Higher Education through Open and Distance Learning

By Keith Harry | Go to book overview

Chapter 3

The impact of telecommunications

Robin Mason
Electronic communication by written message, by audio interaction and by video exchange comprises the field of educational telecommunications. The technologies which correspond to these different means of communication vary considerably, and as they are currently the focus of intense research and development, they are always changing. There are three broad categories within which current technologies that support distance education can be divided:
1 text-based systems, including electronic mail, computer conferencing, real-time chat systems, fax, and many uses of the Web;
2 audio-based systems such as audioconferencing and audiographics, and audio on the Web;
3 video-based systems such as videoconferencing, one way and two way, video on the Internet with products like CUSeeMe, Web-casting and other visual media such as video clips on the Web.
The implication of this list is that text, audio and video are discrete media. While this is partially true today, the evolution of all these systems is towards integration—of real-time and asynchronous access, of resource material and communication, of text and video: in short, of writing, speaking and seeing. The fourth category and the best illustration of this convergence is:
4 the Web, which integrates text, audio and video, both as pre-prepared clips and as live interactive systems, both real time and stored to be accessed later, and furthermore which provides text-based interaction as well as access to educational resources of unprecedented magnitude.

Pedagogical advantages of telecommunications

It is no coincidence that the use of telecommunications media in education is growing at the same time as education budgets are decreasing. Nevertheless,

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