Education is a fundamental human right. It is critical to our development as individuals and societies, and it helps pave the way to a successful and productive future.
Universal primary education is also one of the eight Millennium Development Goals.
Education is a prerequisite to using information and communication technologies (ICT) – and in return, these same technologies can facilitate learning processes, taking education beyond classrooms as we know them.
For a number of years now, standardization bodies have been defining standards and guidelines for ICT-enhanced distance-learning.
While film and video continue to be used to support learning and teaching, it is clear that social change, globalization and recent technological advances have significantly changed the role of ICT in education.
With more than six billion subscriptions, mobile phones reach communities where educational opportunities are scarce. Multi-faceted mobile handsets have become the ‘Swiss army knives’ of the 21st century, and are recognized tools in trade and banking, healthcare, farming and education.
Together with tablets (mobile computers with flat touch-screens) and digital textbooks (e-readers), smartphones have opened the doors to mobile learning (m-learning), overcoming the capacity limitations of fixed learning locations.
Accessible from virtually anywhere, m-learning can include collaborative features for feedback and tips, as well as rich and entertaining content.
Worldwide, there are many public, private, non-profit and for-profit institutions offering distance education.
A growing number of organizations, universities and individuals have come to realize that access to digital-learning resources should no longer be limited to a privileged few, and various courses are being made accessible over the Internet. Indeed, two of the largest universities in the world – Indira Gandhi National Open University in New Delhi, India, with 3.5 million students, and Allama Iqbal Open University in Islamabad, Pakistan, with 1.8 million students – are both distance learning institutions.
Global video-coding standards such as Recommendation ITU-T H.264 already facilitate the creation, compression and distribution of multimedia content, independent of device, operating system and distribution platform.
Now, with the approval of ITU-T H.265 by ITU-T’s Study Group 16 on January 18, streaming video capabilities will move to the next level. The new video codec standard provides a flexible, reliable and robust solution, future-proofed to support the next decade of video, taking account of advancing screen resolutions. It is the product of collaboration between the ITU Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) and the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG).
Technical standards will certainly form an integral part of national or regional ICT-in-education policies. National administrations and education ministries of the developing world must play a central role in the standardization process if we are to address the current disconnect between the development and implementation of educational technologies.
However, in order to achieve lasting positive results, technical standards must go hand in hand with best practices in training on the implementation, use and maintenance of educational ICT.
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