Ruxandra Obreja & Yogendra Pal
Chairman / Hon Chair,
DRM Consortium / DRM India Chapter

DRM digital radio for education – During and beyond COVID-19

The global COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted education in all countries. According to a recent UNICEF report, Stepping forward connecting today’s youth to the digital future, one in three students worldwide was unable to access remote learning when schools closed because of the pandemic. But just as the crisis is unique, so is the opportunity at hand. To quote the UNICEF report: The good news is that at a local level, there are many successful solutions and promising innovations. But we need to scale them—and we need to do it fast.

One such existing solution that can be scaled up quickly to reach those vulnerable students with no access to the connected modern technology, is FTA radio and many countries have announced that they are introducing lessons via radio or TV. TV and internet services have one main advantage over radio – they provide the information in text and graphics too, in addition to audio, which increases significantly the effectiveness of education.

Fortunately, DRM digital radio provides not only audio but also multimedia services consisting of Journaline text service, slides, graphics, and images, simultaneously. It also provides up to three audio programs on one frequency against only one program possible on conventional analog radio. DRM digital radio also enables students and teachers to access to the information immediately live or on demand. As such, the DRM digital radio, which is available totally free of cost, is a complete and new distance learning option in these unprecedented times.

The setting up of distance learning via DRM digital radio is possible without extra additions. A broadcaster can use one of the up to three available digital channels to broadcast a teacher’s lectures or lessons at certain times with a pre-announced schedule. In parallel, the DRM multimedia capability carries the complimentary lesson notes, full textbooks including graphics, formulas, and images.

Radio Book – the textbook information – is up-to-date and always available as Journaline service of DRM transmissions and not just during live audio lectures. The lessons can be structured by language, class level, subject, and chapters, for easy navigation by students and teachers.

To prepare for lessons or to self-study after the lesson has been delivered in audio, students can access the complete body of lesson information at any time, as this material is cached and stored in the digital radio receiver. This stored treasure chest can also include extra reading material or quizzes. The textbook content can be available in several languages simultaneously. A student could, for example, access the text version in a regional dialect, while the live lesson is provided in a country’s or regions official language.

The digital radio receivers have also the feature to record live lessons including all the associated data and signaling components of DRM to a local memory for later access. DRM radio sets that are optimized for the radio schooling use case may provide a built in Wi-Fi hotspot feature, allowing anybody nearby to access the full content of the DRM lessons – audio and textbooks – using any device that supports an HTML web browser.

National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020 emphasizes the use of technology in education and is eyeing to digitally equipping schools, teachers and students. It lays stress on developing education content in regional languages. India has already a huge network of 35 high power DRM digital transmitters. If all these transmitters start broadcasting in pure digital, then about 80 percent population of the country would have access to the DRM digital radio signals.

IGNOU used to broadcast a dedicated educational channel through some FM transmitters, most of which are learnt to be not working. Coverage of these transmitters was very limited. Carrying the available IGNOU Educational Channel, as one of the three services, on the existing AIR network of DRM radio transmitters, will not only enable faster implementation of NEP 2020 but also to deliver education to most of the people in India in an efficient and relatively easy way.

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