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Module 2:
What important topics should Distance Education Coordinators know about?





Topic D: Facility Design and Infrastructure





In this module, you will learn how facility design and infrastructure are related, and how they are important to a successful Distance Education program.





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, software, 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 accessibility 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 of telecommunications).

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.

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