Chapter 6
Implications for Education and Training

6.1 Introduction

The previous chapter has revealed that there is likely to be a continuous growth in interactive TV enabled households over the next decade. It is predicted that this second platform for interactive services to the home is becoming a serious contender with the possibility of a quarter of European households capable of receiving interactive TV services within four or five years. However, online-enabled computer households will dominate for the foreseeable future providing another means to enable interactivity to the home.

However there will also be variations across Europe as to whether various interactive services via the TV will take off or not. In some countries the computer will be the most appropriate means whereas in other countries with a lower penetration of computers to the home the TV may be more appropriate. The delivery mechanisms used - satellite, cable or digital terrestrial - will also vary across Europe.

For education and training providers it increases the choice in which distance learning can be made available. However, what is the most appropriate method really depends on whom the target group is and what type of learning is to take place. Clearly interactive learning via TV offers new opportunities to reach people who may not have participated in learning since they left school. It also fits in nicely with a philosophy of lifelong learning.

This chapter takes these factors into consideration when considering the implications that interactive digital broadcasting has for education and training.

6.2 Demand for interactive learning services

One of the few publicly available surveys that gives some insight as to possible consumer interest in education and training is a Gallup survey (153) conducted for Pace Micro Technology Plc - Europe's largest producer of set-top boxes. It was carried out in the UK during September 1998 just before digital TV services started to become available a month later. It also took place at a time when the BBC (the UK public service broadcaster) was running a campaign to raise awareness of digital TV.

Compared to a survey conducted in November 1997, awareness of "what digital TV is" had grown from 36% to 62%. In the September 1998 survey, 42% of people surveyed stated that they would value interactivity through Digital TV. This option was found to be most appealing by those aged 16-35 years old. It was also found that 39% of people were interested in accessing the Internet through digital TV. Only 22% of people stated that impulse pay per view would be of any value to them. However, according to the survey the experience of BSkyB shows that impulse pay for view is sufficiently attractive to viewers to make it a commercially viable service.

The most significant finding for this study was revealed by a question that asked which public services they felt they would use if they were offered through digital TV. From choices offered 67% said they would use education and training if they were offered. This came second to medical advice at 69%.

The Gallup survey also revealed that 41% of those surveyed wanted more language tuition on television. This is clearly a potential market, which could be enhanced with interactive services as in the case with TVL in Italy. The UK Gallup survey found that 28% of men and 22% of women were prepared to pay for more language tuition on television.

Microsoft's WebTV trial in the UK has also revealed (154) that 57% of the 115 households involved would be prepared to pay for educational material on interactive TV. When asked what type of educational information they wanted, the survey revealed the following: -

Figure 6.1 Microsoft's UK WebTV trial Type of educational information wanted

level of education

Percentage

University

41

6th Form (16-19 yrs)

41

Secondary/middle school (10-16 yrs)

52

primary

37

Pre-school/nursery

28

 

6.3 Nature of education and training provision

Education and training provision is primarily national, regional or local in nature, but rarely trans-national. The exceptions may be multinational corporate training and professional retraining in highly specialised areas like the IT, telecom and medical professions.

There is also a very broad spectrum of learning experiences being supplied by education and training providers. In terms of the funds available, some of these learning offerings can be considered as having a "high revenue" or at the other end of the spectrum having a "low revenue". The value attached to a learning offering depends on a number of factors:

Thus the learning provided to children in a school may be considered to be "low revenue generating" because it is entirely paid for by limited public sector funding. Whereas the professional updating of employees in the IT industry may be considered to be "high revenue generating" because companies would be prepared to pay a high price for their employees undergoing training in order to remain competitive.

Thus at one side of the equation is the revenue or funds available. The other side of the equation is the cost of "production", not just TV production but distributing and administering the learning experience. Therefore a learning experience may be:

Clearly the ideal situation for the learning provider is to be able to move to a "high revenue, low cost to produce" scenario. In a commercial situation this results in more profit and in a non-commercial situation this results in more funds to enhance the learning experience or to cross-subsidise "low revenue but high cost to produce" learning experiences. Public service broadcasters also want to see value for money.

Therefore when education and training providers are looking at the use of digital broadcasting technologies or other new technologies they should be taking these factors into consideration:

A rather more altruistic question would be:

Therefore the participation of education and training providers in utilising innovative approaches to learning is very much dependent on the context of the learning experience. However, it is noted that there are some entrepreneurs not from the traditional education and training world who are seeing a market opportunity in offering learning services in a new format.

6.4 An analysis of service providers involved or likely to be involved in offering digital broadcasting learning services

6.4.1 Current Status

The case studies in chapter 4 have revealed the current status of European usage of digital broadcasting technologies for learning.

Utilising increased capacity and interactivity via an associated web site

A few public service educational broadcasters and commercial broadcasters have started or are about to offer learning programmes through the increased capacity made available by digital TV. Most of the interactive components will be through associated web sites as the facilities to offer interactivity through the set-top box and TV are still limited.

In some instances it may not be appropriate for educational providers to offer interactive services via the TV at this stage, as interactivity will be best achieved via the Internet. For example, a university level course may involve broadcasting a TV programme, but as most people taking a university course will have a computer for writing assignments it is likely to be easier to offer the interactivity via the Internet.

However, where there is a need to target people who would not normally participate in further education, interactivity becomes very important to turn them from being a passive viewer to an active participant. BBC Knowledge is attempting to get its viewers to become more active by encouraging them to visit a separate web site. But this is dependent on two factors. Firstly as the viewer has to decide to tune into BBC Knowledge and secondly the viewer also has to have access to the Internet usually via a computer.

Data broadcasting learning services mainly targeted at institutions not homes

Data broadcasting learning services are currently and in the future likely to be targeted at institutions or companies rather than homes. They will broadcast specific learning resources that will be generally accessed via a computer. In a few case the distributor will also be the content provider as in the case of Espresso for Schools in the UK that is focused towards providing multimedia learning resources for primary schools to assist in the teaching of the National Curriculum.

Interactive Broadcasting Services independent of TV channels

TVL- run by Stream in Italy is the first European interactive service focused on language learning using a simple question and answer system. But interaction is really only with information stored in the set-top after it has been downloaded with the broadcast.

Interactive services utilising the telephone line as the return channel are soon to emerge with services like NTL's knowledge channel in the UK. However, it seems that most information will come from a customised version for TV, of resources already available from an existing but subscriber accessed web site.

Enhanced Interactive TV Services

The Wales Digital College is about to embark on a number of innovative trials to capture and engage viewers in learning. For example during the watching of a "soap" it may raise issues on a topic where viewers will have the option to get further information. Also booking a holiday to Spain via an interactive service could result in the viewer immediately receiving information about what Spanish language learning courses are available in their area or on the television. It is noted that they do have the close co-operation of an existing broadcaster - S4C. Both S4C and the Wales Digital College also have a mission to serves the needs specific needs of one country which aims to create its own identity.

6.4.2 Future trends for the development of interactive digital TV

Based upon the current situation and the likely development of interactive digital TV services in the future, existing broadcasters are likely to continue to have a dominant role in the development of interactive TV. A few new players who have a stake in the delivery systems may also emerge to supply such services as they may gain increased revenue from the value-added services.

Future trends for the development of interactive digital TV could be in a number of directions:

Informal education or "edutainment" type programmes

National public service broadcasters may offer "edutainment" type programmes aimed at a mass market with the opportunity for interacting by requesting further information through an interactive icon. There will also be the opportunity to "take part" in an activity by answering multiple choice type programmes.

Conditions required

Public service broadcasters are taking the lead as they may be encouraged by government to enter the "digital revolution". They may want to be seen to be innovative yet perhaps don't have the constraints to be commercially viable. They may also have existing experience of providing informal type education programmes.

Commercial broadcasters offer some programmes where the have an obligation to provide an educational element to their programme schedules.

Knowledge-based resources through channel-independent interactive services

Commercial broadcasters may offer channel-independent interactive services linked to school national curriculum learning experiences or knowledge-based resources like online encyclopaedias. The broadcasters will co-operate with traditional publishers to offer these services, which may be available upon payment of a fixed subscription or on a pay-as-you-view service. The fixed subscription is likely to be most popular with the consumers particularly if it is targeted towards children. It will also be in line with current offerings through online services.

Conditions required

Such services could develop where commercial service operators wish to may their subscription packages more attractive to family households. The educational component may be the element of the bouquet of offerings, which encourages a household to take out a subscription. "We bought it for the kids" is seen as better justification than buying it for the sports channels.

Service suppliers co-operating with recognised and well-established brand names of educational resources are likely to be critical for success.

Teach yourself Pay TV services

Teach yourself Pay TV services particularly in the area of language learning may develop. They may offer some form of interactivity in the form of a directory of key words that can be selected at any point during the programme. Publishers of language learning videos and tapes may identify digital TV as a new delivery mechanism for their existing products.

Conditions required

Service suppliers co-operating with recognised and well-established brand names of language learning materials is likely to be critical for success. Language learning suppliers could activity seek co-operation with service providers in order to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.

"Learning videos on demand" services

There is already evidence that there is a market for "videos on demand" once it becomes technically possible to download a video into a set-top box and view it when required. This demand is likely to extend to learning videos. Teach yourself videos and "do it yourself" house or car repair videos could be very popular. Publishers of existing materials may complement their offerings through digital TV. Public service and commercial broadcasters would be able to offer video clips of gardening activities or house alteration tips that have been previously broadcast as just one of a number of items in a programme. Viewers may pay for each clip or viewing in the form of some form of electronic cash.

Conditions required

There will be a need to upgrade existing set-top boxes and supply new subscribers with set-top boxes that have large storage capacity. Such boxes are starting to emerge on the market but it will be dependent on the service supplier identifying the demand to supply such boxes. Particularly as there is now a trend for the service supplier to rent them or supply them free of charge.

It will also depend upon whether alternative technology solutions start to emerge to compete with the broadcast solution. ADSL technologies could provide another way of streaming video to the home that would not require the large storage capacity on the set-top box.

Distribution network organisations would also need to be established.

Enhancing existing thematic channels

Existing thematic channels like the National Geographic Channel and the Discovery Channel could enhance their offerings by offering interactive services that supply additional information, updates since the programme was filmed or quizzes to text knowledge acquired.

Conditions required

Thematic channels tend to be a popular component of many subscription bouquets of offerings. But with increased interactivity offerings from other channels they may wish to gain a competitive advantage by turning a passive viewer into a more active viewer which would also increase the learning experiences on offer from channels which already are well respected for the educational value.

Sports channels may wish to gain a competitive advantage

Sports channels may wish to gain a competitive advantage over their rivals by offering enhanced interactive services that provide some sort of learning activity. This could be in the form of statistics where viewers may be able to interact with the TV to gain different graphical interpretations. It could be in the form of skills training enabling an activity to be viewed from a number of different angles. A mixture of enhanced interactivity through an existing TV channel and interactivity independent of the TV channel is possible.

Conditions required

Maintaining the loyalty of the viewer may be a driving force for sports channels to offer interactive services.

Sponsored thematic channels

There could be the development of new thematic channels that may be sponsored by a recognised brand or a specific product. This is an area that offers the big potential for increasing the types of learning experience on television. For example a channel targeted towards parents of young children may offer practical advice on parenting, training courses for nursery carers and programmes on the latest research on how babies learn to talk. Whilst these programmes may be produced by independent producers they may be sponsored by a supplier of baby food or babies clothing. There may be some interactive learning activities, which also have the aim of "capturing" details about the viewing audience.

Conditions required

A critical mass of digital TV viewers would be required before such services would emerge in order to get a reasonable sized audience for the specialised channels. Sponsored thematic programmes may be the first stage of development. They would also test the regularity conditions which broadcasters would have to comply with in each European country.

Personal TV

Personal TV is an interesting concept that could take off in the next three to five years. This involves customising all the content requirements for each member of the family who will access their personal TV service by inserting their own smartcard. This will involve each user being able to watch their favourite "soap", sports, news or any other type of programme on demand when they wish to watch it. It could also involve the setting up of a knowledge profile by each user and it could then be "pushed" to the user every time they switch on to the service. This could also be in the form of a learning package to ensure the user has acquired the new knowledge and can apply it in their work situation. This could see the emergence of knowledge or personalised learning brokers - an offshoot of the traditional trading provider. However, they are also likely to offer similar services via the web.

Conditions required

There are signs that commercial service operators will emerge to offer such a service however, it is questionable as to whether this will really emerge as a broadcasting service. Satellite and terrestrial digital delivery mechanisms may not have the capacity to transmit data on a point to point basis. Therefore this leaves digital cable networks as the most appropriate solution plus the utilisation of ADSL technologies where cable is not available. Rollout of such services will be on a much more localised basis as the server technologies are installed to hold the resources locally and the distribution mechanisms are established.

Such a service may not be dependent upon the dominant role of existing broadcasters. There could be some opportunities for the development of learning services sourced locally from traditional education and training providers.

6.5 Assessment of the impact that digital broadcasting systems are likely to have on education and training, in terms of traditional and innovative services

Dominance of broadcasters will dictate impact on education and training

As illustrated in the previous section, broadcasters in partnership with educational publishers and other recognised brand names are most likely to maintain a dominant role in terms offering innovative learning though digital broadcasting. The education and training community will not be able to influence development where interactive services do not already exist; but it could influence the uptake of such services once they become available. Interactive learning services could act as an incentive for households to buy into a package as a whole.

Popularise learning activities through interactive TV

However, there are opportunities for commercial and public service broadcasters to popularise learning activities through interactive TV in the form of "edutainment" - providing education through entertaining programmes. It could encourage passive viewers to become active learners. This could impact on traditional providers in at least two ways:

A second platform for delivering learning to the home

Interactive digital TV will offer a second platform for delivering learning to the home alongside the Internet. It is very likely they will complement each other rather than seriously compete with each other. The type of learning on offer and the target group will determine the type of delivery mechanism to use. There will also be a convergence of activities particularly in the case of accessing the web and the ordering of materials.

Enriching the home with learning sources through mass media

Some governments, in particular the UK, see the new opportunities raised by interactive digital TV learning to the home as a new way of enhancing the quality of learning that they can actually do something about without a major increase in resources needed. They are politically unable to increase the length of the school term or of the school day, but they can encourage the enrichment of the home with learning resources through mass media. Whether this approach will succeed really depends on whether the learning resources on offer can actively engage the learner in appropriate tasks. The interactivity that is increasingly becoming available could aid this process. It may create a movement towards more independent forms of learning which may lead onto new paradigms for learning - raising questions about the future role of schools.

New opportunities for the establishment of local learning services through cable

Once interactive digital TV services start to become available via cable there are some new opportunities for local or regional traditional educational institutions to offer some forms of learning via the cable network. Blackburn College in the UK was a pioneer in this area during the mid 1990s when it had its own analogue channel on the local cable network. It was able to offer courses on learning English for immigrants based in their own homes. A similar type of learning offering has also taken place in the Amsterdam area. The development of Personal TV may also provide new opportunities.

Online learning services will offer a wider variety of learning experiences than digital TV

Despite the opportunities for digital TV to popularise learning, online learning services will continue to offer a wider variety of learning experiences. Once high-speed access to online services becomes readily available, good quality video will be easily available. This will remove the competitive advantage that digital TV currently offers.

Although a TV viewer may be attracted to a particular learning experience through interactive digital TV they are likely to turn to an online service provided by a traditional education or training provider for more in depth knowledge or for the acquisition of qualifications. Alternatively they make just decide to take a campus-based course.

Traditional providers of learning need to exploit the opportunities offered by digital TV

Traditional education and training providers will have limited control over how interactive TV develops. But they could assist in developing strategies at regional and national level to encourage a much more coherent and effective approach to increasing learning opportunities. This could be done through developing comprehensive strategies which best exploit the mass media potential of interactive TV with the more in-depth learning services available through online methods and the traditional distance or campus-based courses.

The Wales Digital College is pioneering such an approach. But it requires educational broadcasters to act in a less autonomous way than they have done in the past.

6.6 An analysis of the different ways of paying for education and training digital broadcasting services

6.6.1 Trends

As the market very immature it is very difficult to get a clear picture as to what people are prepared to pay for digital TV learning services. Paying for education and training digital broadcasting services is currently or soon to be via a number of different ways:

However, a number of new innovative approaches to paying for such services may emerge in the near future:

6.6.2 Cost comparisons with other delivery systems to the home

It is possible to take a distance learning course from the home via a traditional correspondence course with all materials text, video, and audiotape delivered via the post. Or it is possible to just register for a course via the Internet. In addition many distance learning courses offer mixed media including online access.

The costs for these courses tend not to be dependent on the media used, but depend on: -

Market price is a critical factor. Courses in high demand like upskilling in IT and electronics for professionals tend to cost more than courses in history or literature.

Accessing learning via the Internet is the nearest equivalent to accessing any future learning via the digital TV. Browsing through directories of online courses (155) reveals a wide variation in prices.

Therefore cost comparisons even within one type of delivery system are very difficult to do. Suppliers of specific courses using digital TV really have to price their courses based on traditional or online delivery mechanisms used and then they have to test the market and rely on market forces to price them at the most competitive and sustainable rate.

As TV is a mass media, economies of scale may be achieved be using TV once there is a critical mass of digital TV users has been reached. However, technological developments enabling access to full screen video may also end up a cheaper option.

Some interactive services via digital TV are soon to emerge in the form accessing information from an online encyclopaedia. However, no prices are available for such services although they are likely to be on a monthly or annual subscription. It is likely that they will be comparable with paper-based or online Internet based services.

Pay TV, where the viewer pays for a specific sports event or a film has only started in Europe over the past few years. Depending on the event prices seem to vary from around 4 to 15 euro per event. Some learning on demand may emerge within this price range but it may be a passive viewing rather than an interactive experience. What few interactive services are currently available tend to be part of an existing subscription. Comparisons are also very difficult. What people are prepared to pay for interactive games could be very different from an interactive learning experience.

A further complication is that many people see delivery by interactive digital TV as being targeted towards those who may not normally have "opted in" to registering on a course therefore charging for a particular learning experience may present another barrier to the potential learner.

Recommendation

The European Commission should stimulate knowledge and know-how in this area by encouraging organisations developing or planning to develop interactive digital TV to come together to share their experiences. The Commission should not get involved in creating artificial markets by subsidising course developments that may not be sustainable under market conditions

.

Footnotes

  1. "The Pace Report 1999", Executive Summary
  2. Quoted in presentation given by Sharon Baylay, Microsoft TV, UK Manager on 15 July 1999.
  3. Found at http://home.nettskolen.nki.no/~morten/cisaer/catalogue.html and http://telecampus.edu/