Television as an Educational Tool - Education through Television

Have you ever watched Instructional TV Fixed Service or ITFS for short? Do you know what it is? ITFS is instructional television, which is usually broadcast on public broadcasting channels but is increasingly available on cable and satellite TV stations. ITFS is a very efficient and practical way to deliver quality education to thousands of viewers simultaneously in the comfort of their homes.

The audio hardware that remote viewers use to participate in the discussion is a typical phone system that has been modified by coupling it with an audio bridge. Microwave towers are used to transmit the television portion of the program although as the merging process of satellite transmission with HTTP matures, this is being increasingly used. Multiple viewers can be tied in with the use of networks.

The use of this audio hardware changes the educational process from asynchronous to synchronous. This promotes an enhanced learning experience because the student can communicate not only with the instructor, but with other students as well. The virtual classroom means that the students can focus more clearly on what is being communicated to them and it clearly makes the instructor’s job more meaningful.

Traditionally, this type of education has been asynchronous, meaning no dialog takes place from the student viewers to the instructor. Increasingly though, technology is being introduced to allow viewers to fully participate in the virtual classroom experience. Typically, this is done via a keypad or audio response hardware.

Satellite technology offers numerous advantages over cable. For one thing, it completely eliminates the bandwidth issue. This allows the instructor to incorporate many different types of media such as PowerPoint or spreadsheet presentations. Also, any number of receiving sites can participate without having to deal with a physical cable infrastructure. This factor opens up an unprecedented number of doors to students around the globe.

Of course, this type of instructional media is quite costly to initially set up and operate. At least one classroom must be dedicated to host all the equipment necessary to make the broadcast presentation. In addition to the instructor, a knowledgeable broadcast technician must be present before and during the class session. Glitches invariably crop up and the idea is to keep the operation as smooth as possible. The instructor usually needs additional training on how to conduct his lecture in front of a camera.

Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks is that this type of instruction eliminates one of the major advantages that often leads distance learning students to the decision to pick distance learning over a campus: the flexibility to do their class work when and where it fits into their schedules. Some students will have the ability to record the session, but not participate in the discussion or ask pertinent questions.

A great benefit of instructional television is that it offers numerous opportunities for creative instruction. The instructor can facilitate simulations, drills, panel discussions, lectures, role playing, brainstorming, hands-on experiments, and more. Although it has its limitations, it brings the opportunity for a quality education to masses of people who never had it before. This makes good sense for all of us.

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