EDUSAT-Space technology in Education

>> Sunday, August 30, 2009

ISRO’s Tele Education satellite EDUSAT providing networks capable of facilitating live lectures, web based learning, interactive training, virtual laboratory, database excess for reference material/library... may be able to revolutionalize education delivery process in India

Satellite communications technology offers unique capability of being able to simultaneously reach out to very large numbers spread over large distances even in the most remote corners of the country. The Indian Space Programme has always aimed to be second to none in the applications of space technology to deal with the problems of development in our society. ISRO has continuously pursued the utilization of space technology for education and development.
This article highlights the projects undertaken and lessons learnt in the use of satellite communication to meet the challenge of education and development.

Efforts initiated by ISRO

Over a period of last 30 years, ISRO has initiated several projects/programmes to cater to the country’s need for education, training, and general awareness among the rural poor.These efforts are discussed below.

Satellite Instruction Television Experiment (SITE)

The SITE project carried out in 1975-76 provided instructions in the fields of family planning, agriculture, national integration, school education and teacher training. The ground hardware consisted of Direct Reception Systems (DRS), for community viewing of the TV programmes.They were installed in six States of the country in “clusters” of about 400 each for a total of over 2400 DRSs. The instructional programmes (some prepared by ISRO) were broadcast for 4 hours every day covering science education programmes production, various school programmes
and teachers training programme (by the ministry of Education). The programme re-trained over 50000 teachers was in two 2-week sessions.

Kheda Communication Project (KCP) from 1975 to 1989 SITE demonstrated that the centralization, inherent in the technology of direct broadcasting,was a limitation, hence the idea of “limited rebroadcast” was conceived, giving birth to the KCP.
This involved setting up of a low power TV transmitter in Pij village, Kheda district, Gujarat and linking it to a studio and earth station complex, so that it could relay
local programmes (originated from the studio) or the “central satellite” programmes received at the earth station. This network used for local village problem solving received the IPDC-UNESCO prize for Rural Communication in 1985.

INSAT system

The Indian national satellite (INSAT) System has been the major catalyst in the rapid expansionof terrestrial television coverage in India. INSAT is being used to provide Education TV (ETV)Services for primary school children in six states. University Grants Commission (UGC) is usingthis for its countrywide classroom programme on higher education (college sector). INSAT is being used by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) for distance education progammes and Doordarshan for Science Channel progranmmes

Training and Development Communication Channel (TDCC)

ISRO experimented with TDCC, which supports one-way video-two way teleconferencing interactive networks for education and training to introduce interactivity in teaching instructions. Today TDCC is used exclusively for distance education and Interactive Training Programmes (ITPs) by states like Karnataka, Orissa,

M.P etc. and by Open universities, national organisations/institutions, IGNOU, Consortium for Educational Communication (CEC) and Centre for Management Education (CME) of all India Management Association and national banks for providing training and education.

Jhabua Development Communication Project (JDCP)

Jhabua Development Communication Project (JDCP) was carried out in India in the Jhabua District of M.P aimed at providing communication support to the development activities in the district and also in providing interactive training to the field officials and the people in general.

Gramsat Programme (GP)

In Gramsat Programme (GP) TDCC networks were upgraded and all activities related to satellite based development communication, education, training, healthcares were grouped into a GP thereby connecting each village, providing computer connectivity, data broad-casting, and TV broadcasting facilities for applications like e-Governance, NRIS, tele- conferencing,and rural education/education broadcasting etc. Disaster management, telemedicine, and recently Village Resource Centre were added to the Gramsat networks.

Gramsat networks are operational in Gujarat, Karnataka, M.P. Orissa and Rajasthan (pilot),Andaman Nicobar, Goa, H.P., Orissa, Chhattisgarh.

EDUSAT for education
While the education institutions of the country have continuously endeavoured to use the latest technology to support the process of education, the demands have been increasing, with the challenge of the day being to stay updated with the changing trends. To help meet this challenge, ISRO has taken up the ‘Tele-Education’ by launching EDUSAT, a satellite totally dedicated to the nation’s need for education. It has a C-band national beam, a Ku-band national beam, and five Ku-band regional beams facilitating imparting of education in regional languages.

EDUSAT will strengthen education efforts by augmenting curriculum based teaching, providing effective teachers’ training, and community participation. Networks based on EDUSAT consist of either receive only (one way communication) terminals or interactive (two way communication)
projector, speakers, UPS in addition to the satellite terminal. EDUSAT utilisation is divided into three distinct phases: Pilot phase, Semi operational phase, and Operational phase.

Networks for education prior EDUSAT
Prior to the availability of EDUSAT, as a part of Pilot
Phase, networks for education were implemented at three universities : Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU), Belgaum, Karnataka, Yashvant Rao Chavan Open University (YCMOU), Nashik, Maharashtra, and Rajiv Gandhi Technical University (RGTU), Bhopal, M.P using INSAT. Each university was given its own
teaching end and 50 interactive terminals (two way communication) and 50 receive only terminals (one way communication). These universities are using this network regularly to impart curriculum based teaching to their students using one way video and two wayaudio them to interact with the teacher via satellite from the classroom with the help of live lectures, web based learning, power point presentations etc.
terminals or both in national as well as in regional networks. The networks are capable of facilitating live lectures/power point presentations with student interaction, web based learning, interactive training, virtual laboratory, video conferencing, data/video broadcast, database access for reference material/library/recorded lectures etc., on line examination and admissions, distribution of administrative information, etc.
The Network is IP based and does not need expensive studio facility. Equipment required at the teaching end or hub as shown in the figure, consist of two cameras, two PCs, proper lighting, and DVD player (if needed) in addition to the indoor and outdoor units of the hub hardware. The equipment needed at the interactive classroom end, consist of webcam, PC, LCD projector, speakers, microphone, UPS in addition to the satellite terminal. The classroom consisting of receive only terminal requires a PC,
User interest .In the semi operational phase, like in pilot phase, it is ISRO’s responsibility to manage the network in collaboration with the users. So far over 100 proposals from various user agencies expressing
their desire to use the network have been received. These proposals cover full spectrum of education including: primary education, secondary and high school education, degree college education, professional/technical education, distance education, training, agriculture education,as well as healthcare related learning, training and general awareness programmes by NGOs.

At present, using EDUSAT, networks for many user agencies like IGNOU, CEC/UGC, CIET/NCERT, AICTE, Blind People’s Association (BPA) or Blind school, Karnataka school network, VTU, YCMOU,Goa University, Amrita VRC, Kerala/Tamil Nadu are operational for a total of about 1200 terminals or classrooms.

Here, BPA network deserves a special mention because of its unique nature of application. The teaching end is located at the main office of BPA at Ahmedabad and the classrooms are spread over the state of Gujarat. The network functions in two distinct modes: data broadcast and audio broadcast. At the beginning of a class session, relevant data is broadcast using EDUSAT to all the classrooms which print out these data in Braille format using Braille printer. Theses are distributed
to the students. The teacher then commences his lecture to the students who already have the Braille print out of the lecture in their hands. These two put together makes the learning for the blind students a much more effective and faster. The EDUSAT based networks of many state governments, universities and other institutions are in various stages of implementation.
In the operational phase, overall management, day to day operation, and network upgradation etc. will be the responsibility of a selected nodal agency and the role of ISRO will be in the advisory capacity.

Thanks to Mr. B.S. Bhatia, Director, DECU/ISRO for his help in providing material for this paper and Dr. K.S. Dasgupta, Group Director, ADCTG/SAC/ISRO for encouragement.


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