This got me thinking about how quickly we forget about bandwidth when we talk about creating rich multimedia for our learners. Some of the suggestions in our seminar so far have emphasized visual, use of voice, etc. However, the reality is that there are many learners in remote communities who don't have access to high speed internet, or decent equipment.
What kind of progress are we making in providing equal access for all? What can we do to accommodate these learners?
Better/More Bandwidth for FN communities:
The First Nations of BC (and the rest of Canada, as far as I know) are working hard to connect every community that they can. They are partnering with the provincial government, Telus and other providers, and (to a limited extent at present, sadly) the Federal government to make this happen. The Kelowna Accord would have moved this along even faster, but unfortunately that isn't happening as it should.
The First Nations Summit and especially the First Nations Technology Council (FNTC.CA) are working hard to make this happen and I've met quite a few of the remarkable people behind this initiative. I am optimistic that it will happen, eventually.
Keeping bandwidth considerations in mind:
As Sylvia points out, it is easy to forget bandwidth constraints when designing delivery systems and content. I think we just need to slow down a bit and think about what we are trying to achieve and first make sure we really need that extra bandwidth. Could we do without it? Or, can we have a parallel/low bandwidth version of the page or digital asset? Let's not fall back to the bad old days of silly Flash "welcome" screens that accomplished nothing except eat up time, patience, and electrons and were not "welcoming" at all.
Bandwidth is one consideration, especially when dial-up is used. Individual computers are also another consideration. If people buy even the least expensive computer on the market nowadays, most are equipped to handle video and other multimedia - but if the computer is not new, that could also be a contributing factor.
One thing that we've done is to ensure that all of the multimedia aspects are on a CD - so that it can be posted to them - though clearly that's not updateable.
I'm also doing some work with VSO (Voluntary service overseas) - who have been developing learning resources for volunteers - who are often in remote areas. One thing that they have done is to equip volunteers with USB sticks - which have a server on them, so that they can access the resources off line. They can't participate in discussions, of course, but at least they know where they are, so can find them quickly when they get online.
I've also read about, though not experimented with, Blackboard's "Backpack" - which, from my interpretation - would allow students to have resources off line, and to read old messages/ compose new ones, so that minimal time needs to be spent online. Clearly that's not quite the same as minimising bandwidth, but reducing time on line can be important for those on dialup - especially if they're paying as they go.
I've been lurking in this discussion but I saw your post and wanted to respond. We (I work at Yukon College) work with First Nations as well but we are generally not struggling as much with connectivity and computing power to provide to FN and other students in small communities because our government and telephone company got together and made sure we are one of the most connected environments around.
Having said that, we often struggle with allowing folks in the community campuses timely access to applications they may want to use (that are not part of the standard install the College provides) or they may simply not be able to afford to have the software on their computers.
Our work around this year is to provide people with what my Coordinator calls "freedom sticks". We load up all sorts of portable applications on USB memory sticks that they can use anywhere they can plug into a computer. The list of apps we provide on a standard stick includes: a zip utility, an amazingly sophisticated drawing program (Gimp), Firefox, OpenOffice, a backup program, a PDF maker and an online chat tool. These are all sized to run right off the flash stick so they don't have to be installed on a computer.
Portable apps are an amazing tool and have potential for many communities with connectivity issues. They provide the missing piece of being able to ship content on a CD. They allow the users to create their own content -- an important difference I think.
Here's where we got a lot of our freeware. http://portableapps.com/
There are other sites out there...
I've been using a USB stick with a set of them for some time now (in a well connected UK environment). Right now, I've removed a few things, though, so that I can install the emulation for Sugar (the software they've got on the OLPC laptops), in anticipation for when I get mine for real!
I worked with remote communities in the Eastern Arctic in the 1990s and the cost of bandwidth was crippling. I'm working with an MEd program for Inuit educators in Nunavut right now, and bandwidth is still erratic.
We can use local caching servers, freedom sticks, and any number of other technological workarounds to address bandwidth issues, but that ignores the reason for the origin of the problem.
It's great to see the collaborative effort between government and private sectors to address bandwidth problems there. The Nunavik region in Northern Quebec has also developed an innovative approach to supplying broadband access to isolated communities.
In the meantime, I've tried to integrate text-based online interaction, conventional print resources, conference calls ($$!), Skype (unreliable for more than two connections), and low-bandwidth multimedia presentations into a viable online environment.
I am using my dial-up at home.(sri Lanka).because if I am going for ADSL line I have to pay more. Here in sri lanka we have to pay for everything. And once we are considering on proportion with our salary then it is huge. So it is difficult to use voices even web cam.. it is dead slow…even you have to pay also…finally it will affect to efficiency and effectiveness of my work(this is one problem we discussed in e-learning in developing countries).so remote communities=developing countries like ours.. i am not coming to a conclusion that all most all are same.. But mostly. Yes…providing equal access? Yes. .but it is a tough task.. Some times can go for instructional radio..But it depends on the content you expect to deliver…
Have you experimented with FlashMeeting? It's been developed by the Open University in the UK - and they have thought about low bandwidth, as though it's designed for web cam use, they've got it set up so that it's designed to minimise bandwidth. Clearly, you're still going to have to be online, but it's something that's been thought about. (Also, there's the possibility to use just audio, as that's using less bandwidth than video)
Sorry for late reply. but thnks for value addition...if we know the problems beforehand it is easy for us to use tools...sometimes once the conference started only we know that something is missing...anyway I will try to use it...currently at Open University od Sri lanka we try to introduce some courses online…people who are in rural areas can visit to their regional center to access. we are I in positive frame of mind in this regards.