Chapter 4
Case Studies of Digital Broadcasting Learning Services

The following case studies have been selected to try to give an idea of the state of the art concerning the development of digital broadcasting learning services across Europe and also a flavour of developments in the United States.

As an indication of the very immature state of the market it was only possible to find one example of a digital TV interactive learning service focused towards home users in Europe. A number of other services are planned to start during the later part of 1999.

The case studies have been grouped according to the emerging new opportunities that digital broadcasting can offer. Some of the case studies include examples of fully operational services. Other examples are still at the trial or planning stage, but they do illustrate the state of developments towards utilising digital broadcasting services during the first quarter of 1999: -

    1. utilising the extra capacity available by increasing the number of programmes broadcast
    2. and may also provide some sort of interactivity via the Internet only
    1. high speed access to educational content on the Internet
    2. delivery of specific learning resources
    1. interactive services which enable the viewer to access information independent of the TV channel
    2. enhanced TV services which enable the viewer to do more that passively watch a TV programme

In addition, there is also one case study of an analogue data broadcasting service that has been recently launched. As analogue services are still likely to be available in most European countries until 2010 it illustrates that there are still opportunities for utilising them for educational purposes if they are the most cost-effective way of providing such a service. (See Case Study 13)

4.1 Traditional educational channels which enhance their services

A number of public service broadcasters have been providing educational broadcasts via analogue TV for a number of years. Sometimes these have been targeted towards schools and sometimes to the general public in their own homes. The Internet has tended to first have an impact on many educational broadcasters. They have been able to provide additional information about their programmes via their own web sites. In addition they have also been able to receive feedback via email. This is now the most common form of interactivity by educational broadcasters. The development of digital TV has enabled additional broadcasting capacity to be available to some educational broadcasters. This has resulted in the emergence of some new services like the video-clip ordering service to schools offered by the Italian public service broadcaster RAI. (See Case Study 1). This utilises the additional capacity available via the digital TV channel. It also utilises the web as a means for teachers to get additional information about programmes and immediately send their order for a particular video-clip that will then be broadcast.

 

Case Study 1: A near video on demand service for schools Italy

RAI, the Italian public service broadcaster, has been providing an educational TV service (RAIsat E3) to schools via digital satellite since October 1997. It now provides two forms of interactivity to schools. One format is a so-called "near video on demand service" and the other format is a live broadcast with interactive feedback.

The near video on demand service is really a video ordering service, enabling teachers to order video clips from 4000 titles covering 27 subjects. The catalogue of offerings is accessible from the RAI educational web site (135). Teachers can browse the catalogue and request a video clip via email. Within 10-14 days the video clip will be broadcast by RAI Sat E3 the teacher requesting the video clip will have been previously informed when it will be broadcast. In additional all teachers can view the programme schedule off the web site and it is also published weekly in a national newspaper. Any teacher can record the video clip and save it for future use. The video clips may consist of existing educational programmes or taken from other RAI channels. All material used has been previously cleared of intellectual property rights before it is broadcast.

RAI, from within its own budget, is currently equipping 5000 schools with satellite dishes and digital receivers. Eventually all 12,000 schools in Italy could be utilising the service. As more schools can access the service, demand for video clips has increased and programmes are now broadcast 24 hours per day. Consideration is being given to utilising a second digital channel that may make it possible for a teacher to receive a video clip within a few hours of making a request via email. All the programmes broadcast are "free to air". There are plans to develop a Pan European Service if there is the co-operation of other public service broadcasters.

The channel also broadcasts two hours of live programmes five days a week. These programmes are produced with school children that travel to one of two studios in Italy. The children choose the topic and other schools or experts interactive with the studio during the live broadcast via telephone, email and video conferencing links.

 

Digital TV is also resulting in a changing role for many traditional public service educational broadcasters who may face new competition as in the case of UR - the Swedish educational Broadcaster. (See Case Study 2). South Carolina Educational Television, a US based PBS educational and community broadcaster, since 1960, has taken the opportunity to change in order to meet the US authority deadlines for conversion to digital TV before May 2003 (See Case Study 3).

A number of distance teaching universities have also for many years been broadcasting course related programmes through their public service broadcaster. Recently many have also been making extended use of the Internet to provide additional information to their students and receive feedback from them. Digital TV provides more opportunity for them to broadcast more programmes. It could also

Case Study 2: Changing role of a traditional
Public Service Educational Broadcaster - Sweden

UR (136) is a traditional public sector educational broadcaster in Sweden and currently the only one in existence. It has been operating as a separate company since 1979 but educational broadcasting started in 1926. UR is being broadcast at certain times on two of the public service channels SVT1 and SVT2. However, from September 1999 it will get new competition from Kunskaps TV (Knowledge TV) which won a government licence to take up an its own digital terrestrial channel. UR also bid this licence but was unsuccessful. Since then the government has allowed UR to act as public educational broadcaster another three years 1999-2001 in line with SVT and SR (Swedish Radio). Since April 1999 UR has provided broadcasts from both digital terrestrial and satellite. The output is more or less the same as the output in the analogue channels.

UR is keen to take part in developments towards "flexible learning" and actively work with a new media pedagogy that can be used in schools, universities and for the broad groups of adults. As a response to these developments UR will change its programme output and format. It will also co-operate with different user groups.

The programs will be more interactive involving users as part of the production process. For example a student watching a programme will be able to display their thoughts to other students on the common web page/TV. The broadcasting company will become more like an administrator of the learning process than a program producer. However, this does raise some legal aspects: Who will be responsible for the broadcasting in this interactive world?

UR has been reviewing its role as an educational broadcaster in the future. It considers that if people want to study on their own flexible conditions, the output from the educational broadcaster must be available as an easily accessible resource. There will be three important elements of the future service:

          1. digital TV and radio broadcasting

          2. additional services via web, TV and radio

          3. media library with all the programs and additional material and information

What the different parts will contain is difficult to define at this moment. It depends on the direction of the technical development and the interaction with the different user groups. At the same time it will also need to provide parallel analogue broadcasting for several years.

Studies made in Sweden and UK about the attitude of the audience to digital TV show that the audience first of all expects a better quality of picture and sound. An important task is, within available bandwidth, to develop different services without decrease in the technical quality of the programmes. The ambition of UR is to offer different possibilities for deeper learning and additional information. Together with the media lab of SVT, different solutions for additional services are tested from both the technical and human aspects.

The strategy of UR is to use the terrestrial network, satellite, cable and Internet to reach the different user groups and increase the availability of service to them. All digital interactive projects for digital TV will during the coming years also be available on the Internet. But, even if the borders between television and data communication are becoming more and more diffuse, the available equipment in the homes and in the schools and institutions determines the types of programmes offered by UR. Media habits, interest and ability to absorb the new possibilities are the key factors in the process of new pedagogic services.

The digital broadcasting of UR will during the coming years concentrate on broadcasting mass communication. Set-top boxes with built-in telephone modems give the possibility to communicate with other people and the Internet. The good relations developed with their user base, which is being built up through the Internet service, will eventually strengthen through direct connections to the digital TV programmes.

An important task for UR as a public service company is to offer different combinations of broadcasting and web solutions. The different development projects within UR aim to integrate the digital broadcasting (radio and TV) with the web production and teletext development. As a consequence of this, all programme information can be found in one database. Increasingly, complete courses utilising radio and TV programmes will become available on the web. During the year 2000 several TV programmes will be distributed in the 16:9 (HDTV) format via digital terrestrial and satellite broadcasting. UR will carefully study their effect on learning.

 

Case Study 3: An educational and community broadcaster migrating to Digital TV
- South Carolina USA

South Carolina Educational Television - SCETV (137) - is a PBS educational and community broadcaster based in Columbia, South Carolina with a long history in educational television stretching back to 1960 when the South Carolina General Assembly created the South Carolina Educational Television Commission. It broadcasts programmes over the PBS satellite network and over its own closed circuit network.

SCETV has embraced the migration to digital TV deadlines set by the US FCC and will convert to DTV before May 2003. The organisation has budgeted $41 million over the 5 years of conversion (this figure will cover merely the purchase and installation of new equipment and does not include personnel or operational costs). Some of this funding will come from US Federal funds some from South Carolina State funds. The digital conversion means that many of SCETV's educational services currently available only via its closed circuit system today will be universally available in the home. The conversion to digital broadcasting will extend the value of South Carolina's investment in SCETV's existing infrastructure giving it greater reach and enhancing its offerings.

Using new DTV technologies during the day SCETV will be capable of providing up to six simultaneous channels of educational programming. At night SCETV has the potential to broadcast in high definition television with crystal clear pictures and CD quality surround sound. Complementary datacasting means viewers could receive printed materials through their television sets or computers.

There are three new broadcast options available with digital transmission: multicasting High Definition TV and datacasting. The digital transition plays an important role in SCETV's ability to continue to meet its mission and educational obligations to the state with universal access to every home in the state with a television. ETV proposes that the network operate a high definition signal during prime time along with one standard definition channel. At all other times the network will operate in a full multicast mode offering a minimum of four simultaneous channels of standard definition programming. The prime time programming will consist mainly of pass-through HDTV programming directly from PBS with some limited local production playbacks. The data component could take the form of printed material like program transcripts computer software or Internet-like web pages that complement the program airing.

SCETV currently offers a range of educational programmes including its "Ready To Learn" programme for pre-school children. It is envisaged that these offerings will be enhanced and made available through digital TV. SCETV is also looking at the possibility of providing services such as a "university of the air" a South Carolina "C-Span" to broadcast state legislative proceedings adult and community education classes

and a range of other information and education services. The organisation is looking at using at least one channel purely for data transmission. Services such as paging could be offered over this channel.

 

provide the opportunity for interactivity. However, they may not actually want to take up this opportunity, as interactivity via the Internet may be most appropriate for their needs. Most students are now likely to have a computer for their studies, which for a small additional cost can provide access to the Internet. (See Case Study 4).

4.2 Data Broadcasting Services

It has been realised in some more remote regions of Europe high-speed access to the Internet via cable networks or the emerging ADSL technologies may not be possible because of the cost of providing such services. However, digital-broadcasting technologies particularly utilising a satellite does make it possible to obtain higher speed of access than is currently available. Such a service is being provided by TPS, a pay-TV via digital satellite service provider, on experimental basis to 100 high schools in remote regions. (See Case Study 5)

 

Case Study 4: A university learning channel - Italy

Consorzio Nettuno consists of a network of 34 out of 56 Italian universities, 8 Albanian universities, RAI (the Italian public service broadcaster) and Telecom Italia. Since October 1997 it has been offering distance learning courses via a digital satellite channel provided at low cost by RAI. There are now 6000 students registered for various university level diploma courses in various specialist areas like engineering courses, geographical information systems and tourism and cultural heritage. The students are actually registered with a specific university of their choice and will receive their diploma via that university and not directly from Consorzio Nettuno.

Consorzio Nettuno provides a co-ordinating role for the distance learning courses and centrally organises the broadcasting and manages the web site. It also has studio facilities where university lecturers can record their presentations. Although the lecture style approach is primarily used, increasingly computer graphics and video clips are being included to enhance the presentation, within certain cost limitations. Consorzio Nettuno can also provide advice and guidance on appropriate techniques for television presentations that can be produced at lower cost compared to normal television productions. Some universities also have studio facilities, and costs are also kept down by using students as part of the production team.

Students follow a three-year diploma course that consists of between 6 and 10 modules per year. Each module consists of 40 hours of broadcast material. Therefore the TV channel is now broadcast 24 hours per day moving to a new module about every month. As the channel is "free to air", anyone with an appropriate satellite receiver is able to watch the TV programmes. Registered students also use printed material and additional information is available on the web site including discussion groups.

The TV channel does not have an interactive service and it is unlikely that this will be developed in the future. Most registered students will already have a computer for writing their assignments and many may already have access to the Internet. Therefore it seems that the Consorzio Nettuno web site is likely to be the most appropriate way of providing interactivity for learning rather than moving the interactive services to the TV system at additional cost.

 

Case Study 5: Internet via Satellite to high schools in remote regions France

TPS (TÚlÚvision Par Satellite) is a pay-TV via digital satellite service provider that has been operating in France commercially since December 1996, with over 650,000 subscribers. It offers over 90 channels consisting of national French channels, thematic, music and movie channels. In addition it is also offering its subscribers interactive services in the form of home banking, stock market and a weather channel. Although as yet it is not planning to offer an interactive learning channel, it is managing a trial for schools sponsored by the French ministry of Education. As a young company TPS has been able to offer new commercial services within six months of conception.

TPS are managing a consortium of companies who are providing an experimental service called SAT&CLIC for high schools and universities. It is planned to offer the experimental service to 100 high schools by June 1999. Schools have been selected for the trial if they are in remote regions where they are only likely to have low speed access to the Internet because they will not have access to cable networks or ADSL technologies will not be easy to install. The service will offer access to the Internet via satellite, specially focused towards educational materials and information about what educational programmes are on offer via the TPS bouquet of channels.

Schools are being provided with a satellite dish consisting of two LNBs one to connect to the digital set-top box and the other to connect to a multimedia computer to receive data from the Internet. The return channel to the Internet is via a normal telephone line.

An electronic programme guide has been prepared specifically for education-related programmes within the TPS bouquet of channels. This will help teachers choose what video material is available to them and it links them to the channel providers own web site. This information can be accessed via the television or via the computer.

 

In the UK, Espresso is providing a specific video rich multimedia content to enhance teaching and learning in English primary schools. The service utilises data broadcasting to deliver the material to schools. (See Case Study 6).

 

Case Study 6: Multimedia teaching and learning resources via satellite - UK

Espresso for Schools is a service which is being developed for English primary schools (7-11 years) to enable them to receive regularly updated video rich multimedia to enhance teaching and learning in the classroom. Although it is currently in its pilot phase there are plans to offer a fully sustainable service to primary schools within local education authorities who buy the service from September 1999.

The service utilises data broadcasting to deliver the material to the schools using a service provided by Astra-Net (based in Luxembourg). The service is designed to help children relate what they are learning in class to what is happening in the outside world, by providing regular news, web and TV updates and linking them to curriculum modules. In order to receive the service each school requires a PC containing a DVB card (approximately 225 euro) linked to a satellite receiver (approximately 300 euro including cable) pointing to an Astra satellite. The PC could be connected to a Local Area Network for distribution of material to other computers.

Espresso is both a service and a content provide - in fact the most important component is the content. Video is carefully edited to interest and illustrate particular points in the curriculum. Each video clip can be played full screen on the computer at near-video quality, as well as rewound and fast-forwarded. Each video segment is linked to activities, word games and further information resources that are aimed at challenging pupils' understanding of concepts and terminology. Most new material is sent weekly to the schools via the satellite with short bursts of updated material sent occasionally in between.

The pre-launch pilot - which is partially sponsored by the British National Space Centre and the European Space Agency - will eventually involve 200 primary schools in 18 English local education authorities. However, an initial 900,000 euro has been secured through Babcock & Brown (the international financial services company) for the full launch phase in September 1999. The launch of Espresso for Schools comes as the UK government is investing up to 1.5 billion euro in the National Grid for Learning (NGfL) to enhance the use of computers and information technology in schools. Espresso for Schools believe they have satisfied a key requirement of the NGfL - the provision of exciting and relevant educational content to enable the full and creative use of new electronic hardware.

In addition Espresso for Schools has also received accreditation by the Teacher Training Agency for providing teachers with materials to show them how they can incorporate the use information and communications technologies within the curriculum.

Trials are also taking place using cable modems for delivery via cable and there is also a planned trial for testing out ADSL technologies. However the satellite broadcast - point to multipoint - is still considered the most appropriate means of delivery.

 

4.3 New Interactive TV Services

As of mid 1999 there appears to be only one example of a digital educational interactive service operating in Europe. This is being offered by Stream - the Italian commercial service provider. They have an interactive service that enables the viewer to answer questions and receive limited responses from their set-top box. (See Case Study 7) However, this service currently does not make use of a return channel via a telephone. The viewer only really interacts with the content that is downloaded into the set-top box which is updated with downloads from the satellite at regular intervals.

One of the first interactive services that does make use of the return channel is likely to be NTL's Knowledge Channel in the UK due for launch in the Autumn of 1999. (See Case Study 8) It will operate on all three platforms cable, terrestrial and satellite. The return channel for terrestrial and satellite will be via a telephone line connected to the set-top box. As cable has the capability for a return channel this will also be used.

 

Case Study 7: Interactive Language Learning - Italy

Stream is an Italian commercial service provider offering a bouquet of channels for a fixed subscription to the Italian home user market via cable and satellite. Currently it has about 150,000 subscribers. Within its bouquet of channels is a language learning channel - TVL (TeleVision Language) - that offers various programmes aimed at helping Italians learn English and other languages. This has been on the air since 1998 and is broadcast 24 hours a day with the programmes repeated regularly.

In addition there is a separate interactive learning channel - TVL Interactive - which provides learning reinforcement. This consists of text and graphics but with no video or sound - however, sound is planned as an enhancement at a later stage. The channel contains a number of modules consisting of various topics each containing questions of different levels of difficulty. Using the remote control a home user can select a module from the menu. This module is then downloaded into the memory of the set-top box in the home. The level of difficulty can be chosen and the questions can be answered all using the remote controller. The home user is told via the screen whether the answers are correct or not and explanations are also given. The total results are presented on a scorecard. In total there are 200 different exercises available and documentation is also provided in the Stream interactive TV magazine.

Modules are broadcast on a carousel basis, rather like teletext, so that there may be a short pause until the software for the module has been downloaded. The interactivity is achieved through this module software - the set-top box does not need to be connected to a telephone line. However, as the set-top box only has a limited amount of memory it can only hold a module of a limited size before it is overwritten with another module that is required.

All the modules are replaced every two weeks with a new set of questions enabling the user to repeatedly return to the interactive channel. Neither the TV nor the interactive channel contains any advertising. In 1996 some research was conducted into the potential market of about 2,000,000 families in 19 Italian cities. It was found that 60% were strongly interested in a language channel and that it had the potential of doubling the number of subscribers to the bouquet of channels.

During 1997 the possibility of an interactive broadcast video channel was examined and experimented with utilising subtitles, a glossary, and help applications linked with the broadcast video. A second format used two video and audio flows where the user selects one of two possible presentations with exercises.

However, the results of the quantitative research indicated that people wanted to watch one TV channel and that interruptions in video flow had a negative impact. They preferred to just watch the TV programme and then have the option at a later stage to use the interactive service. Therefore in the design of the service, interactivity was not included as part of the TV channel.

Future plans include utilising a return channel (via a telephone line) for remote tutoring, feedback to editorial/teaching staff in Stream and for storing results of the exercises to enable evaluation.

 

Knet will run Sweden's Knowledge TV as part of its commercial learning service. It will be launched in September 1999 when it is firstly utilise its existing web site for interactivity. Then feedback facilities via a telephone line will be added to enable learners to respond during the programmes - thus moving towards interactivity through enhanced TV. (See Case Study 9)

PBS in the United States has started some nation-wide educational trials using interactive enhanced TV programming but early experiments have required the use of a computer capable of receiving the digital TV signals. (See Case Study 10)

 

Case Study 8: Knowledge Channel, an Interactive service from NTL UK

NTL's Knowledge Channel an interactive education service for parents and children is due to be launched in time for the 1999/2000 academic year. It will be launched in partnership with two leading interactive education publishers, Dorling Kindersley and AngliaCampus, who will supply key content for the interactive service. NTL Interactive is a provider of TV based online services to the home via three different TV platforms: analogue terrestrial TV, digital terrestrial TV, and the medium most suited to interactivity, digital cable TV based on established Internet standards. NTL's interactive TV services were first launched on 31 March 1999 through the analogue service with various interactive services including Entertainment, News, Sport, Travel, Local and Shopping. Knowledge and Games will join them in the autumn of 1999 utilising the digital terrestrial and digital cable networks.

Although called the Knowledge Channel it is in fact an interactive service. The underlying philosophy of the Knowledge Channel is to provide an educational resource that the whole family can use and trust. It will become an everyday educational tool, especially useful for those without PCs at home. At launch, subscribers to NTL's service will be able to view TV friendly versions of the latest primary and secondary Maths, Science and English curriculum content, with other subjects following shortly after. Subjects will be categorised according to the English National Curriculum key stages where applicable.

It is planned that educational material will be presented in a "simple to digest" tutorial and lesson format, giving parents, teachers and children access to a new method of learning with an element of fun. Easy to read text and colourful images (with sound and video clips in later versions) will be used to bring the interactive lessons to life and, for children of primary school age, tutorials will be given an added twist by playing the Dorling Kindersley interactive quiz. As the channel develops, NTL will be offering lifelong educational services to viewers, "from the nursery to retirement." AngliaCampus, claimed to be the UK's largest on

line education service, will provide NTL viewers with selected subject content to support 11-16 year old students. Written exclusively for AngliaCampus by a team of over 60 teachers and subject specialists, educational modules extend to thousands of pages, providing important resources to support the school curriculum. The resources will support homework, project work, standard assessment test (SAT) preparation, exam coursework and GCSE revision. AngliaCampus already offers a web-based and CD-ROM service for schools and aims to use the TV-based service as a taster for households eventually buying the full service via the web or on a CD-ROM.. Future services could involve electronic commerce services for learning and the delivery of video-based curriculum resources along with web-based interactive services.

Dorling Kindersley, a leading international publisher of illustrated books, CD-ROMs and videos, is a specialist in the children's education sector. Dorling Kindersley's objective is to provide "a breathtaking learning tool that's both an invaluable reference source and great fun to use". To achieve this they will be providing NTL's viewers with access to a host of curriculum content tailored for children of primary school age from their renowned Children's Encyclopaedia and other CD-ROMs. The whole viewing experience will be enhanced by the presence of "Seemore Skinless", Dorling Kinderlsey's award winning cartoon character. He will act as a guide to help children navigate through the content and as the host for an interactive knowledge quiz created specifically for TV, which will excite and stimulate the learning experience.

 

Case Study 9: An educational company with a learning channel, Sweden

The commercial company Knet will broadcast KunskapsTV (Knowledge TV) via a terrestrial digital network from September 1999. However, Knet should perhaps not be considered as an educational TV channel but rather as a company which uses a digital TV channel as one of its educational tools to satisfy the learning needs of their customers. Knet is planning to use the Internet and web-based learning material, multimedia products (such as CD-ROMs and DVDs), books and other printed material, the digital TV channel and even conventional tuition.

Knet has delayed the start of its broadcasts until the beginning of September 1999, thus avoiding the summer period, which is not a traditional time for learning in Sweden. However, it launched its web site in April 1999 (138) eventually this will be used for interactive learning.

The set-top box will also be connected to a telephone line enabling the subscriber to select simple responses to various questions presented during the programme. It will also be possible to send email messages and order a CD-ROM or a book but there will not be any acknowledgement through the TV set. Further enhancements to the set-top box are planned in conjunction with other digital channels.

Knet faces two major challenges before it can become fully sustainable. It has had to raise venture capital in order to cover start-up expenditure and it also needs to attract enough subscribers to its services. It appears to have overcome the first huddle as it has now raised 6 million euro.

 

Case Study 10: Moving to Digital Learning Services, PBS, USA

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), based in Alexandria, Virginia, USA is a private, non-profit organisation owned and operated by the 350 public television stations throughout the USA. Seen as an important community resource, PBS is fusing non-commercial television, the Internet and other media to provide a portfolio of entertainment and education services. PBS is available to 99% of US homes with televisions and to an increasing number of digital multimedia households. In all, PBS serves nearly 100 million people.

PBS sees the conversion to digital technologies as an opportunity for its member broadcasters to expand their offerings to their viewers. Not only is the facility for HDTV transmission an opportunity for the US public broadcasting service, but the facility for multicasting is also seen as an important development. For instance, broadcasters will be able to transmit multiple channels of Standard Definition TV (SDTV) simultaneously when not transmitting in high definition TV (HDTV). Although SDTV does not match HDTV in quality, it will offer a higher quality picture than is currently transmitted. It also means that with multicasting technology, the local PBS stations will be able to transmit several programs with supplementary data simultaneously. A student who finds a particular PBS show of interest will also be able to download a CD-ROM's worth of supplementary educational and interactive material while the program airs (139).

As a consequence of the US government's firm commitment to digital TV, the PBS has established the PBS National Datacast system. This is a for-profit subsidiary of the organisation and offers real-time data broadcasting services through a partnership with its participating PBS member stations. Distribution of electronic information through PBS National Datacast is planned to provide a variety of offerings available via subscription or advertising-supported "free" services, such as: financial, news, sports, entertainment, weather, electronic TV program guides, health and educational services, software updates, training, corporate applications, Web sites, CD-quality video and music, electronic shopping and other services.

In January 1999, the Intel Corporation and PBS (140) jointly announced the first enhanced digital TV program for children. The new program, called "Zoboomafoo", builds on the success of the first nation-wide enhanced digital TV broadcast carried out in November 1998.

This interactive enhanced programme, scheduled for broadcast later in 1999, offers an example of the opportunities for educational interactivity both during and after a digital TV broadcast. During the broadcast, companion data will be transmitted simultaneously as part of the television broadcast to computers capable of receiving the digital signals. With these PCs, Zoboomafoo viewers will be able to interact with on-screen animations that come to life with a mouse click; assist the programme's hosts to solve problems and answer questions; or play an interactive on-screen game. Children will also be able to collect enhanced audio, video or graphical media in the form of souvenirs, which they can interact with after the broadcast. There are also plans for the young viewers to be able to control activity during the programme through an activated 'toy' they can hold and manipulate.

 

Two new educational channels in Europe due to be launched in the near future have plans to offer interactive and enhanced TV services. The format that this will take has yet to be fully defined and will be dependent upon experiments as to what is most appropriate for the type of learning experience being provided.

IQ-TV based in Germany has plans to utilise a full digital transponder that will support 6 to 8 programme or data channels. (See Case Study 11). The Wales Digital College seems to have the most pioneering plans. It will actively try to capture the interest of the passive viewer of entertainment programmes through enhanced TV and offer them various types of learning experience. (See Case Study 12)

 

Case Study 11: A vocational training and further education channel, IQ-TV - Germany

Although not operational yet, IQ-TV (Interactive Qualifications TV) (141) is being established as a separate company by a private-public partnership of 15 companies and institutions. The concept was conceived by SWR (Sudwestrundfunk) - the public broadcaster in based south-west Germany. SWF is part of the (German Public TV) ARD network and one of the few TV stations that has offered educational programmes since the 1960s. It is planned that IQ-TV will offer an integrated, interactive platform for vocational training and further education that will enable private, state and public sectors to offer their programmes using a digital system. It claims that it will be able to offer high powered and cheap solutions to meet the requirements of universities, business, educational television and to promote commercial educational institutes.

IQ-TV plans utilise a full transponder on a digital satellite that will support 6 to 8 programme (data) channels, as well as an electronic programme guide. This television service could be complemented with other digital services, such as Internet and Intranet and satellite return channels, thus making it interactive. The services are likely to be broadcast via one of the Astra satellites, enabling them to be accessed across the whole of Europe. The electronic programme guide is considered to be important as it will enable easy access to the variety of programmes on offer.

IQ-TV plans eventually to offer to the workplace and the home, free-to-air, encoded and pay-TV programmes under the following categories:

          Business TV

          University TV

          Educational institutes

          Conventions/conferences via TV

          Data services

          Commercial educational channel

          Public Service

Initially, IQ-TV will provide programmes for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) based in Germany. It will soon receive funds from the federal and regional governments to support this initiative for SMEs. These are planned to start towards the end of 1999.

 

Case Study 12: An interactive educational channel for Wales - Wales Digital College

The Wales Digital College has been established as a joint venture with the aim of combining the services and skills of educationalists, trainers, business and industry, BBC Wales and S4C to provide a first class lifelong learning service for TV viewers. Digital television is seen as becoming a virtual "front door" to education reaching 1.2 million households. From September 1999 onwards it plans to trial out a number of interactive learning services through a number of digital TV platforms.

Potential students watching digital broadcasts in their own homes through digital terrestrial TV, satellite or cable will be able to use their remote controls to access a range of innovative interactive skill-developing services. Eventually, it is planned to offer the following services: -

      TV programmes

      Key contacts with hyper links to service providers

      Advice and guidance

      Video tasters

      On-line and downloadable skill packages

      On-line assessments

      Instant on-line booking, registration and transaction systems

      A range of access languages

      Webcasting of selected items from course providers web sites

      Filling in job application forms and CV's to be instantly sent to potential employers

The College has started from the perspective of what aspects of interactivity it would like to make available to attract and engage TV viewers as learners. It is now in the process of testing out what is now possible and what will become possible as the technology develops. The College will also make full use of the Internet, phone and fax services, paper based materials, and of course face-to-face experiences in learning centres. Colleges, community education centres, training agencies and schools will also eventually be able to access and store Digital College materials for in-house use.

It is planned that the Digital College logo will appear in the corner of the screen when educational or training programmes are broadcast or whenever popular general programmes are discussing an issue that could lead a viewer towards a new skill or interest. Clicking on the logo will give viewers access to additional information. As the technology develops hyperlinks may be created between some commercial services and the Digital College so that a viewer booking a holiday in Spain, for instance, is instantly made aware of Spanish courses.

The Wales Digital College will enable course providers will have a live and effective interactive access medium for all their courses and study programmes. Potential students will be able to choose courses, discuss funding, and arrange visits and book places without leaving their living rooms. Course providers will also be able to deliver parts of their courses and arrange back up and reference materials on-line.

Where student numbers tend to be low (e.g. in the case of some Welsh medium courses), providers in different areas could work together to provide effective interactive multimedia experiences. In time, direct links could take students straight to provider Internet sites.

Some providers may wish to take advantage of opportunities to target new markets for their distance learning courses outside their normal catchment areas or to establish new joint study schemes with colleges in other parts of the country. On satellite, the Digital College could reach out all over Europe - and through a choice of languages.

The College has received some initial funding from the government's Welsh Office and is only seeking industrial and commercial partnerships, through commercial services and from public sector funding channels including European sources. However a number of critical factors are coming together which are likely to make it possible for an interactive learning service to become full operational and sustainable in Wales.

A recent review of post 16 education in Wales is calling for a reorganisation of funds at this level. Since May 1999 Wales now has its own Assembly for national government including education. It is likely that the Assembly will want to have an integrated and co-ordinated approach to lifelong learning encouraging co-operation and the sharing of resources. This could result in the reallocation of funding releasing existing mainstream funds for the sustainable development of the Wales Digital College.

The Welsh medium Channel - S4C - which, has been broadcasting for a number of years over analogue terrestrial throughout Wales, has been provided with a digital terrestrial channel for its own usage when the UK government were distributing the bandwidth. In addition, it also has two digital satellite channels from Sky Digital. It is currently broadcasting over the whole of the UK. Therefore S4C has spare capacity to broadcast educational and training activities in addition to its normal schedule.

The vision of an educational channel by Huw Jones, the chief executive of S4C and the combined interest of Welsh education institutions have led to the formation of the Wales Digital College. In addition there is also the vision that Wales could become a worldwide centre of excellence for learning with the ability to export its knowledge and know-how. From September 1999 the College will start broadcasting via satellite for about three hours per day on S4C2 which will also carry live broadcasts of the Welsh Assembly. In addition the College will also broadcast on digital terrestrial and on the cable networks.

It has still to be decided how the UK government's University for Industry (UfI) initiative will link in with the Wales Digital College but the two bodies are working closely together in order to provide complementary services in Wales.

 

Case Study 13: Delivery of examination papers to 2000 schools - Greece

Utilising the EdCast system developed by an Irish multimedia data broadcasting company, the Greek Ministry of Education has entered into a contract with Bocom International worth approximately 550,000 euro. The EdCast system is being used to delivery examination papers to 2000 schools across the country in an encrypted format. Following a three-month trial period the EdCast system successfully passed the stringent performance requirements of the new Ministry communications specifications. Low cost, speed and ease of access as well as the high reliability of the system performance were cited as reasons for choosing the system.

There are also plans for a similar type of service in Ireland for the distribution of educational content.

 

Footnotes

  1. http://www.nhk.or.jp/pr/update/u55-3.htm
  2. http://www.nhk-grp.co.jp/n-gaku/e-fbf.html
  3. Web site: http://www.mosaico.rai.it
  4. Web site: http://www.ur.se
  5. Web site of SCETV: http://www.scetv.org/dtv/
  6. Web site: http://www.kunskapstv.se.
  7. PBS Digital TV Web site: www.pbs.org/digitaltv