LONDON — Digital Radio Mondiale was designed to offer better audio quality for AM and FM radio. But did you know that it can also help facilitate distance learning?
The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education in all countries. According to a recent UNICEF report “Stepping forward: Connecting today’s youth to the digital future,” one in three students worldwide was unable to access remote learning when schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Audio and Multimedia
An article recently appeared in a Bucharest-based publication about a Romanian family with eight children who received a tablet, which the entire family now shares. In Romania, like in many other countries, online distance education is not accessible to everyone. According to UNICEF, some 463 million young people couldn’t follow their courses in 2020 due to lack of policies or equipment.
But just as the crisis is unique, so is the opportunity at hand. To quote the UNICEF report: “The good news is that at a local level, there are many successful solutions and promising innovations. But we need to scale them and we need to do it fast.”
One such existing solution that can be scaled up quickly to reach those vulnerable students with no access to connected modern technology, is free-to-air radio, in particular digital radio DRM, for example. The digital radio standard can help educate people thanks to its various features. It provides up to three audio programs on one frequency and data services such as Journaline advanced text, slideshow images, allowing students and teachers access to the information immediately “live” or on demand.
This unique combination of audio and multimedia services available on a standard digital radio receiver delivered via terrestrial broadcasts is a complete distance learning option in these unprecedented times.
How it Works
A broadcaster can use one of the available digital channels to broadcast a teacher’s lectures or lessons at certain times. In parallel, the DRM application Journaline carries the complimentary lesson notes, full textbooks including graphics, formulas and images, for instance. The textbook information is constantly available as part of DRM transmissions, not just during live audio lectures. Through Journaline, the lessons can be structured by language, class level, subject and chapters, for easy navigation by students and teachers.
To prepare for live lessons, or to self-study, students can access the complete body of lesson information at any time, as this material is cached and stored in the receiver. This stored “treasure chest” can include extra reading material or quizzes. The Journaline textbook content is available in several languages simultaneously. A student could, for example, access the text version in a regional dialect, while the live lesson is provided in a country’s official language.
DRM radio sets optimized for the radio schooling use-case can provide a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot feature, allowing anybody nearby to access the full audio and textbook content of the DRM lessons. This enables the sharing of a single DRM receiver by communities, households or classrooms, and still gives every student or user full control over navigating the content at their own pace.
In the case of the family with eight children in Bucharest, they could use one digital radio receiver and, if they had more laptops or tablets, they could each follow their own lesson with the additional teaching material also available.
The digital receiver can be used as a “mini-station” that feeds through inexpensive Wi-Fi devices or even through a larger screen placed in a community center where, if allowed, many students can enjoy informative and even up-to-the minute, modern lectures.
Digital radio can deliver a hierarchy of basic to more advanced information. The live transmission can be the skeleton on which so much more can be added in stages, guiding the student through the material to be learned. Digital radio’s pared down lessons offer size-bite nuggets of information in a logical and structured way.
Enabling radio schooling and distance education services requires planning, engagement and the close cooperation of all stakeholders — educators, audiovisual professionals, broadcasters, receiver manufacturers, regulators and others.
DRM has the tools for it and can help close the digital divide and equip young people with the skills they need to step into the new digital post-COVID reality.
The author is chairman of Digital Radio Mondiale.