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Editor’s Note
: New technologies must respond to user se4rvice demands. The use of wireless mobile devices for internet is growing rapidly. The transition to digital phones permits Internet Protocols (IP). Various methods of sharing optimize quality and bandwidth.

Open and Distance Education
through Wireless Mobile Internet: A Learning Model

Sanjay Jasola and Ramesh Sharma


Technology has been the driving force to bring paradigm shifts in education. Big changes are not possible unless tools are available. Technology has great impact on what we can do. The printing press is an example. People had been reading and writing even before the invention of the press but it was not that wide spread. The quality and quantity to accumulate knowledge has been possible with the books accessible and affordable to all. In earlier days, students had to rely on memory to remember everything that teacher delivered but now books are available. More recently, there has been universal use of inventions as radio, television, and, increasingly, computers in distance education. The past few years have produced an explosion of electronic information resources available to students, teachers, library patrons, and anyone with a computer. Millions of pages of graphics and text-based information can be accessed directly on-line through hundreds of public, private, and commercial networks, including the biggest network of all: the Internet. In this paper we propose a learning model for open and distance education through wireless mobile internet.

KeyWords: wireless mobile internet, internet protocol, open and distance learning


With the advent of Internet Protocol (IP) technology and the tremendous growth in data traffic, the wireless industry is evolving its core network towards IP technology. Enabling wireless Internet access is one of the upcoming challenges for mobile radio network operators. With the rapidly increasing penetration of cell phones, which would be used by mobile users to access Internet services, support of Internet services in a mobile environment has become a growing requirement.

The major shift over from the second-generation (2G) to third-generation (3G) wireless or 4G mobile was the ability to support advanced and wideband multimedia services, including email, file transfers, and distribution services such as radio, TV and software provisioning (software download) which are very important to open and distance learning system. These multimedia services can be asymmetric, symmetric, real time and non real time. External market studies have predicted that in Europe in the year 2010 more than 100 million mobile users will use mobile multimedia services and will generate about 70 percent of traffic in terms of transmitted bits. In Asia, this number will increase to over 200 million. This tremendous success was not anticipated in 1980s, when today’s second-generation mobile communication systems were designed.

It is therefore increasingly important that mobile radio networks support these applications in an efficient manner. Thus mobile radio system currently under development includes support for packet data services. The most widely deployed standard for second-generation mobile radio network is Global System for Mobile communication (GSM).

Convergence of Services

User expectations are increasing with regards to a large variety of services and applications with different degrees of quality of services, which is related to delay, data rate and error bit requirements. Therefore, seamless services and applications via different access systems and technologies that maximize the use of available spectrum will be the driving force for the future developments. In addition, many types of objects as well as people will have network functions and will communicate with each other through networks. Therefore, different communications relationships such as person to person, machine to machine and mainly machine to person and vice versa will determine mobile and wireless communication in the future.

Given the increasing demand for flexibility and individuality in society, the means for the end users might be assessed. Potentially, the value would be in diversity of Mobile application, hiding the complexity of underlying communication schemes. This complexity would be absorbed into an intelligent personality management mechanism, which would learn and understand the needs of users and control the behaviors of their configurable terminals accordingly in terms of application behavior and access to future support services.

The trend from a service perspective includes integration of services and convergence of service delivery mechanism. In particular, three pillars (3C) can characterize from a service perspective the trends of integration of services and convergence of service delivery mechanism.

  • Connectivity (provision of a pipe, including intelligence in network and terminal)

  • Content (information, including push-pull)

  • Commerce (Transaction)

These trends will result in new service delivery dynamics and a new paradigm in telecommunication where value added services such as those that are location dependent will provide enormous benefit to both end users and service providers. Convergence of wireless and Internet will be one of the hottest topics in coming years. Wireless Mobile Internet (WMI) and its devices are coming to the market in ever increasing numbers all over the world. The investment in this business will be over $100 billion with in the next several years.

Emerging Business Goals

Due to the dominant role of the IP based data traffic in the future networks, systems have to be designed for the economic data transfer rate. WMI requires the core wireless network infrastructure to change from circuit – to packet switched where voice and data are transported using IP as the common protocol. Wireless mobile users don’t just want to access all the information available on the Internet via telephone. It therefore makes better sense if the operator selects an appropriate service portfolio tailored to mobile subscribers. It is also impractical to deliver the contents to a phone in the same manner as supplied to a PC. The graphics and the hyperlinks are to be striped out, but this only represents a Band–Aid approach to the problem. What is needed is a wireless equivalent to the web and it should support following emerging business goals.

Significant Cost reduction

The wireless mobile communication shall help in lowering costs of data communication, Multi vendor procurement, and witnessing a growth in modular and incremental infrastructure.

Accelerated time to market

The end-user services and infrastructure are adequately pushed through.

Variety of services with an Open service creation environment

We can have faster services and applications development, opportunities for new business development, and alignment of data services and the Internet.

Grow Internet services business

It enables to take advantage of wire line investments in Internet, VoIP, and IP-based services and application.

Figure 1. Some Promises of Ubiquitous Networking and Mobile Computing

As shown in Fig. 1, next-generation wireless technologies promise ubiquitous networking and mobile computing on a large scale, with high-bandwidth data services and a wireless Internet (Fasbender & Reichert, 1999; Gibson, 1999; Negus, Stephens & Landford, 2000; and Ojanpera and Prasad, 1998). However, there are still numerous challenges such as reliability and quality of service, infrastructure costs, energy efficiency of mobile devices, among others. Although the commercial impact of wireless technologies has far been limited to cellular telephones, the business and technical communities anticipate rapid growth in wireless data services. Almost daily, some prominent company announces plans for a “wireless e-commerce” enhancement to its business (Pandya, 1999).

Technology advances have made it conceivable to build and deploy dense wireless networks of heterogeneous nodes collecting and disseminating wide ranges of environmental data. Applications of such sensor and monitoring networks include smart warehouses equipped with security, identification, and personalization systems; intelligent assembly systems; warehouse inventory control; interactive learning systems; and disaster mitigation. The opportunities emerging from this technology give rise to new paradigm shift in Open and distance learning. Before proceeding further, let’s have a brief idea of how the mobile network works.

Basic Concepts of Cellular Systems

A cellular system is generally characterized as a high-capacity land mobile system in which available frequency spectrum is partitioned into discrete channels assigned in groups to geographic cells covering a cellular Geographic Site Area (GSA). The discrete channels are capable of being reused in different cells within the service area (Pandya, 1999).

The principle of cellular systems is to divide a large geographic service area into cells with diameters from 2 to 50 km, each of which is allocated a number of RF channels (Rappaport, 1996). Transmitters in each adjacent cell operate on different frequencies to avoid interference. However, since transmitted power and antenna height in each cell are relatively low, cells that are sufficiently far apart can reuse the same set of frequencies without co channel interference. The theoretical coverage range and capacity of a cellular system are therefore unlimited.

Figure 2. Basic Principles of FDMA


Figure 3. Basic Principles of TDMA


Figure 4 Basic Principle of CDMA

Generally, a fixed amount of frequency spectrum is allocated to a cellular system by the national regulator. Multiple access techniques are then deployed so that many users can share the available spectrum in an efficient manner. The three basic multiple access method currently in use in cellular systems are: Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA), Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). Figs. 2-4 illustrate these multiple access methods, where Fx refers to frequency slot x, Tx to time slot x, Cx to PN code x, and Ux to user number x (Pandya, 1999).

In the case of FDMA, users share the available spectrum in the frequency domain, and a user is allocated a part of the frequency band called the traffic channel. The user’s signal power is, therefore, concentrated in this relatively narrow band in the frequency domain, such that different users can be assigned different frequency channels on a demand basis (Gibson, 1999). Interference from adjacent channels is limited by the use of guard bands and band pass filters that maintain separation of signals associated with different users.

In TDMA techniques which are widely used in digital cellular systems, the available spectrum is partitioned into narrow frequency bands or frequency channels (as in FDMA), which in turn are divided into a number of time slots (Pandya, 1999). An individual user is assigned a time slot that permits access to the frequency channel for the duration of the time slot. In this context, the traffic channel consists of a time slot in a period train of time slots that make up a frame. In case of the North American digital cellular standard IS-136, each frequency channel (30 Khz) is divided into three time slots, whereas for the European digital standard GSM, each frequency channel (200 Khz) is divided into eight slots (Sollenberger, Seshadri & Cox, 1999). In the case of TDMA systems, guard bands are needed between frequency channels and between time slots.

TDMA is the multiple access technique of choice for several digital cellular and Personal Communication System (PCS) systems. It is usually combined with FDMA, because different carrier frequencies are used in different cells. Frequencies are only reuses in cells sufficiently distant in order to minimize interference (Falconer, Adachi & Gudmundson, 1995).

In the case of CDMA, the spread spectrum technique is used. In fact, a spreading code, also called a PN code, is used to allow multiple users to share a block of frequency spectrum. In CDMA cellular systems that use direct sequence spread spectrum techniques, the digital information from an individual user is modulated by means of a unique PN code assigned to each user. All the PN code modulated signals from different users are then transmitted over to entire CDMA frequency channel. At the receiving end, the desired signal is recovered by dispreading the signal with a copy of the spreading sequence or PN code for the individual user in the receiving correlator. All the other signals (belonging to other users), whose PN codes do not match with that of the desired signals, are not dispread and, as a result, they are considered as a noise by the correlator. As shown in Fig. 4, since the signals in the case of CDMA utilize the entire allocated block of spectrum, no guard bands of any kind are necessary within the allocated block (Pandya, 1999).

Evolution of Wireless technologies for mobility support

The analog cellular mobile systems fall in the category of first-generation mobile systems, the digital cellular, low-power wireless, and PCS are rather perceived as second-generation systems. The original “first-generation” cellular systems used analog frequency modulation to transmit voice signals. Most of the today’s cellular phone use “second-generation” technology that conveys speech in digital format at bit rates that are around 10 kbps.

The general architecture of next generation wireless networks will include and extend existing infrastructure such as cellular architecture, wireless LAN, fixed networks (LAN, MAN, WAN, Internet, etc) as well as specialized service oriented architecture including radio and satellite services.

Figure 5. A Typical Wireless Network Infrastructure.

As shown in Fig. 5, a typical cellular wireless network infrastructure consists of a number of components such as :

  • A Base Station (BS) which serves hundred of mobile users in a given area (cell) by allocating resources that allow users to make new calls or continue their calls if they move to the cell.

  • A Base Switching Circuit (BSC) which provides switching support for several neighboring BS, serving thousands of uses, links between BSC and BS usually have been wireline or fiber line, but they also can be wireless microwave links.

  • An Master Switching Circuit (MSC) which is a larger switch that is capable of serving more that 100,000 users; links between MSC and BSC are also increasingly wireless.

  • HLR and VLR that keep track of users who are permanently registered or who are just visiting the area, respectively.

  • SS7, which performs the call setup between MSC and the PSTN.

  • High-capacity trunks (T1 or T3) that carry call between MSC and the PSTN.

Digital cellular service

The first digital cellular system specification was released in 1990 for the GSM system. The GSM, form the basis for mobile and personal communication services, not only in Europe but in many other parts of the world including North America. The number of GSM subscribers worldwide exceeds 100 million and is growing rapidly. The intent of emerging PCS standards in the US is to provide a combination of terminal mobility, personal mobility, and service portability to the end users utilizing a range of wireless technologies and network capabilities.

A digital cellular system called ‘Personal Digital Cellular’ (PDC) was developed in Japan. To a large extent, the specifications for these second-generation cellular systems are being developed to meet business and regulatory requirements in specific countries and/or regions.

All the second-generation digital cellular system designs were optimized for telephone traffic. The initial support of data services on cellular networks was essentially restricted to dial-up modem-based services. The user data rates for these services were further constrained by the interference-prone nature of the radio environment.

If second-generation cellular mobile systems are expected to enhance their data handling capabilities in order to support the emerging high-speed data and multimedia market, the radio access part must be modified. Initial efforts in this direction have been under way for some time in Europe, and the resulting EDGE (Enhanced Data-rate for Global Evaluation) proposal has been developed. Support of EDGE in GSM is considered to be key point in its evolution to the third-generation mobile system Universal Mobile Telecommunication System / International Mobile Telecommunication (UMTS/IMT-2000).

The three technologies that seem to be gaining momentum in digital cellular and PCS industry are: CDMA, TDMA and GSM (Kim & Litman, 1999). Picking the ultimate winner technology can yield advantages in lower cost from economies of scale and make it easier to enter into roaming agreements. On the other hand, picking the wrong technology can leave the provider and customer stranded. Because such a decision is critical and strategic, cellular or PCS providers tend to enter into nationwide strategic alliances, and the strategic alliance may select a technological standard (Westerhold, 1996).

Mobility characterization

The need for mobility is a fundamental market factor that is driving the evolution of telecommunications networks. In telecommunications terms, mobility can be defined as the ability to access all of the services that one would normally have in a fixed wireline environment such as a home or office, from anywhere (Jing, Helal & Elmagarmid, 1999). Examples include the ability to have a telephone conversation from your car, while on the move, or at the beach. More complex examples would be the possibility to be reached via your traditional telephone number anywhere in the world. Other examples are cellular roaming or the ability to receive all of your voice, email and fax messages while traveling in a foreign country and being able to receive all the lectures online, download course material, be able to chat with facilitator while on move.

A mobile computing infrastructure should support different wireless and wireline communications devices optimized for their specific environment. As a result, a person is able to initiate or receive information anywhere, at any time. The concepts enabling the provision of universal personal communications include terminal mobility provided by wireless access, personal mobility based on personal numbers, and service portability through the use of intelligent network capabilities.

Terminal mobility systems are characterized by their ability to locate and identify a mobile terminal as it moves, and to allow the mobile terminal to access telecommunication services from any location. It is associated with wireless access and required that the user carry a wireless terminal while being within a radio coverage area.

Personal mobility, on the other hand, is centered on a user carrying a personal subscription identity (personal telecommunication number) rather than a terminal. With an identity card containing a personal telecommunication number, a user can access services from any terminal, whether it is in fixed or mobile communications network. When a caller dials this number, it is the network’s responsibility to route the call to the terminal of the subscriber’s choice. The subscriber could make this choice known to the network by the use of personal identity module, based on time-of-day/day-of-week, or the network could make attempts to deliver the call at more than one terminal.

It refers to the capabilities of a network to provide subscribed services at the terminal or location designated by the user. The exact services that a user can evoke depend on the capabilities of both the terminal and the network in service.

Implementation Approaches

To implement mobile wireless Internet applications, two complementary approaches or technologies have been developed; a third-generation cellular radio transmission technology (3G) and a wireless application protocol (WAP). 3G focuses on high-data-rate communications with portable devices. Data rates cited in technical standards are 384 kbps for devices moving outdoors at high speed in cars or trains, for example, and 2 Mbps for slowly moving devices in or near a suitably equipped building. At these rates, proponents of 3G expect people to use portable devices for many of the exotic information services they enjoy at home and work (Goodman, 2000).

WAPs underlying assumptions differ fundamentally from 3Gs. Rather than transmitting a Web content and other Internet applications through the air, WAP recognizes that cellular phones are not PC, and that many information services developed for PC are of little use to people moving about with small devices. Therefore, WAP focuses on applications tailored to the capabilities of cell phones and their users’ needs. By taking into account the constraints of mobile radio channels, WAP uses various compression techniques to reduce the number of bit transmitted through air.

With respect to information delivered to the phones, WAP uses WML, to display text and icons on a telephone screen. Instead of point-and –click navigation through hypertext, people use the phone’s small keypad to send information upstream. Thus, WAP created an information web for cellular phones, distinct from the PC-centric Web. WAP functions well in a low-data-rate, low-power environment of present cellular systems.

WMI for Open and Distance Learning System

Historically, we have not done a very good job of implementing the concept of learner-centered education in distance education. It is difficult, at best, to instill a mindset of lifelong learning in others if we don’t understand it and demonstrate it ourselves. One of the reasons that we have failed in this area has been that the tools were not available to do much besides deliver education (as opposed to enable learning) at a distance. Now, computer and communication have opened the ways to formats other than pen –and- paper correspondence courses and allow for a more interactive, interactive learning environment. Web offers one such format to enhance learner’s experience (Perkins, 1991; Lebow, 1993; Clark, 1994; Filipczak, 1995; Howard-Vital, 1995; Shotsberger, 1996 and Piere, 2001). Wireless mobile Internet design can contribute greatly to the following guiding principles and practices of open & distance learning:

  • Learning Goals and Content Presentation

  • Interactions

  • Assessment and Measurement

  • Instructional Media and Tools

  • Learner Support and Services.

The identification and articulation of the learning goals and objectives provides the foundation for the instructional design, development, delivery, and assessment of an educational event. These goals define what is to be taught and what is to be learned. Communicating these learning goals is a crucial step in assuring an effective learning experience.

As knowledge in many fields increases exponentially, Present day situation demands to develop motivated, skillful, lifelong learners. We cannot hope to fill up students as if they were passive, empty vessels. During formal schooling, aspiring professionals can only begin to take in the amount of information that they will need during their career life times. The knowledge base of certain fields may have appeared static for decades, but we can no longer accept that view. Therefore, we must define the goals in such a way that students become lifelong learners by helping them locate the resources to continue learning. Distance educators are now focusing on a related set of notions: (a) there are different learning styles (Kolb, 1985; Jonassen, & Grabowski, 1993; Messick, 1984; Kranc, 1997; Day, Raven, & Newman, 1998; Weety, 1998; and Terrell, & Drinkgus, 1999-2000), (b) students create their own meaning when learning new things (Mezirow, 1991; Bills, 1997; Gifford, 1997), and (c) what makes a difference in content retention and transfer is not so much what is done by teachers, but what students as learners can be encouraged to do themselves Keller, 1988; Fjortoft, 1996; Pintrich & Schunk, 1996; and Bullen, 1998). Much has been written about the importance of accommodating the learning styles of different kinds of students. It is enough to say here that too often students have little choice in what to learn, how to learn it, or when to learn it. When content is meaningless to the students' world view, when they are taught as if they were passive recipients of knowledge, or when they have little engagement in the instructional tasks, students have no incentive to construct their own knowledge and little motivation to retain information or transfer its use to novel situations (Goodman, 2000).

The notion of practice-centered learning (PCL) is also important to distance learning. As we learn more about how learning occurs, it becomes increasingly clear that the educational process takes place in a complex internal and external environment. One of the teacher's roles is to become the creator of an effective external learning environment that stimulates the environment within. How do teachers and developers of instruction create environments that are conducive to and enhance student learning? The WMI can help provide these new environments for open & distance learning as it permits contents anywhere, anytime. The wireless mobile access to web allows us to utilize such methods as cooperative learning, to recognize such concepts as interdisciplinary needs in education, and to provide an environment in which collaborative efforts are rewarded.

WMI Learning Model

In distance learning, there is a great relationship between the use of technology and the user of technology. It is very important that technology should not drive the educational content, in fact, the needs of the learners and the perceived outcomes must be prime. Harasim, Hiltz, Teles & Turoff (1996: 24) indicated, “The real question is not whether a course can be done online but what is the best media mix to achieve the goals of the course within the constraints of the available resources or geographic dispersion of the students. More fundamentally, how should the media be used? What approaches to teaching and learning are most effective in a computer networking environment?” When learners interact with one another, with an instructor, and with ideas, new information is acquired, interpreted, and made meaningful. If students feel that they are part of a community of learners, they are more apt to be motivated to seek solutions to their problems and to succeed (California Distance Learning Project, 1997). One of the challenges for distance educators is to develop strategies and techniques for establishing and maintaining “learning communities” among learners separated by space and/or time. A good WMI design provides an effective learning environment with frequent and meaningful interactions among learners, between learners and instructional materials, and between learners and the instructor.

There can be different types of interaction, which are possible through Wireless Mobile Internet according to predominant communication paradigm: one-alone, one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many. One-alone applications are that utilize online resources: information (online databases and online journals), software (online applications and software libraries), and people (online interest groups and individual experts). Online information about distance education may be obtained through many sources and is available in many forms. There are several scholarly discussion groups distributed via LISTSERVs, for example, that focus on issues of concern to distance educators and learners. In addition there are archives of papers, conference announcements, calls for papers, electronic journals, literature reviews, software, books, guides, library catalogs, resource databases and more-all accessible with a few keystrokes. Examples on one-to-one interaction include learning contracts, mentorship, apprenticeship, and correspondence study. These applications are characterized by one-to-one relationships and by individualized learning. One-to-many applications, such as lectures and skits, are differentiated from other forms of interaction by their use of presentation techniques in which learners are not usually invited to interact. With many-to-many applications, all participants have the opportunity to take part in the kind of interaction that can be facilitated in computer conferencing systems. The mobile sets (which can send and receive pictures) are making video conferencing possible. Techniques such as debate, simulation, role-play, discussion groups, transcript- based assignments, brainstorming, and project groups can be performed with the links on web site.

The bulletin board can be used to stimulate interaction among students and the instructors. A variety of different strategies can be used to encourage interaction on the BBS, including assignments, discussion questions, and team activities. The Bulletin Board System (BBS) networks can be used as an educational resource. BBS networks are distributed group conferencing systems that allow teachers and students from around the world to interact with each other electronically in "virtual classrooms," sharing information and collaborating on learning projects.

Effective design is essential to the success of an online course, which include overall course design issues, resource allocation, syllabus creation, activity selection, online structure production, and evaluation planning. Appropriate attention to these items during the design phase informs the development and delivery phases of the online course, thereby creating a "good learning experience" for adult college students. Instructions should be designed using WAP or 3G which are compatible to WMI and supports collaborative and cooperative learning by encouraging positive interdependence (group projects), individual accountability, appropriate interpersonal skills, and/or group self-evaluation.

Assessment and Measurement

Assessment and measurement strategies provide information on learner progress, measure achievement of learning goals, and provide learners with benchmarks for monitoring their progress and adjusting their learning strategies. In a distance learning model, assessment and measurement become even more critical in the absence of the face-to-face interactions that enable teachers to use informal observation to gauge student response, obtain feedback, and progress toward goals.

Concluding Thoughts

The use of web technologies and wireless mobile Internet in Instructional media and supporting software tools have enabled distance educators to address the two primary barriers to distance education: the learner’s feelings of remoteness and isolation, and the time it takes to complete an instructional transaction.

The courses offered via web are based on a learner-centered approach to education in which facilitators and students share responsibility and participation in learning and teaching. To initiate such a process, facilitators must make sure they and their students have adequate training and support on the electronic system. They must also do a great deal of advance planning to teach a course via the new medium. By initiating a variety of activities, both on and off-line, facilitators can encourage an active, challenging learning environment. As the class conference progresses, it is required that different strategies are necessary to keep energy high. Those involved should be satisfied with this mode of learning once they get past initial difficulties with technology. Because the courses are delivered by web, students are able to take considerable control over their learning in terms of how they should schedule both personal study time and group-interaction time, how much personal contact they should have with the instructor and other learners, and how they can contribute to the class.

Courses delivered via web can meet immediate learning needs as well as help learners increase self- direction in their ongoing learning. The selection of web as instructional media and tools has been influenced by the accessibility by learners. Web incorporates a technology base that is appropriate for the widest range of students within a program’s target audience. In justifying the support for web also indicate a number of requirements for success: (a) web must have a strong user base at the local level before it can be widely used at a distance, (b) effective use of web demands specific conditions and skills, and (c) teachers and students must be supported in acquiring those skills (Kim & Litman, 1999). Distance learners bring varied social and cultural backgrounds and diverse experiences to a distance-learning situation. The unique contexts in which learners live and work influences the way they think about and use wireless mobile Internet.

Web sites offer the most important components in the design of distance learning programs that establish the organizational and administrative infrastructures to ensure that such programs are efficiently and effectively developed, managed, and executed. The learner support systems and services offered through WMI will be at least as complete, as responsive, and as learner-oriented as those provided for the on-campus learner (Thornburg, 1991).


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About the Authors

Sanjay Jasola



Sanjay Jasola is Deputy Director in Computer Division of Indira Gandhi National Open University, Maidan Garhi, New Delhi – 110 068. (INDIA)


 Ramesh Sharma



Ramesh Sharma is Regional Director at Regional Center Karnal of Indira Gandhi National Open University, Old Govt College Campus, Railway Road, Karnal, Haryana – 132 001 (INDIA) Email:



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