You have to think of the big picture of convergence … We are literally just around the corner from starting pilot projects across the nation offering Internet access over cable TV. That’s going to blow things totally out.
Audio is much less demanding on bandwidth (than video) and there is a very good chance it will be more successful sooner than video on demand.
Frankly, [cyber-radio is] one of those things that we haven’t quite wiped the fog off the glasses yet to see it clearly … It’s all happening so fast … I think it’s very possible it could offer us new opportunities in programming as well as advertising.
The direction we are going is audio, video, text, all combined with interactivity between all of them. This is not necessarily bad for radio. In fact it’s good. It’s a wider audience.
But why would anyone want to listen to radio on a computer when there’s a perfectly good radio in the car? “It’s audio on demand,” said Richard Liebhaber … “The Internet is becoming the ultimate special interest magazine.” Cyber-radio could end up being a passing fad or could be a significant new form of communications. While Internet broadcasts are now commercial-free and designed to market regular shows, the broadcasts could ultimately be commercially viable for advertising to millions of people. In any event, radio via computer is a tangible demonstration of the convergence of communications that is fast-arriving as the lines between computers, television, radio and other media are being blurred. Tomorrow’s radio and television could be your home computer.
To fully exploit the Web as a vehicle for the delivery of courseware a more supportive learning environment is required which can still make use of all the power of the Web whilst still maintaining a level of control over navigation. We must provide a navigational mechanism that allows students to follow interesting links to resources anywhere on the Web whilst providing a simple means of returning to the point where the student left the set of materials which have been designated as being directly associated with the current educational objective.
In a physical classroom there is a standard set of audio-visual equipment and tools available to the instructor. These might include a chalkboard, overhead projector, video cassette player, possibly a sound system, and even the textbook. Professional instructors know how to make best use of these tools. The virtual classroom will need equivalent equipment and tools in the form of network-based software applications … The growth of electronic publishing on the Internet should ensure a good supply of electronic textbooks over the coming years … Bandwidth limitations to the students desk also makes many … tools unusable. It is not acceptable to have to limit participation in the virtual classroom to only those with the best Internet access and interface. Just as html has provided a standard which allows participation by users with diverse implementations of both low-end and high-end browsers, audio-visual tools will require similiar standardization.
With workshops held in our training facility we know what type of computer hardware, software and network connection our students will have. For an electronic course an Internet connection will be required, but will we require students to have a graphical browser for the Web? This requirement could exclude some students from participation, but would greatly increase the functionality that we can make use of for the materials. Even with a graphical browser, some students may find limited network bandwidth does not provide a satisfactory learning environment.
While we may now be able to directly impact a broader group of people, this group will likely be much more diverse in its background and computing experience. Will we want to set up individual computer accounts for this larger group on our system? Will we provide support for these people through our consulting phone and e-mail service? Should we instead look at a method to provide hands-on experience through a more generic method? Certainly there will be a number of security issues and the necessity for fire walls to protect our production computing environments if we wish to accommodate this larger audience.
While distance education can provide efficient utilization of scarce resources, more fair distribution of knowledge, and timely dissemination of new knowledge, limitations in its effective use exist. Student motivation is critical. On-line instructors may need to take more time for the electronic course. Limits to the number of students may be required to maintain quality interaction. While generalizations in the effectiveness of distance education are dangerous, a common set of advantages and disadvantages are emerging.