The rapid evolution of digital, networked multimedia technology such as the Internet, e-mail, and computer based and video conferencing can open new educational opportunities. This article describes the use of hypermedia modules inside the distance learning, in particular, in the field of computer based training in electronic instrumentation and measurements. This educational experience has been developed by the Department of Electronic (Dipartimento di Elettronica) - Politecnico of Torino (Italy), where the author participated to control the educational process. This project is a part of an Italian research of distance education named “Consorzio Nettuno” which involves different undergraduate courses (Electronic Engineering, Information Technology, Economic Science). Several modules have been developed, using multimedia technologies, to assist the students to acquire the fundamentals of the basic electronic instrumentation. A client-server system has been designed in order to allow the students to operate on a remote laboratory for experimental training. The courseware includes lessons, exercises, and a training on virtual instruments which emulate actual instruments. The students can also carry out several real laboratory experiments without actually being in the laboratory, by using a client-server structure based on the Internet.
The education experiment named “Consorzio Nettuno” (“Neptune Consortium”), has started in Italy in 1991, to create a distance university education using the television as medium in the learning process. The “Consorzio Nettuno” comprises 34 Italian universities and the Open University (UK); 285 university courses (electronic engineering, economic sciences, etc.). The project’s targets are:
To offer a formative approach free from space and time encumbrances
To active national and transnational collaborations
To use the new technologies inside the learning process
The didactic model is a psycho-pedagogical mixed model, that empowers, through the use of new technologies, the teaching system of traditional universities. It realizes a synchronic and diachronic teaching and learning system, without limits of time and space that includes a direct phase of interaction between teachers and students both face-to-face and at distance (Garito, 2001). In the first step of the experiment the lectures are broadcast on TV or distributed on videocassettes and it is possible to use the Internet as a medium to create an educational cyberspace. Using these media, there are some problems to transmit the correct information on some particular technical subjects, for example, to train the use of the electronic instrumentation because students are still required to attend laboratories to achieve practical experience under the guidance of an instructor. In fact, education in fields such as electronic measurement requires students to gain a reasonable skill in using various kinds of instrumentation (Pisani, Cambiotti, Sala, & Sanpietro, 1995). Such a skill cannot be achieved by theoretical lessons only, an intensive laboratory activity is also always required.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Podcasting: The distribution of audio or video files, such as radio programs or music videos, over the Internet.
Hypermedia: It is an extension to hypertext that supports linking graphics, sound, and video elements in addition to text elements.
TCP/IP Protocol: Abbreviation for Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, the suite of communications protocols used to connect hosts on the Internet.
iTunes: Audio playback program developed by Apple Computer.
iPod: A combination digital audio player and portable hard drive from Apple Computer. iPod can be used with both Macs and PCs.
Hypertext: It is the presentation of information, as a linked network of nodes which readers are free to navigate in a non-linear fashion. It allows for multiple authors, a blurring of the author and reader functions, extended works with diffuse boundaries, and multiple reading paths.
E-Learning: Process of acquiring knowledge, via the Internet, network, or standalone computer. The content is delivered via the Internet, intranet/extranet, audio or video tape, satellite TV, and CD-ROM. E-learning applications and processes include Web-based learning, computer-based learning, virtual classrooms, and digital collaboration.
Learning: Process of acquiring knowledge, attitudes, or skills from study, experience or instruction.
Virtual University: A university that delivers courses (typically credit, but also non-credit) primarily online, that is, by networks such as the Internet or intranets, using asynchronous technologies, such as computer conferencing or Web-based technologies especially conceived for education.
M-Learning (or Mobile Learning): Process of acquiring knowledge integrated with the use of small, portable computing devices (e.g., personal digital assistants (PDAs), smartphones, and similar handheld devices).
Distance Education: It is the process of extending learning with the instructor and student geographically remote from each other. Historically, Distance Education meant correspondence study. Distance learning may occur by surface mail, videotape, interactive TV, radio, satellite, or any number of Internet technologies such as message boards, chat rooms, and desktop computer conferencing.
Experiential Learning: It is a process through which a learner constructs knowledge, skill and value from direct experiences.