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Adopting TELEVIEW (an advanced photo-videotex system) for computer based learning activities

Hock-Guan Tan
Computer Based Coordinator
Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore
This paper presents our project in planning and implementing off campus education using Teleview, an advanced public photo videotex system in Singapore. It explains how users can interact with the Teleview System via Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) and off air television transmission. Our services include Electronic Forums, Electronic Publications, Online Interactive Learning Courseware, Offline Disk based and RAM based Courseware, and Off Campus Learning Lessons.

The design concept and key features of the electronic instructional materials will be highlighted. The campus wide approach to adopt Teleview as one of the platforms for Computer Based Learning (CBL) development will be discussed. It also discusses the strategies employed in implementing a total learning services environment and the approach suggested for the development of Teleview materials. The paper also addresses our pilot use of Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) in the delivery of instructional materials.


The idea of adopting telematics for electronic delivery of off campus education is not new and has been tried out by many. However, there is little literature available, especially on the use of videotex technology for education. The implementation of Teleview system in Singapore has prompted many local institutions to exploit the media for education. At Ngee Ann Polytechnic (NP), Teleview is seriously being explored and considered for off campus education.

The Polytechnic is also exploring a new mode of Distance Learning, ie. ISDN Distance Learning. ISDN allows simultaneous voice, data and video transmission at relatively higher speed and is new to the educational arena.

Overview of Teleview

Teleview is the world's first photo videotex system based on the concept of hybrid network using both PSTN and Off Air Television Channel. A simplified diagram of the system is given in Figure 1. Implemented with CCITT standards, Teleview is capable of displaying a broad mix of information from simple text to sophisticated video graphics picture. It is also a multi-lingual system supporting English, Chinese and Tamil.

Figure 1: Teleview system configuration

Figure 1: Teleview system configuration

Access to Teleview is by means of either a Public Terminal, a dedicated MII Terminal or a P2000 Intelligent Terminal. User interacts with the Teleview host via PSDN and it responds by either sending all data via PSDN, some data via TV channel and others via PSDN, or all data via TV channel.

These unique features and flexibility of the system have increased the range of services possible. The current applications encompass Government, Banking, Business and Finance, News, Travel, Home Shopping, Leisure, Education and so on. The last application has apparently gained much popularity and the number of frames is over a third of Teleview's database.

Teleview, being a part our information communication infrastructure is expected to bring about gradual social and cultural changes in Singapore. Recognising these facts and perceiving the importance of Teleview in education, our Polytechnic has drawn up plans to further exploit the media.

Our involvement and approach

Our Polytechnic was invited to participate as an educational service provider when Teleview pilot project was first launched in September 1988. Since being launched officially in October 1990, the Polytechnic has gone a step further in providing educational materials to our students via the videotex system.

Recognising the potential of the system, the Polytechnic and Singapore Telecom signed a Memorandum of Understanding to jointly explore and exploit the technology for education. A Teleview Executive Committee was then formed and subsequently three functional managers were appointed. They are the Information Operations Manager, Teleview-CAI (Computer Aided Instruction) Coordinator and the Teleview-CAI Instructional Strategist.

The Information Operations Manager manages the Polytechnic's general and academic information on the Teleview system. The Teleview-CAI Coordinator sets the standard and direction for the Polytechnic in the use of Teleview as one of the platforms for Computer Based Learning (CBL) and leads the campus in the exploitation of the media. The Teleview-CAI Instructional Strategist recommends instructional strategies suitable for the development of CAI materials for use on the Teleview System. He also leads the evaluation of Teleview's software tools and facilities. In addition, Teleview instructors and Teleview Database Administrator were also appointed to support the project.

An electronic learning environment

Taking advantage of the videotex technology, we envisaged a total electronic learning environment to provide services such as Electronic Forums, Electronic Publications, Online Interactive Learning Courseware, Offline Disk based or RAM based Learning Courseware, and Off Campus Learning Lesson. These services are complemented by notices of seminars, workshops, sale of courseware and publications and so on. As all these resources can be easily inter-linked or referred to by one another, the result is an enriched electronic learning services environment.

The electronic forums promote interaction among people sharing the same interest. Electronic Publications make use of the Teleview's hierarchical structure and photographic features to publish informative materials. They can be viewed as a form of educational database. The Online Interactive Learning Courseware section comprises courseware that can only be viewed while the terminal remain attached. The Offline Disk based or RAM based Learning Courseware are downloadable software that a student can download into his/her PC and detach from the host. The courseware differs from the electronic publications in the way that it has at least one instructional objective. Off Campus Learning Lesson draws resources from the environment to provide electronic guided learning.

NP-TALENTS (Ngee Ann Polytechnic-Teleview Advanced Electronic Learning Network Services), our conceptual model of an electronic learning services environment that comprises all the above was conceived by Tan [1991a]. A outline of the environment is depicted in Figure 2.

Figure 2: NP-TALENTS

Figure 2: NP-TALENTS (Ngee Ann Polytechnic-Teleview Advanced
Electronic Learning Network Services)

Strategies for implementing NP-TALENTS

To ensure successful implementation of the above model, detailed consultation with the faculty members enable us to agree to a set of objectives. These objectives include the exploitation of Teleview to project the Polytechnic's image in CBL; to promote interaction among staff and students; to promote off campus learning; to advertise and publicise our publications, courseware, seminars and workshops; and to prepare our staff and students for societal changes in the information society.

A plan of priority initiatives was then established and catalyst projects were identified. We believed that the concept of NP-TALENTS is feasible and envisaged that it will slowly evolve into a prestigious environment that would house only the best of NP works in CBL, thus creating the necessary competitive climate for CBI, development by our staff members. Through the annual event for best department courseware, we anticipate more than 10 courseware per year can be made available through the system.

As it is costly to develop electronic instructional materials, steps were taken to guard the Polytechnic's interest. Teleview courseware can be either videotex based, Interactive Learning System (MS) based (a specially designed authoring system) or PC based. The first two types of courseware have to be developed using a specific editing terminal and the end product has to be viewed online. In view of connection cost that might be incurred by the learner and the non-portability of the developed materials, we recommend the first two types only for courseware that are general and of interest to the public. The development of PC based courseware is flexible and the fact that they are portable has made them most suitable to our application.

Software approach for Teleview's instructional materials

Off Campus Learning Lessons make use of the Teleview's hierarchical database structure, hypermedia features and the existing courseware modules. This is a practical solution as very often a student require only a small portion of the complete lesson. Breaking down of a lesson into smaller components cuts down the transmission cost and also encourages others to reuse the components to form other lessons. This reduces duplication and is suitable for large institutions where as many as 4000 freshmen have at least one or two subjects in common. The modular software also augmented the maintainability of the lesson as courseware components can be modified or replaced. This approach will inevitably cut down a large portion of development time and cost. It extends to the development of 'multi-track' lessons to suit different learner groups as put forth by Tan [1991b]. It provides solution to the copyright problem as it would be meaningless to copy all the components and not knowing how to put them together as a lesson. This is further amplified when the components are a conglomeration of various types of Teleview courseware.

ISDN For distance learning

In response to the government call for Distance Learning as a means to meet the aspiration of many Singaporeans for higher education, the Polytechnic and Fujitsu are currently exploring ISDN for education [Yong and Tan, 1991]. As Singapore has a public ISDN network, it is an advantage to develop ISDN Distance Learning. Our pilot test involves a small prototype system using ISDN PC cards. Utilising a B channel, the student is able to communicate with the host with a data rate of 64 kbps. By optimising the '2B + D' channels, we envisage a situation whereby the student and instructor can interact with each other via data, images and voice concurrently. The scenario is given in Figure 3.

Figure 3: A scenario for ISDN distance learning research and development

Figure 3: A scenario for ISDN distance learning research and development

This mode of Distance Learning consists of Computer Based Training (CBI), Computer Managed Instruction (CMI), and video/audio conferencing. The idea is feasible and pertinent to our environment and it would mean cost reduction in the long term. This can be in the form of reduced travelling time and cost incurred, less need of the instructor and so on. Other benefits of electronic distance learning as put forth by Carl [1991] will also be realised in our model of ISDN Distance Learning.


As human resources development is vital to Singapore's economic thrust, off campus education and distance learning play an important role in fully utilising the existing communication infrastructure. The projects will lead to higher productivity of Singapore's limited resources pools and spark off a new class of professional in academic pursuits.


Hock-Guan Tan (1991a). NP-TALENTS Working Paper on Using Teleview. Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Singapore, August 20.

Hock-Guan Tan (1991b). Reusable and maintainable software approach for courseware development. Proceeding of International Conference on Multimedia in Education and Training, Kogakuin University, Tokyo, Japan, September 13-15.

Yeow-Chin Yong & Hock-Guan Tan (1991). Academic and industrial collaboration in computer based training (CBT) development. Proceeding of EDUCOMP 91, Universiti Pertanian Malaysia, Serdang, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia, November 19-21.

David L. Carl (1991). Electronic distance learning : Positive outweigh negatives. Technology Horizons in Education, 18(10, May), 67-70.

Please cite as: Tan, Hock-Guan (1992). Adopting TELEVIEW (an advanced photo-videotex system) for computer based learning activities. In Promaco Conventions (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Interactive Multimedia Symposium, 535-542. Perth, Western Australia, 27-31 January. Promaco Conventions. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/iims/1992/tanhg.html

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