Tele-Education Bringing
August 2007

Tele-Education Bringing

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Tele-education with all its regular innovation is creating new environment for training, learning and interactive discussions. It is opening path for transforming the way we live, act, think, learn and communicate. Barrier due to distance is vanishing to provide various lectures/courses in far-flung areas for the benefit and development of people across the region, country, continents, etc.

In the present day scenario, tele-education is important for the under-developed and developing countries as it has the potential to expose the student for the multifarious learning experiences and opportunities that challenge and maximise learning potential. Unlike the traditional learning system, here the learner has to take the responsibility of learning effectively and has to prepare himself for better interaction with the teacher during the session. It also enables students/learners to grow in a holistic way, interacting with successful professional, thus inspiring and boosting enthusiasm of the students. The ultimate aim of tele-education system is to transform the student community from reactive to interactive and from interactive to proactive and make them ignited. It serves as an excellent medium to develop capacity building for the region where education through electronic means can promote the well-being and development of the people.

In this context it will be relevant to narrate what Govt. of India is going to do for capacity building in Africa by way of imparting education to at least 10, 000 African students through tele-education over Pan-African e-Network. The President of India Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, during the inaugural session of the Pan-African Parliament held at Johannesburg on 16th September 2004, proposed in his talk a project to connect all the 53 nations of the African Union by a Satellite and Fiber Optic Network that would provide effective communication and connectivity among the Nations. The proposed network would primarily provide tele-education, tele-medicine, Internet, videoconferencing and VOIP services and also support e-Governance, e-Commerce, infotainment, resource mapping and meteorological services. As a follow up of the initiative of the President, the Ministry of External Affairs of the Govt. of India proceeded with setting up of a network called Pan-African e-Network, which shall mainly provide tele-education and tele-medicine to 53 African Nations.

The forerunner to the Pan-African e-Network is the Ethiopia pilot project on tele-education and tele-medicine, that has already been commissioned in the last quarter of 2006. TCIL as the implementing agency has established a fiber-optic based network to transmit interactive sessions for the PG/UG courses from IGNOU in New Delhi, India to tele-education centres set up in Addis Ababa and HaraMaya Universities in Ethiopia. While 40 students are already taking MBA Course since March 20, 2007, more students have expressed interest to enroll for this course as it can offer professional degrees without leaving their country. Encouraged by the experience of the pilot project funded by the Govt. of India, Ethiopia is planning to open 20 more tele-education centres in the near future.

The broad architecture of the Pan-African e-Network has been designed as follows:
The project involves connecting the following facilities/elements in a network across the 53 African Nations and thereafter maintaining it for 5 years to provide tele-education, tele-medicine and Heads of States connectivity:

  • Data Centre at TCIL Bhawan, New Delhi in India
  • Satellite Hub earth station at Senegal
  • Seven University to provide tele-education courses from India
  • Five leading regional universities of Africa
  • Five regional super specialty hospitals of Africa
  • Two Super Specialty Hospitals to provide expert medical services and CME from India.
  • Three Learning Centres in Africa, one in each country
  • 53 Patient-end Hospitals in Africa, one in each country
  • 53 VVIP nodes for providing Video-conferencing and VOIP connectivity to Heads of States in Africa.

The network design provides for transmission of he live, interactive lecture content from a selected university to pass through a Data centre in TCIL HQ and will be transmitted over an IPLC (International Private Leased Circuit) for onward delivery to a satellite hub earth station in Africa. From the hub station, the content will be up-linked to an international satellite like Eutelset/Intelset and then down-linked to various VSATs, one in each country, for the purpose of tele-education. In this fashion, the teacher at India end shall be able to deliver his live lecture to the registered students sitting in model classrooms equipped with multimedia facility in African nations. In case a student is unable to attend a class, he would be able to asynchronously access the lecture contents stored in the database, through Internet. All the academic processes right from enrolment/registration of students with a particular university up to his certification for a degree or diploma in the prescribed course of study shall be through a portal; in this way the education delivery mechanism will completely dispense with the conventional methods of teacher-student interactions and administrative, academic processes.

The tele-education set up in the university uses studio comprising camera, audio-video mixer, editing system, computer hardware and application software for capturing, storing and transmission of the content/lectures for a learning session. It is to create the virtual remote classrooms in a multi-studio and multi-class environment with seamless two-way interaction between the teachers and students through collaborative tools. The system provides seamless, one-to-one, one-to-many connectivity through heterogeneous network platform in an IP-based multi-casting mode of delivery.

Spread of tele-education
The success of the tele-education projectin Ethiopia has generated demand for the solution to other places and countries also. A small variation of the solution
as applicable in different situation and requirements can be designed for implementation. The system can be customised to have scalability and offer features as required or that can be added later over a period of time.  The uniqueness of the solution is that it offers a cost-effective and quicker  system that can be implemented in widely diversified geographical regions.  Other variation of solution using videoconferencing unit are also being used for training and teaching at various locations. The potential of tele-education as a
viable solution to cut cost on training has been realised by corporate bodies. Training through tele-education system  can improve the productivity and efficiency of a company. The travel time and cost can be reduced if training is
imparted through tele-education system.  Many companies/organisations having sites at remote places can arrange training and workshops or technical
discussions with the employees. In this way, with proper design of the architecture and the content for learning and training, tele-education can  bridge the knowledge gap that exists across the society, company, country and
continents at large.

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