ASET logo
[ EdTech'90 Contents ] [ EdTech Confs ]

The use of the satellite and teleconferencing in real estate distance education

David Harrison and
Kay Trowbridge

The pilot project was based on a concept of educational packaging, that is, use of satellite broadcasting, telephone conferences and print support material. The students were situated at three locations. Twenty were at Nambour, twelve at Mackay and one at Daintree. None of the students was able to proceed with the Award course in Real Estate at their local country college, either because there was no specialist lecturer available or student numbers were not sufficient to form a class. The technologies were chosen for the following reasons:

The videos were produced with introductions, objectives and summaries. Slides were used to simulate field trips to specialised categories of real estate. Graphics were a focus for retention of principles and new terminology. The talking heads sections of the Property Management series were made more educationally interesting by having the interviewer's questions run across a black band at the bottom of the screen. It was expected that this would assist the students to more readily retain the principles raised in the questions. The tutors' experiences indicate that a great deal of preparation and ongoing flexibility are required in the delivery of educational packages. The problems encountered and strategies used to overcome the problems are outlined below.

Resistance to technology and different accommodation

Some students in the larger group at Nambour did not respond well to the technologies. It was realised that the group was too large and should have been limited to ten or twelve. The accommodation was not physically comfortable. It made viewing the television uncomfortable and there was not sufficient space for students to be able to relax in a one to one, hour telephone tutorial. Strategies in telephone conferencing were developed, whereby students at one location were given tasks to do in small teams, and were then taken out of the telephone conference. The students at the remaining location/s were asked to respond to short answer type questions. (These strategies are explained further under Telephone Conferencing). Such strategies allowed the students to move around and be active, rather than passively responding to questions. The group of twelve at Mackay had comfortable accommodation and responded well. The one student at Daintree soldiered on, holding a household telephone for more than an hour. That student was highly motivated!

Satellite broadcasting

One of the problems with satellite broadcasting is that most people have to travel to a centre with a receiving dish. The Daintree student was the only one to have her own dish!! There were problems with this too because the signals are all encoded. That is, only those receivers authorised to receive can do so. On one occasion Daintree did not receive the broadcast. It is assumed that their B-Mac serial number was not programmed and transmitted that night. They were sent a videotape of the broadcast to compensate for the lack of reception. The lack of reception facilities is highlighted in a survey just completed of QDEC students to assess the level of their technology, the results of which are tabulated below. It should be noted that 0.9% have satellite dishes, the other 99.1% must travel to a receiving centre! A further problem occurred when an electrical storm over Mackay prevented that location from receiving the signal. Again, it was necessary to post a videotape of the broadcast.

Unfortunately, loss of the signal and picture made the following telephone conferences rather difficult, because the tutor had to deliver a mini-lecture to cover the lost work. These problems could be overcome by using a different delivery method, for example posting a videotape or using video conferencing. An additional problem was that

the students at Nambour lost concentration when viewing the twenty to twenty-three minute broadcasts and regarded some broadcasts as superficial. This was not the response at Mackay and Daintree. It was probably a direct result of the uncomfortable viewing conditions, that is twenty people viewing a television screen. One of the tutors observed that few students at Nambour made notes during the broadcast, an indication that they had switched off. A further complicating factor was that the students were employed by many different Real Estate Agencies, and in covering the course material, when asked to do certain application work were reluctant to give more than an obvious superficial answer, because they did not want to give away trade secrets to their opposition!

Telephone conferencing

As has been mentioned the satellite broadcast was followed up immediately with a teleconference. There were three centres, one at Maryborough with twelve students, Daintree with one student and Nambour with twenty students. It is considered that this latter number is too many at one location to adequately cater for and control and did lead to some discipline problems. The technology used for the conference was a Confertel five line teleconferencing bridge supported by an NEC AE400 line echo cancelling loud speaking telephone system. The units at the other points were NEC Voicepoint loud speaking phones at Nambour and Maryborough and a standard Telecom telephone at Daintree.

The Voicepoints were chosen to be used at Maryborough and Nambour because of the number of people involved at each centre, since the only facilities at those places were a Versatel telephone and a cheap loud speaking telephone, neither of which would enable a group of more than 3-4 to hear anything! Some early teething problems were experienced with the Voicepoints which had nothing to do with the units themselves, but related to how they were set up. One problem was that the unit was set up in an almost infinite space, that is one with walls some 10-15 metres away. Since the Voicepoint cancels echoes by generating white noise for ten seconds and measuring the return echo and adjusting itself, and since there were no walls to reflect the sound, the unit did not adjust itself properly. This problem was solved by moving the unit to a smaller room. The other problem resulted from the handset being connected to the line socket and the line cord being connected to the handset socket. Whilst using the handset when originating the call no problem was experienced since the connection is a straight loop through, but as soon as the Voicepoint was put into conference mode and the handset hung up, no conditioning occurred and we were disconnected! As we were troubleshooting from Brisbane by remote control it took a while to realise what was wrong, especially since we could talk to the person using the unit before they pressed the conference button!

The Confertel teleconferencing bridge was used to avoid the excessive Telecom charges of $22.10/leg/half hour. This unit allowed the option of breaking the three centres into groups for specific instruction. In some cases the two larger groups were set tasks to do and they were asked to turn their microphones off whilst the Daintree student was transferred to the second conference line on the bridge. This enabled us to give that student some personal tuition whilst the other groups were working on the assignments they had been given. They were unable to hear us or each other but we could contact them because their loud speakers were not switched off.

At the appropriate time Daintree was put back into the conference and the two groups were recalled and asked to switch on their microphones. The results of their findings were then shared with the whole group and the conference wound up. The discipline problems referred to earlier were also addressed using this technique of subconferencing by pulling that group out in the next conference and addressing them with some more difficult questions which required much more thought. In this latter instance Daintree was asked to participate in the group discussions of the people at Mackay.

Print material

The print material covered the main teaching points of the videos and included assignments. In hindsight, far more self test questions could have been included, to provide students with a focus for viewing the satellite broadcasts and also to facilitate the questions and answers which were part of the telephone conferences.


The majority of students expressed delight at being able to continue with their studies. They accepted the teething problems of the pilot project amicably. To date, the continuous assessment projects which form part of the course assessment have been well prepared and are of suitable standard. Students will be undertaking final examinations shortly after the preparation of this paper.

Please cite as: Harrison, D. and Trowbridge, K. (1990). The use of the satellite and teleconferencing in real estate distance education. In J. G. Hedberg, J. Steele and M. Mooney (Eds), Converging Technologies: Selected papers from EdTech'90, 39-41. Canberra: AJET Publications.

[ EdTech'90 contents ] [ EdTech Confs ] [ ASET home ]
This URL:
© 1990 The author and ASET. Last revised 13 May 2003. HTML editor: Roger Atkinson
Previous URL 2 Aug 1998 to 30 Sep 2002: