Modern education has become far more flexible thanks to recent technological advancements. With distance learning, you can broadcast live or recorded classes to students using Learning Management System (LMS) platforms. Here is brief overview of how a typical distance learning course may be setup, with a focus on hardware solutions that may be used to broadcast the material.
Live vs. Pre-recorded Courses
Many schools are making use of web-based Learning Management Systems (LMS) to help manage their courses, and they can function for both live and pre-recorded classes. For a live session, LMS’s work like any conferencing software that you are used to, such as WebEx, with a live chat (IM) feature that allows students to communicate with each other, and where students can raise their hand and get the microphone (or presenter-mode) “passed” to them by the instructor, while leaving other students’ microphones off for better sound quality. The biggest problem with sending IP signals over the Internet for live conferencing is latency, which is the several second delay that can take place depending on the students’ home Internet speed and how fast the decoder on their laptop can unscramble the message. For pre-recorded sessions, students are simply provided links to watch videos at their leisure.
An alternative option for schools who want the best of both worlds, who wish to provide long distance learning opportunities to students but with a live classroom feel, is for the school to provide a location for students to attend off-campus. In this way, students don’t have to have their own laptop or tablet to participate, which can be important depending on the economic status of the students being reached, and the audio/video feed quality can be tightly controlled.
If the school sets up a classroom for students to attend, the signal can be routed there using fiber, for the best, no-latency quality signal, or using a dedicated Ethernet/IP system, which requires an encoder on the front end and one or more decoders for each of the classrooms to receive the signal.
For the IP scenario, Opticomm-EMCORE has several encoder/decoder options depending on the data rate of the network and type of signal. The NV Series works for DVI (or HDMI with an adapter – no HDCP) or there is 3G HD-SDI model, but they require a 1GB variable data rate for their lossless transmission. The EV Series is available for HDMI with HDCP, and requires a 150 Mbps fixed data rate for visually lossless compression. They also have the HD4 Series, also for HDMI with HDMP (or VGA), and is for networks providing 256 Kbps to 30 Mbps variable data rates.
In general, laptops make use of HDMI to transmit an audio and video signal. Depending on where the laptop resides would dictate where the signal goes next. If the laptop is right next to the classroom projector, interactive whiteboard or touch display, you can simply connect it direct using copper cabling. If the laptop is across the room, you will need a CATx/HDBaseT cable that can transmit the signal up to 100 meters and a transmitter/receiver link such as the OTC-HDMI2A-USB-ETH. Similarly, if the laptop is a very long distance away, up to 10 km (6 miles), you can use fiber cabling for the best quality signal transmission and will need a transmitter/receiver link such as OTP-1HDMI2A-USB-ETH.
With either of these transmitters, you can send HDMI 1.4b with digital audio, stereo analog audio, such as from an analog microphone, and USB KVM (keyboard/video/mouse) so you can control the laptop from the end-point as if you were standing right next to it. Both also connect with the school’s Ethernet network, so that you can pull information off the network into the classroom or can send information through the network to long distance learners. On the receiving end, the HDMI video and digital audio can be sent to a projector or interactive whiteboard, while any separate analog audio is sent to analog speakers.
For sending USB 2.0 device signals long-distance over fiber, such as a tablet device or document camera, Opticomm-EMCORE has a USB extender that can take in one signal and output it to up to four output devices.
However you choose to setup your distance learning application, the greatest advantage lies in the amazing ability we have now to bring educators and students together and create a remotely accessible educational platform through digital technology. Contact Opticomm-EMCORE for a free system design consultation.