An internet protocol television (IPTV) service prototype developed by the University of Melbourne could be used to attract international students to study with Australian universities from abroad, potentially solving the falling international student rates.
Appearing at a House of Representatives committee hearing into the potential role of the National Broadband Network (NBN), executive director for the university's Institute for a Broadband Enabled Society (IBES), Kate Cornick, said the research body was considering commercialisation of its Uni TV service, which has been in development since 2009.
Cornick said the IPTV service could be used for those unable to attend university in person, or from abroad.
“I think the Uni TV type model has the potential to improve Australia’s international competitiveness because it’s not just about the individual productivity of a student and their experience,” she said.
“It’s also positioning Australia as an education centre for other countries to seriously consider sending their children and students to while keeping them at their homes in China or wherever they may be located.”
IBES director, Rod Tucker, said continuing trends toward distance education for students overseas and in remote locations was a catalyst for the development of the Uni TV system.
The prototype, on show by IBES researchers since January, was developed to demonstrate how educational services could be delivered over a high-speed broadband network, supporting 3D virtual technology in classrooms, lecture auditoriums and students' homes.
For existing students Uni TV was an improved education experience, said Tucker, giving them the ability to pull up a missed lecture at home in the evening, and also potentially cutting down time spent commuting via public transport, or the cost spent living away from home.
In order for the prototype to work properly, however, Cornick said the system would require a connection of at least 10 megabits per second (Mbps) symmetric bandwidth and would require a quality of service offering over a network like the NBN, as opposed to a “best effort internet YouTube type service”.
“If the university was to provide a course online for its students, you wouldn’t want to be relying on the internet if it’s best effort and there’s too much traffic on the internet, quality might be interrupted,” she said.
According to Cornick, the quality of service must be on par with those broadband applications used in e-health.
“I believe that all the broadband applications would require a quality of service… When you get into offering these kind of services for healthcare, the quality of service is even more critical because someone may be at home by themselves and you’re monitoring their general wellbeing, you want to know if something goes wrong very quickly," he said.
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