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Issue 5: Current Developments

Learning without Boundary: Application of Satellite Communication System on Distance Education

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SCS (Space Collaboration System)

SCS is a satellite communication network developed to facilitate the video conferencing in Japan. This system provides for classroom-type distance education in which students receives lectures and demonstrations from a central station and be able to ask questions via satellite. Through the Japanese videoconferencing system, lecturers are able to observe students in the classrooms; it is a two-way video communication. A unique feature of this system is data caching in which students in distant locations may request that CAI (computer-aided instruction) materials be delivered via satellite direct to PCs and workstations.

This system has been used to implement a cooperative distance education project between Japan, China, and Thailand. Figure 4 shows that SCS is a VSAT system.[16] Each distant school is VSAT station, which enables students to request and receive synchronous and asynchronous lecture from central school which is the hub station.[17]

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Figure 4: SCS system (Source: SCS webpage)

SkyplexNet System

SkylexNet system represents a synchronous and an asynchronous learning model for distance education. This system is developed from the VSAT system. The user ends are equipped with VSAT and the service centers are equipped with satellite dish as well; so that in the asynchronous model, students have on-demand access to instructional materials through this system shown as Figure 4. Besides, students are able to have real-time interactions with teachers in the synchronous model.[18]

In addition to the above three system, the WorldSpace A.D.V.I.C.E. (Auxiliary Data and Voice Integrated Channel for Education) and the Inteleconference Hughes Network Systems also provide for two-way communication.

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Figure 5: SkyplexNet System. VSAT enables user ends and service centers have synchronous and asynchronous communication.
(Source: SkyplexNet webpage)

A.D.V.I.C.E.

A.D.V.I.C.E. is a system that can provide more than one mode of delivery, such as data casting, webcasting, audiographics, and pr-recorded CDs.[19] In the data casting model, the contents are delivered to the learning centers before classes begin. Users can download the lesson from the learning center. Then the contents are cached on the users PC and can be viewed via a custom Worldspace viewer anytime. Webcasting is basically similar to datacasting, however; the content is derived from an existing website. In audiographic model, the data relates to visuals supplemented by an audio commentary. Students can receive live lectures and PowerPoint presentation at their PCs at a scheduled time. In addition, this system provides a channel in which students and teachers can have synchronous conversation.[20]

Inteleconference

Inteleconference system is based on VSAT system; it provides point to point and point to multipoint video conferencing. Remote schools can share sources from the central control center. This system allows four conferencing models that are broadcast, two-way communication, N-way (broadcast with audio return) communicaiton, and 2+N way (multipoint) communication.[21]

In some cases, the distance education provider adopts one-way communication via satellite for delivering data. For example, the University of Costa Rica is receiving Internet data via a receive-only satellite dish.[22]

Concerns about Utilizing Satellite Communication Networks in Distance Education

In spite of the fact that integrating communication satellites into distance education has improved the quality of delivering data, there are still some factors that need to be considered in utilizing such communication systems, These include cost, installation, infrastructure, and regulatory concerns.

Satellite communication involves several components; thus, users have to evaluate the cost of utilizing satellite systems, and of maintaining the equipment needed to support distance education exchange via satellite networks. Both delivering and receiving learning centers have to consider whether if they are able to afford these system, or to whom they need to look for cooperation and assistance. Installation is another concern since distance education via satellite will often need to be integrated with terrestrial education systems. Installation at the remote site at the classroom is generally a simple matter, much like installing a simple TV receive only dish. Before initiating a distance education project, schools will need to consider the structural requirements, such as the suitable location of the satellite dish and related issues such as clear line and sight to space and the weather.

Infrastructure is one of the major concerns in providing distance education through satellite systems. Establishing satellite communication networks in developed countries and in urban areas would pose few problems integrating with the local infrastructure. However, when establishing satellite communication networks in developing countries and rural areas, the lack of available and reliable electricity will hinder the construction of such communication networks. This factor, accompanied with the financial challenge, becomes a constraint. In addition, the regulation of telecommunication in some regions might affect the integration of satellite into local education. In Australia, the provincial authorities make their own purchasing arrangements and differing approaches to connectivity; therefore, there can be different sectoral arrangements operating.[23] The regulatory framework relating to satellite communications usually differs from country to country.

Most easily accept receive-only dishes (with some notable exceptions such as China and Singapore); however, obtaining a transmit license can be a complicated manner. Those who wish to develop an distance learning network should emphasize the social value when applying for the necessary licenses and permits.

Conclusion

Satellite communication has improved the implementation of distance education in variety ways. More and more satellite and telecommunication providers offer distance education service. New systems for enhanced communication, such as Worldspace's A.D.V.I.C.E and Hughes' Inteleconference combine data broadcast with audio and with video. Through these technologies, distance education of the future will be able to deliver diverse multimedia materials for students and teacher interaction, Nevertheless, cost and the basic infrastructure are big issues for developing countries and for rural areas. They happen to be the places that need satellite communication the most.


REFERENCES

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  4. Elbert, Bruce R., 1999. Introduction to Satellite Communication.
  5. Roach, R. (2000). Bridging the Digital Divide from the Sky. Black Issues in Higher Education, vol. 17, no. 21, p. 30.
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  11. Liberty Times, July 13, 2002.
  12. IDTV network.
  13. Al-Sharhan Jamal, (2000). Education and the Satellite: Possibility for Saudi Arabia. International Journal of Instructional media, vol.27, no.1, 51-57.
  14. Everett, J. (1992).VSATs: very small aperture terminals. P2.
  15. Sharma, S. (2000). Interactive Distance Education for In-Service Teachers in India. Educational Media International, vol.37, no.1, pp68-72.
  16. Tanigawa, T., Ileura, T., Anzai, M., & Kaneko, I. (2002). Development of distance learning system by using satellite communication Network
  17. System and Computer in Japan, vol.33, no.8, 41-50.
  18. Tanigawa, T., Ileura, T., Anzai, M., & Kaneko, I. (2002). Development of distance learning system by using satellite communication Network. System and Computer in Japan, vol.33, no.8, 41-50.
  19. SkyplexNet is co-financed by the European Space Agency, ESA.
  20. Rangarajan, S. & Venugopal, D. (2002). Evolution of ADVICE,Auxiliary Data and Voice Channel for Education: The Indian field trials.
  21. Rangarajan, S. & Venugopal, D. (2002). Evolution of ADVICE,Auxiliary Data and Voice Channel for Education: The Indian field trials.
  22. Quantum Prime Communication (2000). Inteleconference: Satellite-Based Videoconferencing system.
  23. O'Brien, G. L.H. & Wiseman, T. (2000). Space Log. Space News.
  24. Australian Information and Communications Technology in Education Committee (AICTEC).

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