Home Africa and the Middle EastAfrica and the Middle East 2006 Education and universal broadband access

Education and universal broadband access

by david.nunes
Mounir HamdiIssue:Africa and the Middle East 2006
Article no.:16
Topic:Education and universal broadband access
Author:Mounir Hamdi
Title:Director of the Computer Engineering Program
Organisation:Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
PDF size:72KB

About author

Mounir Hamdi is the Director of the Computer Engineering Program and a full professor of computer science at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He is also the Director of the Master of Science in Information Technology program, and Director of the High-Speed Networking Research Lab at the university. Previously, he held visiting professor positions at Stanford University, USA, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne, Switzerland, and served as a teaching/research fellow at the Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Pittsburgh. Dr Hamdi has frequently consulted for companies in the USA, Europe and Asia. Dr. Hamdi has been on the Editorial Board of IEEE Transactions on Communications, IEEE Communication Magazine, Computer Networks, Wireless Communications and Mobile Computing, and Parallel Computing and has been on the program committees of more than 100 international conferences and workshops. He was a guest editor of IEEE Communications Magazine, guest editor-in-chief of two special issues of the IEEE Journal and a guest editor of Optical Networks Magazine. Mounir Hamdi has also earned numerous industry and university awards. Mounir Hamdi earned a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering-Computer Engineering minor (with distinction) from the University of Louisiana and his MS and PhD degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh.

Article abstract

Broadband is revolutionising education and training. Using wireless broadband, students in the remotest regions of the world can access classes given by the world’s leading professors. Both students and teachers can easily access an enormous variety of material from libraries, museums and databases throughout the world. Ten years ago, not even the world’s greatest scholars had such rich resources at their command. For businesses, broadband brings specific, on-the-job, training programs. Broadband also facilitates collaboration between educational institutions, students and researchers.

Full Article

Broadband is among the most significant technologies in the communications industry today. The proliferation of broadband access brings with it a dramatic shift in the way people live and work. Broadband makes streaming media, virtual reality and other bandwidth intensive technologies possible. The use of broadband lets both students and teachers tap into a wealth of in-depth information and facilitates collaborative efforts between institutions. In Africa and the Middle East, broadband can deliver educational programs on par with the best in the world. As a result, governments and organizations are funding broadband connections to many schools to provide “exciting and effective ways of improving the quality of education”. Broadband benefits – included among the many benefits of broadband access are: • A richer learning experience – Broadband access exposes students to a wide range of exciting and innovative, but previously inaccessible, educational resources that complement their current activities and motivates and them to learn more. In addition, given the quick access and retrieval of rich media, it encourages students to use the Internet for research and other learning activities. Preparing lessons is a big part of a teacher’s job. Broadband gives them convenient access to such high quality resources as videos, animations, and graphics to prepare their lessons. Teachers can also post students’ assignments, information and results online for easy access. A huge amount of material is available to teachers on the Internet, but searching for it can be time consuming. Broadband’s speed helps teachers find suitable lesson material much more quickly. • Easier remote collaboration – Broadband facilitates and enhances inter-institutional collaboration, allowing schools to share scarce teaching resources using high-speed interactive videoconferencing. This is especially important in the developing countries of Africa and the Middle East where the appropriate human resources are often scarce. Alternatively, broadband facilitates communication and cooperation by linking diverse institutions together to work on innovative joint projects. Certain innovative projects use broadband to facilitate the often difficult interaction between students from hostile countries and help cushion some of the consequences of historical problems. Children in remote areas of Africa may only mix with other schoolchildren once or twice a year. They have little contact with other children their own age, but with broadband, they can collaborate with classmates from other schools on group projects using email or even video-conferencing. • Novel teaching methods – Broadband access can make innovative e-learning opportunities a reality and on a wider scale. Broadband makes it possible to have conversational language lessons with native speakers in other countries. The Internet has a wealth of additional material to stimulate and challenge the brighter students in a class or to support and nurture those with learning difficulties. The Internet also gives school students access to experts – often not locally available – in advanced subjects such as mathematics, physics or computer technology. Using broadband and digital technology, a university can collaborate with another by combining resources and teaching staff to offer shared degrees. On a wider scale, it can also facilitate international collaboration with organizations and institutions outside the education sector. Still, e-learning and computer based learning should not totally replace conventional face-to-face teaching, but, rather, should enhance and complement it. • Sharing computing and equipment resources – Broadband access is an economically viable way for schools and universities in Africa and the Middle East to share costly database, computing and equipment resources, using what is termed grid computing. Some of the expensive equipment that schools and universities need is only used part-time, so it is very appealing when it – and the associated costs – can be shared with other organisations using broadband links. Using broadband to share the costs of educational programs can be extremely beneficial. • Improving educational administration – Broadband can provide educational institutions with real efficiencies by streamlining and automating their administration and management. It is an efficient way to deliver curriculum details and examination results to students, and improve communications and interaction between students and teachers. • Access to knowledge – The Internet is a huge library that never closes; with it, students of all ages can tap into a vast array of information. This information is not limited to the written word; it includes photographs, diagrams, videos and animations, all of which can help a student understand a subject so much more clearly. Still, trying to access this information on a dial-up connection quickly becomes frustrating, especially for children. Broadband’s high speed overcomes this problem and makes browsing even the most image rich websites a pleasure. Whatever the topic you can be sure that there will be information about it on the Internet, and there are search engines specially tailored to children that find information pitched to a child’s level of understanding. There are also websites dedicated to helping children with their homework. Broadband also widens access in rural areas and provides access to education materials to learners with disabilities or behavioural problems. In general, broadband narrows the gap between the haves and the have-nots and widen access to educational material and new learning opportunities by using links from schools to the wider communities, such as libraries, museums, theatres and other cultural institutions. • Family Perspective – Broadband in education benefits families and the community as a whole, not just individual students or teachers. Parents of children with access to higher levels of education at home have less need to send their children away to further their education. Families can stay together and enjoy their family life. Broadband, then, can reduce the brain drain in Africa and the Middle East and help local communities. Affording more children higher levels of education will lead to better educated, more capable, communities. Broadband applications Education will drive demand for broadband applications in Africa and the Middle East. Education applications have a history of driving the adoption of technology in poor countries. Parents recognize the impact that supervised use of the Internet can have on their children’s education; surveys and empirical evidence validate how computers captivate kids. Although much attention is focused upon web-based learning, even more powerful opportunities are on the horizon, including interactive video-conferencing, grid computing and leveraging Internet 2. The next generation of applications will emerge from institutions of higher education. The challenge is to marry the technology to research, to develop innovative broadband applications that meet the specific needs of regions such as Africa and the Middle East. This will leverage investments in technology, position educational entities as community resources and help stimulate community demand for services. More than connectivity and computing speeds, we need a vision of the world we are preparing students for, where e-learning can take us if we can think about learning in fundamentally new ways. Technology is the cornerstone of the economy, but the combination of technology and education is its bedrock. Rapidly developing technologies such as advanced computing, biotechnology, and nanotechnology will each create revolutionary changes to which we must adapt. Intelligence will be embedded everywhere, and everyone – anywhere – will be interconnected. Learning opportunities will be only a thought or an eye movement away. Intelligent systems may discern our knowledge needs at work and play, and proactively offer learning opportunities and accelerate the accumulation of knowledge. Ultimately, it seems, education, training and knowledge management will converge to create a new “knowledge utility” that will integrate learning into all aspects of our lives, making learning opportunities ubiquitous for all, from pre-schooler to retiree. This is beyond computers in schools, beyond the Internet and beyond the deployment of broadband. This is about much bigger change – a new learning infrastructure based upon a broadband infrastructure. Broadband for business education Broadband development is critically important to the future of business education and learning in Africa and the Middle East. For small and medium-sized businesses, broadband means that online learning and staff training will become a viable option; until now, online training packages have been limited by restricted bandwidth. As a result, many have been relatively dull, short on interactive content, and did not engage learners. Broadband now makes a new generation of business training packages designed to take advantage of new technology possible. Covering everything from customer service to sales techniques, these new training packages are content-rich and designed to deliver a compelling and engaging experience. On-line training via broadband will offer smaller and rural companies committed to staff development many advantages including: • Personalized content reflecting specific company or individual need; • at-the-desk staff access to training – when and as needed; • easy log-on and log-off to training; • no dial-up charges for connection; and • flexible training tailored to meet the demands of the workplace. In short, broadband can make continuous learning – at the workplace – a reality. As the broadband network expands – both nationally and across international borders – so will the availability of effective training packages that bring relevant and exciting learning direct to employees’ desks. This will transform learning in organizations of every sort and size. Students growing up with broadband will take e-learning at home and school as a given. They will be more likely to see education as a lifelong process and will expect ready access to online, interactive, educational resources throughout their lives. They will also have the skills and familiarity with technology demanded by employers when they enter the workforce. We look forward to that future.

Related Articles

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More