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Real-Time Interactive Tele-lectures

The tele-education system is developed at the Centre Universitraire d'Informatique of the University of Geneva with the collaboration of the Visualization and Media Systems Design institute of GMD, The German National Research Center for Information Technology, at St. Augustin, Bonn.

Overview of the system functionality

The system allows professors to give interactive courses to distant classes and at the same time distribute them over the internet in real time.

large-screenIn traditional tele-course approaches the professor is all alone giving the course almost like a broadcast. This kind of approach is not so pedagogical for the students that tend to get bored. Our approach diverts from this and introduces the notion of a local lecturer who is in the same classroom with the students. His role is to "animate" the students. In fact the course is given as a dialogue between the local lecturer and the remote one.

The main idea is that the lecturer in the classroom directs the evolution of the course, according to the response from the students (something which the remote lecturer cannot see too well). It is the local lecturer that posses questions to both the remote lecturer and the students, keeping the course in line with the subject. The existence of a local lecturer has also the advantage that in case there a network problem the course can still go on.

video-wallAlthough we are using ATM lines for the audio and video connection any type of audio/video connection can be used (we already have given lectures via ISDN and MBONE). The idea being that the remote lecturer can connect to the class from almost anywhere in the world using minimal standard equipment that can be found to any organization or even at home. Specifically what is needed for the remote lecturer is a camera, a microphone, a television and a PC connected to the network. This way we can invite almost anybody from around the world to give an interactive course on his area of expertise.

Of course we have also considered the students that, for many reasons, cannot come to the class! For these students the complete course, including the transparencies, the audio and video signals are transmitted over the internet at real time. The student can follow the course as if he was present in the class. This is done with a tool which we have developed that allows the student to see the classroom, the professors, and the transparencies, hear the lecture and exchange messages with the professor via the internet (we currently working to complete an audio connection that will allow the student to talk directly to the professor and the class). In addition all the course material is stored on our WWW server from where the students can replay it at any time (to be noted however that presently we do not store the video of the course, but only the audio).

From the remote lecture's site the tool allows the lecturer to change the transparencies (and automatically trigger a change in all internet connected students browsers), go to "local" mode and browse the transparencies without changing the students' view and even pass the control to somebody else (like the local lecturer). In addition the remote lecturer can control the cameras that are in the classroom choosing the desired point of view.

Technical overview

Constantin's talkNow some technical details about the set up of the system. The classroom is equipped with 2 cameras, microphones and speakers, a large screen television (we have experimented with different equipment ranging from video wall to a large television screen) and a PC connected to the internet and to an LCD high luminosity projector.

The Professor is equipped with a PC connected to the internet, one camera, a microphone and speakers, and a television screen (which can be a video wall or a video window on his PC screen!).

Presently the video and audio connection between the two sites is done using ATM lines and a pair of ATM video codecs (Fore StreamRunner AVA/ATV).

Finally we are using a Silicon graphics O2 for encoding the video and audio for the internet broadcasting.

The developed tool is written in Java and it is downloaded when the student or lecturer connect to the course site. It can run from any Java enabled WWW browser.

Access to real-time/on demand tele-education services

Dr. Constantin Arapis
Dr. Dimitri Konstantas

University of Geneva
Centre Universitaire d'Informatique
24 rue Général-Dufour
CH-1211 Genève, Suisse

Course tools :

Tel : +41 (22) 705.7662
Fax: +41 (22) 705-7780