Re: CU:SeeMe in the College Classroom

Richard Collins (rcollins@mirror.det.mun.ca)
Sat, 15 Jul 1995 22:57:00 -0230


William:

In response to your inquiry concerning teaching on the NET we have done a
fair bit of exploration and testing in this area. Check out
http://mirror.det.mun.ca

We are headed towards the economy of Internet conferencing as a teaching
tool but, due to available bandwidth, this fall will see us with another
mixed bag of solutions:

Broadcast and Internet Teaching Project 95
The Division of Educational Technology,Memorial University
[reporting July 15, 1995]
During the Fall semester of 1995 Educational Technology will be
delivering courses to our Provincial Colleges from Memorial's campus in
St. John's. Colleges are located in Carbonear, Clarenville, Burin,
Gander, Grand Falls, Lewisporte and Labrador City. {map} In addition, a
large lecture theatre (320 cap) just down the hall from our studio will
participate.

Having previously conducted experimental courses via a variety of
technologies, both sattelite and computer, this is our first combination
of the two.

We will be delivering broadcast video and audio of live teaching sessions
via sattelite from our studio in St. John's. These will be downlinked to
the various colleges either by dishes installed at the particular college
or through the local cable system. I believe, at this point, we have
been able to access local cable systems in all but two regions.

For the interactive component we have also taken advantage of the newly
established Internet links to each of these locations. There are A/V Mac
6100's equipped with the latest versions of the CUSeeme videoconferencing
software. These Macs will supply return video only. Audio will be
returned via traditional teleconferencing systems. All but one of the
colleges have a minimum 64k frame relay link to our campus. They are
connected by "cloud" and, in our tests, achieve approximately 30-50kbs
each. We choose the Macs because we wanted the larger picture format of
320x240. This, combined with the bit rate allows an average of 1-4
frames per second. The exception to this will be the site in Labrador
City. This is off-island and suffers from poor line availability. The
best option for the Internet connection in that area is a 19,200 line.
We have yet to install the equipment in Labrador and can't comment on the
quality wewill achieve through this link.

In our studio the instructor will be able to glance a large (21"
Triniton) Mac monitor with the seven pictures displayed. This is not
intended to give the instructor a detailed view. It will be enough to
confirm that the class has arrived and will indicate some general
indication of who may be asking a question.

To achieve greatest quality the remote machines have been configured as
"send-only" video to a central reflector running on Linux. The reflector
machine is a Pentium 90 with 32 megs of RAM and, most importantly, a PCI
Ethernet (SMC) card. It is running within our Thin-wire (10 mbit)
network. The reflector will be receiving seven streams and "sending" two
streams. One output stream will go to the Mac used in the studio with an
extra stream sent to our second reflector. This will allow others to
view the event on the second reflector without slowing the main reflector.

We will be keeping up-to-date with the latest versions of reflector code
and Mac CUSeeme versions throughout the project.

So far everyone involved is suprised by the quality of video we are
receiving from the sites. When September comes these classes will be
taught from 10am to 1pm each day.

Last year we taught to a single site using compressed (high-bandwidth)
audio and video (see Clarenville Project). This project depended upon
dedicated 56k lines (7 of them) using an IMUX system. This is akin to a
modem system ($50,000 worth of hardware plus $80 per hour connections)
and with that came horrible connection troubles for each 50 minute
session. With dedicated sattelite time and the ever-present Internet
those connection problems should be more easily dealt with and confirmed
well in advance of each session.