School of Institute of Technology (IIT), Roorkee. He re- Science and Technology ceived Ph.D in Com- Conclusion puter Science from School of Computer and This article presented a system which can be used as a low cost System Sciences from Jawaharlal Nehru Uni- alternative to costly video conferencing systems without sacri- versity, New Delhi, India. He has been the fac- ficing the feature of live interaction. This system is useful for ulty of several engineering institutes in dif- ODL institutions which have learners population spread over a ferent capacities from lecture to associate large geographical area and finds it difficult to conduct face to professer in India. face tutorials. It also acts as a solution to the problem of avail- Prof Madhulika Kaushik is a Professor of Man- ability of tutors for advance courses or in the remote places. The agement Studies at the Indira Gandhi National best thing of the presented system is that the learners are not Open University, New Delhi. Currently she is Madhulika Kaushik, required to go to the learning centre as long as s/he has a laptop Director, Centre for Graduate Studies, Director, Centre for /PC and an internet connection. Wawasan Open University, Penang, Malaysia. Graduate studies 9
  10. 10. CEMCA Bulletin Board September 8th - 9th, 2008: 4th Regional Consultation on Community Radio Awareness (West Zone), Baramati, Maharashtra The venue for the 4th regional consultation on Community Ra- dio in the Western zone of India, conducted by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in collaboration with CEMCA, was Vidya Pratishtan Institute of Information Technology, Baramati, Maharashtra. CEMCA invited over 200 educational institutes with campus facility, Agricultural Universities, Krishi Vigyan Kendras, and NGOS from the three states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra, at this Regional Consultation. The focus of the 4th Regional Consultation on Community Radio Awareness (West Zone) was chiefly on gen- erating awareness on the humble community radio as an im- portant tool for the disseminating of information and for em- powerment of the community. The 4th Regional Consultation on Community Radio Aware- ness (West Zone) began with the lighting of the ceremonial lamps by Shrimati Sunetra Pawar, wife of Shri Ajit Pawar, and welcome remarks by Dr. Amol Goje, Director, Vidya Pratishtan Institute of Technology. Shri B Brahma, Economic Advisor, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, laid the foundation for substantive discussion. He focused on the purpose of the workshop, which was to provide an open platform for dia- logue amongst various stakeholders in the Community Radio area, to share and seek solutions to problems and con- straints in quick and effective implementation of the CR policy. This policy introduced in November 2006 after several decades of State-run radio, had responded to a clear demand from the community, to reflect their voices and concerns and now, the idea was to create an enabling envi- ronment for this to happen. Dwelling upon the status of Community Radio Stations (CRS) in India, Shri P K Bisoi, Director, BD, updated the participants on the status of Com- munity Radio applications received and processed by the Ministry. Pointing out that out of 261 applications 107 had reached the LOI stage, 46 yet very few stations have moved beyond to setting up and running CR stations. Compared with the original ambitious target of 4000 stations by 2010, the number of functioning stations is negligible, at present being around 1% of this is indeed a cause for concern. The consul- tation was seen as a step to address this. CEMCA made the following recommendations to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, with regard to the Community Radio Awareness Programme: the immediate need for Regional Consultations on Community 10
  11. 11. courses/programmes on Community Radio Awareness pack- ages such as, the one developed by the Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi. September 15th - 18th: EasyNow Workshop, Open University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur CEMCA conducted a five day EasyNow Workshop at the Open University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. This workshop was attended by 24 participants from the Open University of Malaysia. The classroom sessions were held by OUM Staff themselves. Prof Abtar Kaur was in charge of the Instructional Strategies Session, Dr Thirumeni T Subramaniam, took over the Science Processing Skills Session, Dr En Yahya Majri was the coordi- nator for the Introduction to Matrix Session, Dr Norfadilawati Bte Musa was in charge of the Elements of Copy Advertising Session, Dr. Nantha Kumar Subramaniam took over the Java Objects & Classes Session and Mr S A D Senanayake took over the Computer Software Session. September 19th, 2008: EasyNow Demonstration at the Asian Media Information Centre, at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore CEMCA did a demonstration of the EasyNow: Multiple Media Virtual Classroom, in the Asian Media Information Radio Awareness to be converted to State-Level Consultations Centre at the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. for better and quicker implementation of the Government's Policy on Community Radio; utmost urgency to be exercised in September 22nd - 26th, 2008 Wawasan Open making the application form for the CRS simple. University, Penang It is highly recommended that the application form be com- Our team landed in Penang on the 21st morning. We were pleted and loaded on the Ministry's website expeditiously; need whisked off to a lunch and a short city tour by WOU representa- for the distribution of sufficient Literature including case stud- tives almost as soon as we had managed to check-in and freshen ies to participants of the Community Radio Awareness Con- up. Thereafter, we were busy with setting up the IP based sultations; a strong need for distributing literature on CR Teleconferencing system. We encountered many stumbling Awareness in the bhasha/regional/ local language was felt; the blocks and spent numerous late nights working but, as is our recommendations of the DAVP Committee on advertisement nature, we strove till we managed against all odds. The presen- should be expedited as it is eagerly awaited; a need for formal tation workshop began on the 22nd and was to continue through 11
  12. 12. to the 26th, in between we set up the IP based teleconferencing the Wawasan Open University, IP based teleconferencing was a system and it was tested in WOU. The audio and video was huge success as they were able to establish quality contact with extremely good, in fact of CD/DVD quality, the problems that their Regional Office as well. were being faced by WOU were all addressed. Interactivity was possible through the use of skype and access was established by October 16th - 18th, 2008 webcasting, the lecture/discussion, covering visuals, power CEMCA participated at the ICT 2008 Mela and set up a CEMCA point presentations were all demonstrated and webcast. Stall. CEMCA participated in the ICT Mela for the first time this year and co-hosted a dinner during the ICT Manthaan Awards for the most innovative ICT for development project. November 3rd - 5th, 2008 CEMCA/COL organized the WELL Meeting in New Delhi. The meeting brought together women from Pakistan, India, and Sri Lanka. WELL Stands for Women's Empowerment at the Local Level. It was coordinated by Dr Tanyss Munroe, ES, COL. November 3rd - 7th, 2008: EasyNow Workshop at BRAOU, Hyderabad, India CEMCA conducted an EasyNow workshop at the B R Ambed- kar Open University, Hyderabad, India from the 3rd to the 7th of November 2008. This workshop was coordinated by Dr P Vijaylakshmi Pandit, Director, GRADE and attended by In a sense, the IP based Teleconferencing model/system that 15 BRAOU Staff members. The 15 members were divided into was tried and tested at WOU was truly able to reach the learner five groups and each working group had an activity to do and at their own doorsteps/work places/desktops and quality a resource to create. The Lecture Demonstration Method Team assurance was in place. Such a system is cost - effective, has a was lead by Prof G Srinivasacharyulu, Professor of Education; wider outreach, is synchronous and in real time and may also the Forms of Business Session was lead by Mr D Rabindranath be downloaded by the learners who missed the lecture in real Solomon, Asst Professor of Commerce; the Use of Dictionar- time. It is an excellent example of ICT enabled education as well ies Session was lead by Prof V Chandrasekhar Rao, Professor of Library and Information Sciences; the Literature Session (Waiting for Godot) was headed by Mr A Kishore Kumar, Asst Professor of English;while the fifth group on Continuous Functions was lead by Dr V Srinivas, Associate Professor of Mathematics. The team at work, setting up the IP based Teleconferencing system at Wawasan Open University, Penang as, free of the use of any expensive proprietary software. It also reduces cost of travel to access points as is the case in most ODL institutions. The tremendous cost of a satellite uplink or propri- etary software is immediately ruled out with such a system and Creator of EasyNow: Shri V Krishna Moorthy 12
  13. 13. November 15th, 2008: WikiEducator: Launch of the November 24th - 25th,2008: 5th Regional India Chapter Consultation on Community Radio Awareness, The Indian Chapter of the WikiEducator was launched in New Ahmedabad, Gujarat Delhi on the 15th of November 2008. It was inaugurated by Prof M S Swaminathan, Hon'ble MP and an eminent academic. It has been launched in four Indian languages: Gujarati, Hindi, Malyalee, and Tamil. The 5th Regional Consultation on Community Radio Awareness was conducted at Ahmedabad, Gujarat. It was attended by at least 80 participants from Gujarat, Daman and Diu, Rajasthan 13
  14. 14. and Goa. Seven participants from various Civil Society Organiza- tions and educational institutions have handed over expressions of interest in setting up Community Radio Stations after the two day Consultation. The Consultation was organized on behalf of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, in association with a local partner AV- CODE, at the Sardar Patel Institute of Public Administration, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. December 2nd, 2008 The CEMCA Advisory Council Meeting took place at the Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi. The President and CEO, of the Common- wealth of Learning, Sir John Daniel, (Chairperson, CEMCA Advisory Council), Vice President and Director of Programmes, Prof Asha S Kanwar (Deputy Chair Person) attended the meeting along with other esteemed members of the Council from India, Maldives, and Malaysia. India was represented by Mr N K Sinha, Joint Secretary, Bureau of Distance Learning, Ministry of Human Resource and Devel- opment, the National Institute of Open Schooling was repre- sented by Mr Mahesh Chand Pant, Mr Kiran Karnick, Former President and CEO, National Association of Software and Serv- ices, Dr Mohamed Naser Mohamed Noor, Director, International Education, Department of Higher Education, represented the Ministry of Higher Education, Government of Malaysia, while Mr Ahmed Shafeeu, Director General, Policy, Planning & Research Section, represented the Ministry of Education, Government of Maldives. The other members of the CEMCA Advisory Council could not attend the meeting. Building Programme is for the earlier batch of teachers trained by CEMCA in 2007. They will be undergoing an advanced level December 20th - 24th, 2008 training programme in developing self learning instructional The Second Capacity Building Programme for Haryana State multi - media materials. But this will be covered in the next Open School will be held from the 20th to the 24th. This Capacity issue of the Educomm Asia. 14
  15. 15. Case Study... IP Teleconferencing in Open and Distance Learning Open and Distance Learning (ODL) has been expanding since Availability of broadband at home and the tools available at af- the recent past and it will continue to do so to become more fordable cost have resulted in significant achievements in estab- popular and demanding as educators strive to increase effi- lishing teleconferencing. Web 2.0 is defined in Wikipedia, as "a ciency of course delivery at low cost. Advancements in tech- living term describing changing trends in the use of World Wide nology have reduced the physical/geographical distance with Web (WWW) technology that aims to enhance creativity, infor- very fast speed giving ways to much more effective and qual- mation sharing, collaboration, and functionality of the web". ity delivery. Developments both in "time" and "space" have Application developers and end-users approaches towards web given rise to compute, communicate and conference at very technology for on line journals (blogs), chatting, social-network- fast speed. Learners in ODL have many requirements to be met, ing, video conferencing and sharing of such resources, gener- by the institutions imparting education. Starting from getting ated over the internet, has given birth to a new paradigm as information for the course they want, to be registered from a compared to the earlier use of WWW. Thus, the next version of distant location, admission, finding out lessions and course WWW i.e. Web 2.0 is the diversified application towards materials from the web site(s), submission of assignments and virtualization, as well as the use of switching and networking test papers both online and offline, appearing for examinations, technology at a greater level. contacting the teachers and so on may be the prime require- For the application of delivery on the web, it is essential to have ments. They do not have the opportunity to contact teachers or broadband to access the desired sites. It is required to have the dealing staff for support services directly, as compared to about 384Kbps bandwidth for better resolution and motion the conventional class room system. Today's technology, avail- handling for video conferencing. The requirement goes up in able at very cost effective level, has become a necessity for all case services are to be provided with proxy servers. As many such institutions engaged in imparting distance learning. Web access points, in terms of users accessing web application for technology is available at much affordable cost for an individual conferencing are added, requirement of bandwidth increases. and for the organizations. The availability of broadband at The delivery server also need to be capable in terms of han- cheaper rate has increased the demand for such facility based dling 'time and space' for effective communication. Thus, the on web technology. public internet is sufficient for providing broadband at user Web technology provides significant support in ODL system. level for all these applications. However, the success would However, just computers connected over internet or intranet depend on a well planned efficient network with the right on private network will never totally substitute the learning Internet Service Provider, before applications may be ready for experience students receive from an educator. Such offerings use, hence such requirements have to be looked into seriously. are never completely satisfactory for students. Teleconferencing and videoconferencing, of classes creating virtual class rooms, Conventional Video Conferencing vs IP can overcome the clear social limitations of on line course Teleconferencing offerings. Thus, the ultimate goal of a technology driven sys- One does not like to watch TV if there is no good quality pic- tem is to increase the amount of social presence in order to ture. Similarly, one becomes reluctant when video communica- provide learners with the sense and benefits of a traditional tion is linked to poor image resolution, poor sound quality, and classroom. This will also help in contacting experts sitting at user connectivity. At the same time the total delivery system very far distances over the globe. has to be at an affordable level. Advances in video communication technology represent imme- Web 2.0 diate saving to the end-users providing better ways to commu- Invention of Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and Internet nicate and work. The new technology available provides reso- Protocol (IP) is the key to success of Web technology. While TCP lution at least three times (3X) the resolution of standard televi- helps in sending message signals, breaking them in packets, from sion and ten times (10X) the resolution of the conventional video source to destination, IP provides machine addresses of 'source' conferencing system available over the past 20 years. Powerful and 'destinations'. Thus, when the addresses are known, mes- tools available for video conferencing have resulted in dramatic sage passing over wired or wireless network at any distance is advances in various application areas. MPEG devices responsi- possible. Ever since TCP/IP was invented, virtualization has ble for higher video resolution require significant bandwidth. become a reality with use of various switching equipments. In recent years, cost effective bandwidth and network conver- 15
  16. 16. gence have become widely accessible in the enterprise and other increased with 24 evens giving 48Mbps bandwidth. However, organizations including educational institutions and governmen- this facility is available at present without VPN at the main cam- tal organizations. pus New Delhi for development, testing, installation and deliv- Traditional video conferencing systems, those that have been ery of applications in virtual mode mainly through the follow- available for about 15 years, have provided organizations with ing IGNOU sites - www.ignou.ac.in, www.ignouonline.ac.in, the ability to meet face-to-face over distance. Most of the time www.egyankosh.ac.in. quality has been tolerable but not all the time and enjoyable as As the broadband with such a high speed is available, we meeting in person. On the contrary, high resolution videos pro- explored to test video conferencing with available internet tools vides very clear picture to the extent that one can know whether at home segment level. In order to have the testing team, on the individuals, sitting at very remote place over the globe, are CEMCA's (COL) initiative, a team was formed with members watching videos with open eyes. With the traditional video from ICT divisions of IGNOU. The team has tested the conferencing the resolution is 101,376 pixels, whereas with high videoconferencing using 'Skype' with users sitting in India, resolution IP based conferencing the resolution is 921,600 pixels. Canada, and Malaysia. This activity has given rise to leverage Resolution available at this level makes people appear true-to- the video conferencing using IP technology at much lower cost. life and in the right size. Visual acuity - the distance to view However, as putting the technology for use at users level video conferencing without loss in resolution - has come down demands a much planned activity for the deployment and from 20-30 feet to 10 feet. Hence people can be seen in correct delivery; it is expected to go for the facility at organizational size and with clear vision with the help of latest level in near future. videoconferencing tools. Such advances at much affordable cost are a boon to the educational Dr Vijay S P Srivastav has been work- system and institutions imparting education from a distance. ing in IGNOU since mid 1996. He took over the charge of Computer Division as IGNOU - an Experience the 'Head of the Division' in September Indira Gandhi National Open University, which is a successful 2000. The Division is the main IT serv- story for ODL system has been using all such technologies avail- ice provider for the IGNOU fraternity able for teleconferencing. Using C, extended C, kU band and with its wide span all over India and with Edusat the University has launched multiple TV channels to about 40 international centres in over- broadcast educational programmes on well scheduled regular seas countries. basis. For data communication and delivery of course materials Dr Srivastav has a Master degree in Statistics from Indian Institute of through IGNOU site, in the mid 90s, IGNOU started with just Technology Kanpur and Doctorate degree from yet another premiere 64Kbps link. In successive years, as the bandwidth became freely institution - Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was awarded available at reasonable cost, the bandwidth was increased to the doctorate in Computer Science in 1988. Prior to joining IGNOU 2Mbps(1:4) to 2Mbps(1:1) to 4Mbps(1:1) and today it has been he has served for 12 years in the industry under various capacities. 16
  17. 17. Smart Tips... Distance Education Supports: Video Conferencing and Webcasting Krishna Moorthy V, Consultant Introduction Types of Video Conferencing Systems Video conferencing and Webcasting are effective tools that may Integrated Video Conferencing Rooms (Classroom video be used in open and distance education settings. These systems conferencing): This type of system usually uses high-end com- can be integrated into any education programme with minimal munication components, AV components like Overhead projec- adaptation to the curriculum and course. tors and Audio/Video supports that allow all participants to be seen on the monitors and interact via Video/Audio supports (30 to 50 people). Connect the Disconnected Set-top video conferencing: This system is designed primarily – Dr. Ray Ganey, Cochise College, AZ for small groups around 10-15 participants at the sites seated around a conference tables. TV/Montors Speakers are used for Webcasting on a URL (e.g. http://www.cemca.org/liveclass/) Video/Audio communications. with public domain conferencing supports, text chat or Phone- Desktop video conferencing: This system utilizes a personal in interaction from the students' end appears to be an afford- computer and video conferencing software. These systems are able and cost-effective solution. The basics of videoconferencing less expensive, but offer limited resolution. Mostly individual and other available approaches for video chats and innovative participants can use the system. combinations of various techniques will be discussed in this is- sue. The discussions placed here, assumes web-based approaches Webcasting for connecting the instructor (teaching end) and the students/ A webcast is a media file distributed over the Internet using learners (learning end). streaming media technology. The generally accepted use of the term Webcast is the "transmission of linear audio or video con- Video Conferencing tent over the Internet". A Webcast may either be distributed live Video Conferencing may be defined as a two way audio-video or on demand. In the case of Webcast, the transmission is one live communications (synchronous) amongst people present at way audio-video and does not allow interaction between the geographically dispersed locations. The term 'web conference' presenter and the audience. refers to a broad set of technologies that facilitate video confer- Live Webcasting ences. The exchanged components across the web may be live Educational deliveries, Online meetings, webinars (Web-based A presenter may deliver a talk/lecture live using Webcasting seminars) and remote document exchange. technology. Video Conferencing is a solution for the sharing of images and Simulcasting ideas across remote sites, between people in real time. Technol- The Webcasters may "simulcast" existing radio and TV stations ogy allows the broadcasting of presentation (Slide shows), output over the internet. That is, transmit their TV/Radio out- Videos, interactive question and answer sessions, sharing of files put over the internet. and interactive white boards. All these functions are accom- plished with the use of cameras, video displays, microphones, In a Classroom situation, normally there is one presenter (the speakers, computers and a few sets of software tools. teacher) and students located at different sites individually or in groups (in study centres). Webcasting may be an effective In a typical interactive web conference there are multiple pre- approach in such conditions. senters and attendees who can converse, share applications and their desktops as well as brainstorm and annotate ideas with How Does the Video Conferencing System Works? collaborative tools. In a nutshell, Video conferencing enables an CODEC is the focal point of a video conferencing system. exchange of information as if two or more participants are in the CODEC is an acronym for COder/DECoder. CODEC are of same geographical position. two types, software CODEC and hardware CODEC. The hard- ware CODEC is a part of Pentium based computers. Reading maketh a full man, conference The various functions of CODEC include conversion of wide a ready man, and writing an exact man. band analog signals into digital form, and vice versa, and – Sir Francis Bacon removal of redundancy in audio and video signals. CODEC reduces the signal bandwidth in this manner from approximately 17
  18. 18. 90 MBPS (around 10 Million characters per second) to as low as broadcast can use high-latency audio compression techniques 64 Kbps (8000 characters per second), for an affordable trans- to achieve higher fidelity at a lower bit-rate. mission over communication channels. In a nutshell, CODEC compresses the audio and video and then CODEC along with a video camera, microphone, speakers and sends it over the high-speed link as per system requirements dedicated bandwidth of 128 Kbps or more over a wide area net- and resources availability. The sound and moving image is work enables the communication. The network could be over reproduced at the remote end by another CODEC. All video an ISDN line or a satellite based leased line. Video is displayed conferencing systems work in a full duplex mode i.e. encoding on a TV screen or computer screen and "hands free" audio com- and decoding in both directions simultaneously. munication is carried out using microphones and speakers. Free Video Conferencing Applications, Services There are two types of CODEC. Lossy CODECs are lossy, mean- ing that the CODEC perform an extremely high rate of com- & Tools pression but in the process reduce the quality by a slight amount. Free conference services are applications that one can download Lossless CODECs are typically used for archiving data in a com- and install on one's computer. However, some of these free pressed form while retaining all of the information present in solutions are browser-based, meaning one can just visit the serv- the original stream. ice's website with their own cameras plugged in and turned on, Codecs are often designed to emphasize certain aspects of the invite some friends to a meeting room and get started. media to be encoded. For example, a digital video of a sports Just because these web services are free doesn't mean they can't event, such as Cricket or Soccar, needs to encode motion well, be used in Education. but not necessarily exact colours, A frame transfer rate of Let us see the currently supported features of some of the typi- 18 fps is considered to be reasonable for a good quality of cal video-chat products. motion video output. A video of an artistic work needs to perform well encoding col- Skype our and surface texture. The audio codecs for cell phones need Skype offers VoIP, IM and Audio/video chat in one applica- to be of a very low latency between a word being spoken and tion. It is free and works well on MS Windows, Mac OS X and that word being heard; while audio codecs for recording or Linux. Free PC to PC calls to people anywhere in the world, 18
  19. 19. Free video calls - plus High Quality Videos. Call phones and Gizmo mobiles at great low rates per minute. Instant messaging also Gizmo (http://www.gizmoproject.com): Like Skype, Gizmo supported. One can forward the calls to the mobile when the offers unlimited PC-to-PC calls to anyone with a Gizmo. It also person one is trying to call is not available online and also send enables you to remove other messengers and put all the con- SMS messages. (http://www.skype.com). Skype supports group tacts into a single messenger. Features such as calling a regular text chat with an interface of up to 150 People. landline (also known as Skype Out) and mapping a number in the US or any other country (Skype In) are also available. How- SightSpeed ever, what's unique about Gizmo is its 'All Plans Free' scheme, SightSpeed is a tough competitor to Skype. SightSpeed runs which will help you make free PC-to phone calls. without issues on MS Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. It offers IM, VoIP and, of course, video chat all come as standard. Free The Wengomeeting video conferencing with SightSpeed is a real highlight; it's fast, The Wengomeeting (http://www.wengomeeting.com) audio and crisp and responsive. The free version allows person-to-person video conference service was developed by the same French video conferencing only but this can be upgraded to a 4-way company behind the well known Skype alternative, video conference by signing up to the monthly plan (for more WengoPhone. Like PalBee, Wengomeeting is a browser-based details - http://www.sightspeed.com/). Dell is planning to offer service that uses Flash technology, which means that it can run it as a standard support along with Dell systems. on Windows, Mac OS X or Linux. Getting a meeting organised OoVoo is fairly easy: simply use the online form to enter contact details and they will be given all information pertinent to the confer- OoVoo is a free video conferencing service. A free download ence. Just as with PalBee, Wengomeeting will accommodate up (http://www.oovoo.com/) that can run on MS Windows and Mac to 5 users simultaneously. OS X. A Linux version is in the offing. One can talk for free with up to three people, or upgrade to ooVoo SUPER, to talk with up MeBeam to six people at a time (visit ooVoo Options to learn more). MeBeam.com is a video conferencing web site that works for If one's contact isn't online one can leave a recorded video basic video conferencing on both PCs and Macs. This service message, which is a very handy feature. enables the user to create an online chat room where up to 16 Other non-video features in ooVoo include VoIP calls, IM, text people can participate in a videoconference by simply accepting chat and person-to-person file transfer. In all, ooVoo is most an email invitation. definitely worth trying out especially if one can foresee oneself The lack of any additional features beyond basic video ever video conferencing with one or may be two other people at conferencing is the major downfall to this service; however, it a time, and for free. may prove to be useful for setting up a quick video conference GMAIL Video Chat when the participants are not all set up with the same system. Bringing video chat into the Gmail page, just as it does with iChat regular IM, is in step with Google's efforts to connect its dispa- Apple's iChat runs only on Mac OS X, iChat lets you chat, talk rate services together in a more seamless fashion. It is also a bet- and video conference with contacts. While iChat is an accom- ter experience. If you use Gmail as your primary email, you don't plished text and voice application, it excels at video. You can have to open up a separate application just to conduct a text, video conference with up to 3 others simultaneously with iChat, voice, or video chat (as you do with other IM clients). These are it is totally free. iChat offers other tricks. For instance, you can all just different modes of communication, available to you as apply custom backdrop images or videos to make it look like appropriate. one is in a meeting room or on the beach. iChat also has built in PalBee screen sharing support and the capability to share any file sup- ported by the Quick Look technology. The great thing about PalBee (http://www.palbee.com/) is that it is completely web-based, therefore there are no downloads or More Details About Skype installs: all you need is an account with PalBee and a webcam connected to your computer. Once you have your meeting room Founded in 2003, Skype is revolutionizing the way people com- setup it's just a matter of sharing the URL with up to five of your municate around the world. Skype has around 370 million reg- friends. The one drawback is that there is a one hour time limit istered users globally communicate for free through voice and on using the meeting room. PalBee has a great recording capa- video calls as well as instant messages. Skype generates revenue bility built right in that lets you record a conference and then through its premium offerings, such as calls made to and from embed it on your blog or profile, or simply share with contacts. landlines and mobiles, voicemail, call forwarding, and SMS. If you don't mind the one hour limit and plan on conducting Skype is used in almost every country on Earth. relatively small conferences (< 5 participants), then PalBee is Conversations over Skype can take place on computers, mobile definitely worth trying. devices and Skype Certified™ hardware. Skype certifies and sells 19

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