Electronic Classroom

At the heart of Distance Education in Australian Schools since 1990

What is Electronic Classroom® ?

Technical Information and Support

Upgrade Information and Modem Scripts

What's New in Electronic Classroom?

1. Electronic Classroom and the Internet _______ 2. Simultaneous Voice/Data modems

1. Using Electronic Classroom over the Internet

The main thrust of Electronic Classroom version 3.0 is support for teaching over the Internet. In other words, the Internet can be used to carry lesson interactions instead of school to school modem connections. A small number of Macintosh 68030 or better computers equipped with at least 10Mb of RAM and Apple's Open Transport software version 1.08 (or later) can be joined into a singe lesson via any Internet Service Provider (ISP).

The upgrade to version 3.0 costs $A100 from version 2 and $A200 from version 1.

There are a two main advantages in using the Internet to carry your lessons:

  1. Costs are reduced.

Costs are reduced if there is a local ISP through whom you usually connect to the Internet. The cost for each party is then just the cost of accessing the Internet for the duration of the lesson plus any local call charges.

  • Only one modem is required.
  • Only one modem is required even if supporting connections to multiple schools. Since multiple simultaneous links can be established over the Internet using a single modem, lessons can involve multiple schools without the expense of additional telephone lines, communication cards or modems.

    Connecting via the Internet is as simple as dialling your ISP in the usual way (using MacPPP for example). Once established on the Internet, start Electronic Classroom running. Instead of dialling via the Modem Port... option use the Internet... option instead. Simply enter your student's Internet Address (displayed when they started their copy of Electronic Classroom) and click 'OK'.

    Once one connection has been established to a remote school via the Internet, one or two more can be established in the same way. In this way, a three or four way lesson can be created. Already established connections will be shown in the scrolling list in the Internet... dialog and may be disconnected if required. The computer that established all the connections should probably have at 16MB of RAM and be reasonably fast (eg a PowerMac) as it has to handle switching messages to and from all the others. This computer's modem connection to the ISP should be at least 28.8Kb to handle all the traffic.

    When all computers in the lesson have been connected via the Internet, the teacher should pull down Teacher... from the Set menu and proceed with the lesson as per the manual.

    The on-screen lamps for use with Internet connections are now coloured. A red lamp labelled I.N indicates that an internet connection is ready to be formed. This lamp will turn green when the connection has been successfully made. Whilst the connection is pending, the lamp will be blue. Once an Internet connection has been made, another red I.N lamp will appear to indicate that a further connection (to another location) is now possible. Whenever a connection is broken (eg at the end of the lesson), the corresponding lamp will revert to red again. Once the lesson is formed lamps will flash black and grey as usual as data in transferred.

    Response over the Internet will vary greatly. Initial tests with one particular ISP have shown that if both parties have dialled into the same ISP, data can be transferred at about the same speed as using a 2400 - 4800 bps modem link. Sometimes it is faster, sometimes slower but 2400 bps seems to be about the average. If different ISPs are used, response depends heavily on the type of ISP and the load on the path between them. In this case response can be so slow that no effective teaching is possible. It is highly recommended that the same ISP is used for serious teaching.

    The response will also vary from using a direct modem link with your students. Do not expect the teaching experience to be identical. The Internet appears to be optimised for largely one way operations like World Wide Web browsing or file transfers. For example, short continual interactions like Track Mouse will not be very effective and alternatives like command/click or moving text pointers should be used. (See Newsletter Number 6 for details).

    Note that Power Macintosh PCI equipped models 7200, 7500, 8500 and 9500 already come with Open Transport installed. Open Transport has become standard on all Macintosh computers from System 7.5.2 onwards. Suitable computers without Open Transport installed will need to contact their Apple dealer to obtain the software. There may be a cost involved.

    2. Simultaneous Voice and Data with a Single Telephone Line

    The first installation of Electronic Classroom for home schooling has been made at Anembo - a cattle property in the Tinderry Mountains near Captains Flat (NSW). Here students Ben and Tom are now capable of joining in lessons with their 'class mates' and teacher from the Queanbeyan Distance Education Centre despite only having a single telephone line installed. They are using the new Smart 288D simultaneous voice/data modems.

    These new Australian modems from NetComm Australia allow an Electronic Classroom lesson to proceed using a single telephone line which carries both the student/teacher conversation (the voice) and the interactive computer blackboard operations (the data). In locations where at least a 14.4K bps connection is possible these modems can cut the cost of teaching in half! The educational (ex tax) price of these modems has now been reduced to only $A544 !

    Instead of plugging a modem into one Telecom socket and a handset into another, simply plug the handset into the back of the modem!

    Using these modems, there are two ways of establishing a connection:

    1) Select and dial the remote modem's telephone number using the Modem Port (or Printer Port) dialog in Electronic Classroom in the usual way and wait until they connect (Lamps turn black and 'Connected with...' appears on the screen). Sign in as Teacher. Then pick up the handset you have plugged into the back of the modem. The remote modem will make a ringing noise and the other party should then pick up their handset and conversation can commence whilst still using the computer screen. Note that until the computers have reported a successful connection there can be no voice contact.

    2) Startup Electronic Classroom on your computer. Pick up the handset you plugged into the back of the modem and dial the remote modem's telephone number. Their modem will start to ring and they should pick it up (before it has rung 4 times) and start to talk to you. (Important - they should have started Electronic Classroom on their computer prior to your ringing them). When you wish to use the computer as well as voice, the Teacher can pull down the Modem Port dialog and click the new button entitled: 'Add modems to voice (288D only)'. You will hear the usual modem connection noises for 30 seconds or so in your handset and then the lamp should turn black and the 'Connected with...' message should appear.

    Method 2) above is recommended as it establishes voice contact first, making it easier to talk them through the second step of establishing the computer connection.

    Regardless of which method you use, once both links (computer and voice) are established, it is possible to hang up both telephones to concentrate on working with the keyboard or mouse. As soon as one party hangs up the other will hear an engaged tone in their speaker. This simply indicated you should hang up your handset also as voice contact has been lost temporarily. If either party needs to talk to the other, simply pick up the handset and the remote modem will start to ring.

    At the end of August, 1996 I addressed a Victorian DEBIT conference from Brisbane via Electronic Classroom and a NetComm 288D modem. A 'Conference Master' voice conferencing unit was connected to the modem and the modem connected to a single Telecom line. The voice capabilities of the 288D modem have also been tested with a variety of ordinary telephones and speaker phones.