As the world of education changes, government training officers and universities increasingly are turning to distance learning applications enhanced with robust video and audio devices that make it easier to reach a broader classroom of media hungry students.
|Distance learning equipment makes it possible for students at remote locations to benefit from the same instruction as those students in the classroom.
Because tablets, iPads and smart devices dominate private communications, trainers and schools seek to reach students through enhanced video and audio presentation. Distance learning—the delivery of instruction online or in a virtual classroom— reduces training time and makes it easier to reach a wider audience. Whether it means running training classes for far-flung Air National Guard units or trying to reach all the highway patrol troopers in the expansive state of Texas, distance learning can improve instruction.
The concept of students being bound to a place to be educated began to change as more working adults began to continue their educations, said Jerry Smith, a sales associate for Spectrum Industries Inc. who was an administrator for Chippewa Valley Technical College, in Chippewa Falls, Wisc.
Smith was with the college when it started a distance-learning program. The school pursued distance learning on order to accommodate students and instructors who might be in another part of the state, he said. “So we put together a distance learning network that involved two-way interactive television, and now they have two-way programming on the Web,” he said. The challenge the school initially faced was the technology did not meet the need, Smith said. It was mostly two-way microwave technology that demanded two-way line of sight, which meant every time there was a thunderstorm, or any type of minor breakdown, the system would fail, he said. But as the system evolved, and the school acquired cyber-based equipment, it has become nearly 100 percent reliable, he added.
Nonetheless, “the key for distance learning is it can’t be time or place bound,” he said. “Students have shifts, they have variations, so an instruction held during the day will be viewed by students at 3 a.m. Web systems make that easy to do.”
DeVry University has instituted distance-learning programs to meet students’ changing needs, said Steve Pappageorge, the school’s dean of the College of Continuing Education, New Programs and Outreach. “Student experiences and expectations have changed a lot,” he said. “People learn in different ways; some are suited for face-to-face classes and others like distance learning.”
Instructor pushback can be a problem, but new devices such as the Vaddio AutoTrak 2.0 system make setup easy and improve the acceptance of the new technology, said Rob Sheeley, the company’s president. “Our job as a technology company is to ensure that technology is transparent to the teacher,” Sheeley said. All users need to do is put on the Infrared Lanyard belt pack “and they start teaching,” he added. “It’s that simple.”
|Vaddio’s AutoTrak 2.0
The IR Lanyard belt pack is central to the system, emitting an infrared signal received by an IR pan, tilt and zoom camera. In addition to allowing the camera to move from side to side (SmoothTrak), the new AutoTilt motion follows the instructor as he or she moves closer or further away from the camera
The system also lets the instructor switch among three tracking camera presets. If the picture is lost, it has a rescan button that activates IR Lanyard reacquisition. Federal trainers favor the system for its inherent efficiencies, Sheeley said. “The challenge they are facing is that they have to train a tremendously large number of people and rapidly deploy them.”
Another distance learning innovation is Haivision’s Furnace IP video distribution system, which can be used to deliver real-time broadcast video to desktops and set-top boxes throughout facilities and across an agency campus, said Andy Vaughan, Haivision vice president for U.S. federal sales.
The Haivision system is used by the Air National Guard for training, works well in a secure environment and can cut costs, said Vaughan. If a Guard unit needs training, why fly the troops to class when the classroom instruction can be broadcast directly to local guard units, he asked. “It’s a huge savings.”
The system is also used by the University of Maine System, broadcasting from central classrooms to some 60 locations in the state. The university uses Haivision’s compact Barracuda H.264 encoders, which delivers video to 125 Stingray set-top boxes in 125 viewing classrooms. In addition, some Stingray systems were deployed as mobile units, giving remote education sites more flexibility on displaying live video.
THE RESPONSE NETWORK
Law enforcement agencies also have turned to The Response Network’s online training portal—PoliceCommunity.net’s Learning Management System—for a one- stop distance- learning shop. The portal promises courses with lesson plans from subject matter experts and an easy- to-use platform.
The Learning Management System “offers a huge cost savings to agencies,” said Bradley Naples, TRN’s president and CEO. “It provides a very consistent form of training from officer to officer and department to department. By providing on-demand courses that can be taken as learners’ schedules permit, it reduces conventional classroom time.”
Consistency of training and cost-effectiveness are among the reasons LMS has been adopted by the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide online training for all of its 3,800 sworn officers, according to J. Frank Woodall, the department’s chief training officer.
“By integrating The Response Network’s online courses into our ongoing training programs, we believe we will provide our officers with professional quality, cost-effective training,” Woodall said. “The online platform allows us to improve the consistency of the training provided to our officers statewide while
reducing the costs.”
PHOENIX AUDIO TECHNOLOGIES
Audio is an essential ingredient in the distance learning environment and Phoenix Audio Technologies just launched a new conference speakerphone that will fit into any facility’s existing IP-based infrastructure, including schools, boardrooms and government facilities.
The Quattro3 unit comes equipped with a built-in keypad and liquid crystal display screen, along with full-duplex communications, a four-microphone beam-forming array, echo canceling, noise suppression, de-reverb capabilities and automatic gain control, said Jonathan Boaz, company vice president, sales and marketing. The phone can be daisy- chained, with single-source daisy-chain powering, and can be linked to multiple rooms, Boaz said.
|Phoenix Audio Technologies’ Quattro3
Designed to be used in combination with a computer, tablet or smartphone, it is seven inches in diameter, weighs less than two pounds, can connect to any computer and features bridging between the USB port and IP telephone.
“If someone is taking a class, but only has access to a cell phone, they can dial into the Quattro3 and hear that part of the conversation,” Boaz said. “It’s great for distance learning.”
Xantech Corp. offers the Web Intelligent Controller 1200, which is a complete control system that can be programmed for all the devices in the classroom, projectors, DVD players, VCRs, media players of any type, said Dana Hathaway, a systems design engineer for Xantech.
The WIC 1200 stores all the codes for the different media, and any type of an interface can be added to that unit including a Web interface Hathaway said.
|Xantech Corp.’s Web Intelligent Controller 1200
The box enables the classroom to have many user interfaces. The WIC 1200 uses two RS232 ports (configurable for RS422 and RS232) and a single IP port, and its “Event Manager” feature is capable of executing timed events, as well a file transfer protocol site, Web and e-mail server, the company says.