Smart Classroom of Tomorrow - TodayWritten by Allan T. Rasmussen
Various projects have been developed in order to expand and enhance the education in the Thai countryside but given the low reach of Internet coverage in the country, state-of-the-art projects based on Internet infrastructure are difficult to deploy. As a result, interaction is achieved by broadcast e.g. satellite TV, used in combination with feedback via telephone or fax.
One successful example is the Royal Thai Distance Learning Foundation, Wang Klaikangwon (DLTV) distance learning project, which has introduced distance learning in Thailand taking advantage of satellite TV infrastructure.
Since 1995, the “One Class One Channel Live Broadcast: Grade1 to Grade12” has broadcasted via Ku band, on THAICOM 5 direct to home, from His Majesty the King’s private school Wang Klaikangwon in Hua Hin, 200 kilometers south of Bangkok. Today, 30,000 schools are connected via satellite and 10,000 via terrestrial technologies.
The 12 channels, Grade 1 to Grade12, plus three more channels, which offer vocational education, international program and university education, constitute 15 channels broadcasted 24 hour a day from DLTV. The public can also watch the 15 channels live or on-demand via satellite set-top box or the Internet.
TOT public Company Limited provided four toll free telephone lines for the one-way visual and two-way audio interactive communication between the remote schools and Wang Klaikangwon School. TOT also provided two optic fibers, sea-line and landline, at the distance of ~200 kilometres each, from Wang Klaikangwon School to the THAICOM Teleport and DTH Centre at Lardlumkheo.
In 2009, upon the requests of the teachers and students at remote schools, regular videoconferences help students at the remote schools to study secondary subjects together with the Wang Klaikangwon School.
In this article, we detail the opportunity of integrating a combination of available Broadcast and Telecom infrastructure, to achieve an “over-the-top” connectivity and 2-way communication for educational purpose in Thailand.
We will use the Royal Thai Distance Learning Foundation (DLTV) ongoing success and effort, as the main pillar - in combination with:
- The newly introduced terrestrial-based digital TV broadcast system (DVB-T2) in Thailand.
- HbbTV Hybrid broadcast and broadband interactive TV services.
- The existing mobile network infrastructure.
- New set-top box technology.
The infrastructure is designed with emphasis on being a tool, for example as an alternative ways to expedite the handling of submitted questions from the students, so that all questions can be answered in a timely fashion, as a delay in providing feedback in distance learning environments can influence student motivation and drop out.
The scenario in Thailand today
Today the Royal Thai Distance Learning Foundation (DLTV) makes use of satellite infrastructure e.g. Thaicom’s satellite transponder. The satellite signal is received at the schools via a satellite dish connected to a router/set-top box and a TV screen.
Classroom distribution in Thailand today
HbbTV + DVB-T2
The introduction of terrestrial digital TV in Thailand via the DVB-T2 format provides a new additional broadcast distribution to the existing satellite setup and with it, comes a couple of value features as Digital TV not only provides better quality in images and sound but introduces hybrid usage of broadcast and data distributed together in the same signal.
This opens up for distribution and usage of HbbTV (Hybrid broadcast and broadband TV) interactive services. Such services include on-screen multiple-choice questions, voting, video-on-demand to re-run/request all the content that is already available from DLTV servers, Wiki information (Wikipedia style), educational games, e-books, etc.
Smart Classroom Distribution + HbbTV & DVB-T2
The Smart Classroom of Tomorrow - Today!
By combining the existing distribution via satellite (DVB-S2) with the terrestrial DVB-T2 and HbbTV, the coverage is expanded to more schools, along with interactive options via HbbTV services. However to use the interactive services and to solve the problem of passive learning and introducing 2-way communication, connectivity is required.
The connectivity comes in the form of a SIM card. The infrastructure e.g. mobile network towers, are already available as some of the TOT towers have excessive capacity (underutilized) thus making them perfect as network for 2-way communication infrastructure solution for education, benefitting both the schools/students and telecom operators.
Smart Classroom Distribution + HbbTV, DVB-S2, DVB-T2, & IP via Mobile Network
The Smart Classroom Set-top box
The set-top box is main tool and gateway to the world for the schools and students. It is not your standard TV set-top box for watching entertainment, as this box will serve a higher purpose. To enable this the box will feature:
- 2 x DVB-T2 (Terrestrial) tuners (2 chip) for watching one channel, while recording another.
- 1 x DVB-S2 (Satellite) tuner (1 chip) for watching one channel while recording another.
- HbbTV (Hybrid Broadcast/Internet) stack middleware for interactive educational services.
- Built-in SIM Card for Voice/Data Two-way communication via mobile network/IP.
- USB with OTG support - For external devices e.g. dongle, computer, maintenance.
- Wi-Fi - For optional in-classroom use with “second screen” devices/services.
- Power supply 12V/5A to be sure the box can run in classrooms that are off-grid.
- PVR/e-SATA - to record or playback content on the box.
- HDMI 1.4 & CEC so the remote also controls the TV
- IR Receiver.
Parts of this article was originally published in the Computer Engineer Magazine, September 2014 and is a co-operation between Dr. Chieangchuang Kalayanamitr and Allan T. Rasmussen at Thailand’s Engineering Institute.
Wikipedia, Education in Thailand
Leo Jones, The Student-Centered Classroom, Cambridge University Press 2007
Royal Thai Distance Learning Foundation (DLTV)
Dan Blacharski and Charoenkwan Blacharski, ITworld | Distance learning brings education to rural Thailand
Royal Thai Distance Learning Foundation, video-on-demand
Wikipedia, HbbTV - Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV
Peter J. Bates, “t-learning Study, Final Report,“ May 2003
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