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Teleconferencing link-up breaks down education barriers.

Distance learning using the latest videoconferencing techniques is taking education by storm.

Last April, a unique five-city, two-continent multipoint videoconference inaugurated the California State University (CSU) distance learning network.

The inaugural videoconference, jointly organized by CSU, GPT Video Systems, and US Sprint, linked Sacramento and Bakersfield, Calif.; Kansas City; Washington, D.C.; and London. It also was beamed live to educational establishments across the United States by a satellite television education channel.

As part of the hour-long CSU program, Ted Murphy, a professor at CSU-Bakersfield, gave a lesson on eagles to a class of 20 pupils at an elementary school in Kansas City.

The videoconferencing system, supported by $200,000 in equipment and services grants from US Sprint and GPT, will facilitate program sharing between CSU's campuses in Sacramento and Bakersfield.

Sprint donated the link-up to Sacramento, a 300-mile stretch of phone line that can carry pictures. GPT donated two codecs to compress and digitize the video signal.

CSU uses System 261 Universal Video Compression codecs, operating at the CCITT H.261 standard for low data rate video communications.

In addition to a basic low-resolution mode known as QCIF, the codecs provide a high-resolution mode, CIF. The H.261 standard has contributed to the bandwidth required for videoconferencing being reduced by a factor of up to 1000.

As a means of allowing geographically dispersed people to exchange information and ideas spontaneously and interactively, videoconferencing has tremendous educational potential. It allows students at one establishment to follow specialist courses offered by another. Valuable academic resources can be made available to the widest possible audience, notes GPT's General Manager of U.S. Operations, Thomas Gove.

According to CSU, California--the sixth largest economy in the world--spends more each year on education than the gross national product of at least 80 countries. With 20 campuses across California, CSU is pioneering the use of videoconferencing in education to enable smaller campuses to share the resources and specialized courses offered by larger sites.

Initially, the educational video network will link Bakersfield and Sacramento. Next fall, one or more Sacramento classes in engineering, computer science, and criminal justice may be transmitted to Bakersfield via the new link.

In addition, the network will be used for staff development and in-service training, presentations by distinguished academics, and distribution of film and videotape materials as well as general academic and administrative meetings.

Video has become viable as a teaching medium in recent years because of the greater availability of digital phone lines and developments in technology, such as video compression, which reduces bandwidth required to carry video pictures over phone lines.

Two-way conferencing compresses signals so they may be transported over the public network.

Dominguez High School is only six miles from CSU at Dominguez Hills, but for most of the high school's students, cultural and economic barriers make it closer to six light years away.

In September 1990, CSU-DH, Dominguez High School, Pacific Bell, and GPT began a two-way video distance learning project. The experimental program is slated to run for two years.

It is supported by a $148,000 research grant.

The project allows students to participate in class, not just view it as they would with one-way video.

Today, many students who hadn't considered college a realistic possibility will realize it is within their grasp.

Classes are broadcast from a specially designed studio-classroom on the CSU-DH campus. It is equipped with multiple cameras which can follow the instructor as he lectures, or focus on a demonstration or diagram from a book.

Another camera at Dominguez High School allows the instructor to see the students.

Signals are sent on a Pacific Bell highspeed digital T1 link.

CSU offers German and a variety of supplementary programs. Among them are one-day-a-week science programs in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, physics, algebra, and calculus. Lunch time is designated for special speakers, and tutoring.

In November 1989, Pacific Bell and CSU-Bakersfield constructed the only other two-way educational video system in California. That system connects the campus with the remote mountain community of Tehachapi.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:at California State University
Publication:Communications News
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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