Krasnodar Territory Distant Learning System

 
 
 
 
 
Distant Learning (DL) system project for 124 schools of Krasnodar Territory has been implemented on demand of Education and Science Department in the framework of promoting new information technologies at regional education.
Krasnodar Territory occupies 75,485 sq. km with a population of 5,284,500. The Territory is the third most populous part of Russia after Moscow and the Moscow Region. Urban population of Krasnodar Territory falls within 53.3% while another 46.7% lives in rural areas. Schools at the Territory are evenly distributed among cities and villages but rural schools much differ from urban ones by education quality and quantity of students. On the average a rural ungraded school has 120 students that questions an efficiency of their support by municipal authorities.
Facing such a problem Krasnodar Territory Education and Science Department concluded that closing such schools is not an answer. Instead it is necessary to raise education quality by introducing modern information, communication and audiovisual (AV) technologies. Hence raising educational process effectiveness at ungraded schools, affording equal opportunities in receiving quality education as well as customizing processes of talented children education
evolved into the project goals.
To reach them a feature packed solution has been developed essentially differentiated from traditional distant learning systems. It provides a presence effect for distant students establishing conditions that as much as possible approximate distant learning to real classes.
A building principle of distant learning package is based on deploying information and communication infrastructure on the basis of Kuban State University resource center that comprises server facility for multipoint videoconferencing as well as servers for recording and archiving classes and training materials. Schools, in their turn, are connect to the Resource Center and divided into 51 base ones and 73 ungraded (satellite) schools. They are equipped with all necessary equipment for videoconferences and interactive classes using various communication services. Teleconferences at the Territory, say, can be hold both centrally on the basis of the Resource Center and independently
at a certain area with broadcasting base school classes to ungraded schools.
The presence effect at distant learning classes is enhanced by high quality video broadcast through LifeSize videoconference systems as well as by unique software allowing students to see all inscriptions at a whiteboard including real time explanations. Besides it gives students a possibility to carry out tasks at an interactive whiteboard and to say at it as if they are located in the same class. SMART Bridgit software is used to organize such collaboration.
Visual information from a codec is displayed at a 46” Flame display of high resolution (1920x1080) with LED backlight that is installed at each base school.
Besides every base and ungraded school is equipped with interactive learning tools including SMART Board 885ix interactive systems and SMART Board 685ix interactive whiteboards with an ultra short throw projector minimizing speaker shadows at a whiteboard. Double Touch function implemented at SMART Board tool allows simultaneous work of two students with the same application that raises interest to teamwork and can be used for student and teacher collaboration.
Installed at a teacher’s desk SMART Document Camera 330 allows demonstrating to audience paper sources and various items without a risk to harm unique publications or school collection exhibits.
LifeSize 220 terminal equipment is used at all schools for videoconferencing. The terminals have many advantages stipulating their selection for the project:
  • They can transmit Full HD (1080p30) video while demanding lower than competitive solutions Internet channel bandwidth. To transmit high resolution video with 30 fps, for example, it’s enough to have bandwidth no more than 768 Kbps that is especially important for school at distant areas where Internet connection speed is quite limited.
  • LifeSize 220 terminals allow connecting two display systems (at a base schools such a terminal connects to SMART Board interactive system and an LCD display). Thus it’s possible to send presentations and video in parallel thereby significantly facilitating work and rising effectiveness of educational material perception. 
Large scale software and hardware infrastructure has been deployed as a part of the project at the Resource Center. It comprises Radvision multipoint videoconference servers, LifeSize servers of learning events recording and broadcasting, SMART Bridgit hardware and software suit, and appliances for distant learning portal services and functions.

Distant Learning Support Portal was developed for centrally managed support of all services and has the following features:
  • Single access point to lesson broadcasts, training materials and video recorded events. To find an on-line or recorded lesson students just log-in to LifeSize VideoCenter 2200 recording, cataloging and storing server and choose necessary media from a list of records and currently broadcast events
  • Provisioning distant lessons schedule
  • Planning distant learning classes and notifying about them
  • Arranging forums
  • Distributing news at a local education area
A separate part of the project is devoted to training users of the distant learning system.
Participants of the courses have been divided into 3 groups:
  1. Technical operators of the Resource Center
  2. System power users
  3. Regular users (majority)
Classes at Group 1 were given by specialists of equipment manufacturers and Polymedia. The second group has been taught to use the distant learning system with special attention to its advanced technical features. For the 3rd group lists of tutors have been formed who were trained at Polymedia to use client parts of the facility at a user level. During ten day courses approximately 130 people including school teachers and Resource Center system administrators received training.
Within the warranty period the integrator also helped to solve all problems related to equipment malfunction. A possibility to use remote equipment control and diagnosis service has been also offered to education institutions. A powerful Technical Support Center with a hot line has been deployed on the basis of Kuban State University Resource Center for controlling status of systems and equipment at schools. The Center specialists are highly skilled engineers and programmers who swiftly react to technical questions from schools and provide uninterruptible functioning of all systems.
It’s absolutely impossible to overstress the importance of the project. Krasnodar distant learning system has a high social value felt at all levels of regional education from grass root teachers to representatives of education regulatory bodies. By the project Polymedia specialists not only succeeded educational goals but also assisted in solving administrative problems of the region. According to Krasnodar Territory Education Deputy Minister, the developed solution greatly helps in holding instant and daily teleconferences with district municipal officials, educational principals and regulatory bodies.
The technical tools were very useful also in managing natural disaster at the city of Krymsk.
Communications, receiving information from field services, holding briefing sessions with cities of Novorossiysk and Krymsk as well as with municipal administrations helped the region government to cope with the emergency situation.

Project Start: November 22, 2011
Project Implemented: December 25, 2011
Approximate cost: 3.7 million euro
Integrator Company: Polymedia
Subcontractor: Complex Solutions LLC (cabling, starting-up and adjustment)