The objective of the ACT project is to develop advanced tools and telecommunications configuration for a European Training Network. The technology developed is based on ISDN and satellites to link the main actors of such a network.
Various modes of learner/tutor intercommunication are addressed as well as remote access to distributed information resources. The pilots planned for field testing will be carried out within the Delta project MTS, thus strengthening the integration aspect.
A Multimedia PC CD-ROM based Learner Station using ISDN was developed to give a direct point-to-point connection between tutor and learner, with software enabling screen transfer, data transmission and remote intervention by the tutor to assist the learner in a situation when additional help is required. The Administration and Delivery Centre enables the delivery of learning materials and the management of learning linking a remote host computer, via an ISDN link, to a corporate local area network, so as to centralise all necessary functions for course management and distribution by tutors, course providers and learners. The Corporate Training Server provides a common resource sharing facility amongst learners located on a given site.
The design work relies on the concept of a European Training Network (ETN) which links the main actors in corporate training. Based on the technological backbone of ISDN (64 Kb/sec to 2 Mb/sec) and satellites, the ETN provides for video, audio and data communication between learning, tutoring, production and information resource environments.
Design, specification and prototyping of facilities are concerned with three distinct learning scenarios of Interactive Remote Tutoring, Interactive Distributed Learning and Interactive Teleteaching. This will provide the environment in which expert knowledge can be collected from all over Europe, converted to courseware finally leading to an interactive open learning network.
The facilities will have multi-lingual user interfaces so that they can be used in most European countries and easily be adopted to any European language. For each learning mode a complete set of telecommunications functions will be specified which also contributes to the Common Training Architecture.
The objectives of the R&D activities are:
the development of a concept for the European Training Network on the technological backbone of ISDN and satellite communication
the specification of functions in advanced communications for Interactive Remote Tutoring (IRT),; Interactive Distributed Learning (IDL); and Interactive Teleteaching (ITT);
the development of demonstrators which will support the following functions: multi-media courseware delivery and administration. remote tutoring using data and voice integration, access management of training network, integration of voice in distributed learning and distributed information resources in teleteaching with multiple feedback links.
The demonstrators extend already existing technical solutions, including work in the Exploratory Phase of DELTA, such as multi-media applications, satellite transmission and computer mediated communication by adding advanced communication components. The equipment to be used will range from PC with ISDN add-on boards, CD; drives, and smart card systems to classrooms fully equipped with live interactive video teaching facilities.
For each learning mode, separate empirical studies will be carried out with regard to technological options and usability.
The technology to be developed and tested in this project will demonstrate how the access and performance of learning services can be improved for employees in Europe by using advanced telecommunications. The development aims to participate in the rapidly growing markets of ISDN applications and of feedback facilities for DBS scenarios.
The components, which can be integrated into the existing or emerging infrastructures of each EC country, are characterized by a high degree of flexibility and interactivity so that they can match different user needs in corporate training.
The facilities are based on pragmatic user needs in corporate training which have already been investigated in the DELTA Exploratory Phase. They will be further analyzed in order to provide optimum support for learners, trainers, producers of learning material and providers of learning services.
The design and specification work of ACT will contribute to the harmonization of telecommunications infrastructure, particularly ISDN and DBS, in terms of interoperability, connectivity and portability of learning material.
In parallel to the development of facilities, pilot tests will be carried out to investigate the technological appropriateness with regard to practical user needs and the cost effectiveness. By carrying out small scale experiments and delivering prototypes to other task 300 projects, the project intends to contribute to the validation of the ETN concept. In one experiment a Distance Learning course on standards of advanced telecommunications will be offered to external partners in order to demonstrate the potential of interactive teleteaching and to raise the awareness of telecommunications usage for learning purposes.
Finally implementation plans will be worked out for Remote Tutoring, Interactive Distance Learning and Interactive Teleteaching. The plans will attempt to make the project results available as soon as the technical work has been completed. The key issue for ACT is the improvement of the communication infrastructure in European Corporate Training.