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Satellite in the Education Market

by Mark Chertkow

As emerging technologies play an increasingly important role in connecting people, they are also redesigning the fabric of education.

Satellite technology especially has attracted the attention of educators and trainers to the idea of distance education in a way that no earlier technology managed to do.

Supplying distance learning tools via IP (Internet Protocol) satellite broadcast is beneficial mainly due to cost-effectiveness and reduced bandwidth requirements. And, besides educating people on an unprecedented scale, it also provides a means to effectively alleviate the severe teacher shortage we are experiencing in South Africa. Via satellite, expert teachers can be deployed over multiple sites, offering their expertise to multiple schools at the same time. In addition, content can be stored on site and can be used repeatedly.

Another major drawcard of this technology is the fact that it is interactive – students are pulled into the learning environment; they can no longer hide at the back of the class. Ultimately, satellite adds to the overall learning experience by incorporating different mediums – satellite, classroom, textbooks, facilitator, etc.

But how does distance learning over satellite work?

Distance learning via Digital Video Broadcast (DVB) is delivered by means of a live channel. This approach, however, is quite expensive and because it is a live transmission, there are specific time slots during which students can access it.

IP multicast over satellite, on the other hand, offers real-time broadcast at much lower bandwidth than via live feed. It also allows users to use the ‘store and forward’ option whereby content can be recorded for later use. The advantage here is that content can be streamed via multicasting – meaning one stream is used for all sites simultaneously without being overly bandwidth intensive.

Satellite also allows for the remote management of content, and users need only pay on a per-use basis, making it a more cost-effective option. From a security point of view, it is also ideal as encryption can be built in.

Ultimately, satellite provides the ideal platform for delivering distance education because it gives you the opportunity to adapt your system to the play out environment.

Mark Chertkow holds a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering and is currently MD of Graphic Image Technologies, a company specialising in Digital Video Solutions both in the DVB Broadcast and video over IP

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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