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AV Data

This AVD environment offers cost efficient transfer of knowledge and flexible mechanisms for “balanced use” of dynamic presentations containing hand made drawings, figures, calculations, interactive simulations etc., all of which are imperative in traditional engineering education. High quality pedagogical frameworks offer real communication experience through two screen presentation modes containing a) distributed desktop application sharing on existing PCs (Bridgite, Sametime, WebEx etc.) where dynamic presentation modes on digital blackboards, plasma systems, or Tablet PCs are efficiently interchanged without quality loss even through firewalls and b) high quality multipoint video-conferencing transmitting two-way sound and picture of the teacher and the participants in real time.

While AV communication is not a new development, it has never achieved wide spread use in education and training due to quality limitations. These limitations have been greatly alleviated lately, e.g. XGA support and H.264. However, AVD is still not wide spread in education due to lack of knowledge on behalf of teachers, and institutions on the use of fast evolving equipment and its integration into pedagogical settings. AVD-adapted distance education programs in Europe are still in an embryonic state as the penetration rate of visual communication is around 5% (ITU Telecom World 2003, Geneva and the Pan-European Consortium). Similarly, only 5% of the teaching staff at the university/high school level in California manages to use composite AVD environments properly (Info-COM2003, Orlando). It is expected that during the next few years cheaper executive desktop videoconferencing will offer better integration of content and people in a single learning environment, providing a tremendous boost to the use of rich media material by a broader audience. To deploy technological advances in technical education at a large scale, new pedagogical and didactical models for implementing, anchoring, and using full-digitalized learning environments and learning styles must be developed. Such environments must integrate (a) high quality multipoint H.264/H.263 videoconferencing with independently adapted network bandwidths at endpoints (b) video and multimedia presentations where geographical separated users interact with simulations, video, calculation tools, and programs through the web (c) use of composite technical equipment offering interactive distance presentations from various digital sources.

Traditional AV learning environments have at least two very important disadvantages: (i) a considerable amount of existing videoconference equipment, which successful distance teaching programs must use for many years to recover investment costs, offer only one screen solutions resulting in serious pedagogical limitations as teachers are forced to con-tinuously (and manually) manage/switch presentation modes of composite sources instead of focusing on the teaching process. (ii) The most modern videoconference environments deliver twice the video quality at bandwidths of up to 768 kbps. They run DuoVideo modes (two video streams) at H.264 with XGA resolution, which, however, primarily offer mechanisms for exchanging freeze frames (e.g. power point presentations aimed at generic users), and not dynamic presentations. This restriction is the result of a significant quality reduction in the transformation of dynamically changing data signals into a video signal by the videoconference equipment. Moreover, Polycom, Tandberg, and other video-conference equipment are still not interoperable either at H.264 or in DuoVideo modes, although the International Teleconference Union (ITU) ratified this standard in July 2003.

The utility and deployment of new AVD distance teaching programs is currently limited due to the lack of knowledge systems for the publication, retrieval, and dissemination of independent expert knowledge and best practice information as well as the lack of services for demonstrating AVD communication environment features. This includes (i) suitable pedagogical models for new teaching methods and new learning styles in these frameworks (ii) didactical use of AVD communication in distributed, interactive distance learning envi-ronments (iii) diffusion of technological know-how due to very fast technological developments, often resulting in obsolesce of technology within 6 months (iv) deployment of updated, pedagogical, and relevant high quality AVD training methods/programs (v) organizational considerations at all levels in an institution required to ensure successful AVD deployment. Educational institutions across Europe are, despite human resource limitations, more or less continuously and independently forced to benchmark and familiarize their staff with new AVD communication environments.

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