Teleteaching in Belarus
by DR. VICTOR G. SEVAST'YANENKO, Professor Belorussian Polytechnic Academy Minsk, Belarus The first class of teleteaching in Belarus is being held at the Belorussian Polytechnic Academy. This education institution has a satellite downlink, comprising a parabolic antenna and an automatic search device, plus a DPS-710 converter, a SunTrack-II programmed tuner, a videotranscoder with modulator, a polarizator, 12 GoldStar VCRs and Gorizont 12" color TVs. Some equipment manufacturers are based in Belarus; others are from The Netherlands, Japan and Korea. The main class began in April 1993. Its room has comfortable individual workspaces, which have been ergonomically designed. Students can individually view recorded programs. Further, in all foreign language departments as well as in other divisions of the academy, each branch of the main tele-taught class will be equipped with VCRs and TV sets. This satellite-education classroom will be used to increase the qualifications of our engineers, of bachelor's and master's degree students, and also for the professional guidance of schoolchildren in their senior forms (equivalent to U.S. high schools). Vital Role Belarus is a large but sparsely populated country, similar to Norway in that respect. Distance education is the only way to accustom our young people to modern standards of education and culture. We hope that the system we have created will become an example to others and a point of reference for all regions of Belarus. To convince the government of Belarus of the importance of distance education, the recent international conference, Teleteaching '93, provided a new boost: the conference adopted the thesis that "the subject of teleteaching is one of the most important in education and training." This credibility is extremely important to government decisionmakers. Needs and Limitations The educational programs offered by distance education on natural sciences (mathematics, physics and chemistry) are of interest, but the programs on modern engineering, industrial ecology, energy savings and the new manufacturing technologies to make products of high quality are of special significance. Belarus d'es not have enough skilled specialists in these fields. The nation also needs programs to instruct its people in management, marketing and business English, as these skills are in short supply as well. Unfortunately, we do not currently have the ability to buy teleteaching program licenses or videotapes on corresponding lectures. A republic that is still trying to get through the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe on its own cannot afford to fund such purchases. For this reason we record the lectures of foreign experts who visit our academy and have compiled our own library of videotapes. We have taped lectures on the market economy, management of modern production, and education in the U.S. and France. This fact stimulates many of our students to learn foreign languages. And translating this material into Russian is a possibility as well. E-mail Goals The central receiving station for the class includes an IBM 386-class computer with a set of modems for e-mail use within the country and, possibly, out into the international, communication networks. For example, we know e-mail over the Internet is a primary method for the global exchange of educational and scientific information, for preparing for conferences and more. Our main purpose for e-mail in our academy is to draw our students into participation in international projects, but that is a goal not yet achieved. Practically all students' projects are on the DIALCOM system, which d'es not have access to the Internet at this time. Finally, our students and faculty would like to participate in international projects on ecology, the mastering of foreign languages and other topics. We would appreciate any help others can provide to help us achieve these teleteaching and collaborative-project goals. Victor Sevast'yanenko is head of the Department of Technical Physiks at the Belorussian Polytechnic Academy located in Minsk. E-mail: victser%[email protected]
This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.