Facility Design and Infrastructure
are mainly dependent upon desired modes of delivery, appropriateness
to the student and the curriculum. The degree to which the
benefits of educational technology – and
particularly distance learning technology – become
available depends upon the ability to connect diverse hardware,
networks at various locations effectively.
The basic concept around which development should center
is flexibility and a responsive “network of networks,” envisioned
as a functional inter-connection of needs-based networks.
Such a network encourages innovation, collaboration, and
while eliminating unnecessary duplication.
The successful development of such a network depends on the
accommodation of existing infrastructure and the integration
of future investments into a viable, distance learning infrastructure
responsive to defined needs.
Industry-wide technical standards for interconnectivity and
compatibility across telecommunications infrastructure continue
to evolve, but, in general, have been established for many
of the current technologies used for distance learning (i.e.,
International Telecommunications Union H.320 standards for
digitally compressed video, audio, and data -- common means
In practice, users may configure their equipment -- or purchase
particular equipment -- to take advantage of a specific vendor's
proprietary communications enhancements. Nevertheless, the
ability to communicate with diverse systems should be fundamental
for all general use distance learning technologies. While communication
between equipment from various vendors, or equipment using
different propagation media or signal formats (i.e., satellite,
microwave, telephone lines, analog vs. digital, etc.) is not
as easy as users would like, it is possible, given sufficient
technical expertise of the operators. Unfortunately, that expertise
is not widely available.
The ease of connection to the particular networks and systems
an institution plans to work with should therefore receive
careful attention prior to the acquisition of equipment, and
institutions are encouraged to demand practical demonstration
of the required capabilities and connectivity prior to purchase.