Unique Distance Learning Solution Born From International Venture

Minicom (Israel) and EP-Engineering Oy MediaSolution (Finland) have teamed up to engineer a unique distance learning solution that integrates the CLASSNET system with a distance education center by means of videoconferencing.

The system was installed early August in the Saarnilaakso Upper Comprehensive School in Espoo, Finland. "Current conventional DL solutions are based on the concept of students working individually--learning on their own, progressing at their own pace--and interacting with the educational center either via the Internet, video conferencing or both," explains Pekka Vaartela, EP-Engineering Oy MediaSolution marketing manager. "In these scenarios, it is the student who is distant and totally isolated from his or her learning group. Although the concept may be suited for some learning processes ... it d'es not fit the needs of younger students for whom group interaction is vital to education."

The Israeli-Finnish project addresses this concern by giving students a local teacher who guides them and leads group interaction. At the same time, students can learn at their own pace, with access to a vast amount and variety of educational resources through the DL system--"meeting" and interacting with instructors and students from many other disciplines.

Classrooms are connected via ISDN lines and a videoconferencing system. The ISDN connection supports the international H.320 standard for videoconferencing, and enables high-speed Internet access, if routed Ethernet is not available. CLASSNET manages and controls both types of connections. "Today, most educational resources are being converted [for placement on the Internet]," says Vaartela. "However, the throughput capacity of the Internet d'es not allow real-time iso-chronic data transfer--essential for a dynamic audio visual learning experience with huge amounts of data," he adds.

By adding direct interactive video communication to the CLASSNET system, students can now experience distance learning as it was meant to be, with real-time face-to-face communication with video and voice, electronic virtual whiteboard, fast file transfer and seamless document and application sharing. For more information on this innovative learning environment, call Minicom at (800) 486-2154 or EP-Engineering Oy MediaSolution at 358-9-879-5639, or visit www.minicom.netmedia.co.il. Minicom Advanced Systems Ltd., Linden, NJ.

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This article originally appeared in the 11/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.