Use of distance learning system
for training specialists in the field of space activity
in the sphere of space activity
Director of R&D Institute of Space Systems – Khrunichev State Research & Production Space Center branch.
Professor, corresponding member of International Academy of Astronautics
Chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee of the CIS
Chairman of the CIS Intergovernmental Committee for Knowledge Dissemination and Adult Education
Professor, President of the Academy of Information Science of International Structures
Deputy Head of the Complex
D. in Technical Sciences, Professor, President of the Academy of Informatology of International Structures
Candidate of Technical Sciences
CANDIDATE OF TECHNICAL SCIENCES.
Associate Professor of Moscow State Institute of Radio Engineering, Electronics and Automatics
D. in Physics and Mathematics
The report is devoted to the possibilities of training specialists in the field of space activity by means of distance learning. The report describes the issues connected with the distance learning system formation for the specialists training: the aim of the system creation, technologies of distance training to be used, the structure and functional tasks of the system and its elements, the current state of the system formation and the nearest perspective development.
The modern stage in the development of world cosmonautics is characterized by the strengthening of integration processes in the field of space exploration. The number of joint space programs increases, more and more countries are involved in space activities. At the same time the demand for highly qualified young specialists and scientists grows naturally. However, on the other hand, the world practice shows a rather complicated personnel situation in the space branch caused by the lack of a proper inflow of young specialists and, as a result, an “aging” of the branch personnel. Besides, discussion of the issues related to knowledge management in space activities in a separate section at the 55th International Space Congress in Vancouver showed that there are also problems in transferring knowledge from one generation of rocket and space technology specialists to another. In these circumstances the creation of a global international system of knowledge and education in the field of space activity becomes an extremely important and urgent task.
One of the powerful tools used in such a system for preparation and retraining of specialists in the sphere of space activity can and must be distance learning, which is becoming more and more popular lately.
It should be noted that distance learning has long since attracted the attention of both teachers and trainees. At the same time, the so-called distance learning, the capabilities of radio and television have been widely used and are still being used. However, the main disadvantage of such distance learning is the limited or absent operative feedback between students and teachers. Only the rapid development of computer and telecommunication technologies in recent years has made it possible to eliminate this drawback. It is these technologies provide effective direct and feedback, which is provided both in the organization of educational material, and in communication between teachers and trainees.
Distance learning is designed to solve a significant part of the problems, which in the current socio-economic conditions have taken on a global nature due to the fact that traditional forms of education and training models can not meet the needs for educational services, usually concentrated in large cities or training centers, and getting quickly updated modern specialized knowledge, which is possessed by a limited range of specialists.
Taking into account the above said and taking into account the perspective of such form of education and training of specialists, SRI of Space Systems – Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center branch started to create a system of distance learning and training of specialists in the field of space activity based on modern information, multimedia and telecommunication technologies.
The purpose of creating the system of distance learning is to give students the opportunity to master educational programs directly at their place of residence or work, to expand opportunities for education in rocket and space specialties for citizens who live far from major educational centers, to increase the knowledge level of trainees (schoolchildren, college and university students), to improve employee qualifications by involving teachers from leading educational institutions, highly qualified specialists
The system of distance learning and training of specialists in the field of space activities, the structure of which is generally presented in Fig. 1, is a complex territorially distributed, multifunctional system, which processes, stores and exchanges between its elements heterogeneous educational and scientific information of great volume.1
Fig. 1. Structure of the System of Distance Learning for Specialists in Space Activities
Within the framework of the system being created an integrated approach to distance learning is being implemented, which implies the use of different types of distance learning, such as
exchange of text files via e-mail (Internet);
sending sets (cases) of textual, audiovisual and multimedia educational-methodical materials (video disks, videocassettes, CD-ROMs, etc.) for students to study independently while organizing constant interaction with the teacher and other students by distance learning
video lessons, video lectures, video seminars in real time, including, in perspective, using virtual reality technologies and demonstrating three-dimensional images;
training with the use of television, including interactive television.
It is planned to use a combination of these types of distance learning depending on the stage of technical equipment of the centers and terminal equipment of remote training complexes and the capabilities of personal telecommunication means of the trainees.
Taking into account the above-mentioned types of distance learning, the system’s technical resources perform the following functions:
transmission of audio and video information in the direction of a teacher to one or a group of trainees, possibly located in different rooms in a certain region, in simplex mode as well as in duplex (interactive) mode with a response to questions (audio and video conferences)
simultaneous interpretation of audio and video lectures;
storage in databases and display of digital information (electronic textbooks, reference books, methodological literature, data on teachers and students, tests, grades, etc.), audio and video recordings, slides, etc., on the means of collective and individual (workstations)
distribution of digital information to trainees (training information, assignments, tests, etc., both circularly (by list) and to individual addresses;
providing interactive access to the distributed database;
ensuring that experiments and assignments from remote laboratories can be performed on models and mathematical programs using the center’s databases;
Providing students with non-symmetrical access via the Internet to the information arrays of the Technical Center;
Providing classes for groups of students directly at the Technical Center, using all of the information capabilities of the center;
Providing protection of information from virus attacks, attempts of unauthorized changes of data, distortion of information, control of integrity of databases, preventing the reading of paid information without payment, accounting and control of payment for information.
In order to achieve the above objective and implement the above functions, the distance learning system includes:
main and regional technical centers of distance learning equipped with modern means of storage, presentation, processing and transmission of educational information, which through a telecommunications subsystem conducts interactive learning;
group terminal complexes;
personal terminal complexes;
a telecommunication subsystem that provides communication between all of the complexes.
The Main Technical Center (Fig.2) located at the Khrunichev R&D Institute – a branch of Khrunichev State Research & Production Space Center (Yubileyny, Moscow Oblast) is designed to:
providing interactive interaction between teachers of Moscow educational institutions (MAI, MGTU, MIREA, MGUS, MIIGAiK, MATI etc.) and specialists of organizations involved in space activities in Moscow and Moscow region with trainees located in the regions;
development of video and electronic training courses;
Fig. 2. Technical Center of Distance Learning
Replication and distribution of training materials;
technical support for storage, cataloguing and updating of information;
technical support for regional technical centers.
Similar tasks should be performed by the regional technical centers. At the same time they should rely on local educational and training structures.
Group terminal complexes (Fig. 3) located at educational institutions (schools, colleges, universities) are intended for:
receive information from technical centers and present it in a convenient form for students
providing of interactive interaction between teachers and students.
Fig. 3. A group terminal complex.
As regards the telecommunications subsystem, it is planned to use both terrestrial channels of communication enabling IP-communications and digital data transfer (ISDN) and fixed-satellite communications facilities based on VSAT technology.
The establishment of a system for the distance training of specialists in the area of space activities is a complex technical, methodological and organizational task that requires adequate investment. Therefore a multistage approach to its establishment is envisaged, with a gradual increase in the technical potential of the system as a whole and of its components.
Possibilities of realization of such approach to creation of the system under consideration are provided by participation of Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center in various international programs. First of all it concerns the work with the Republic of Kazakhstan on creation of space communication system “KazSat” and space rocket complex “Baiterek”, in the framework of which it is supposed not only to create rocket and space technology products, but also to train specialists of the Republic of Kazakhstan in various rocket and space specialties. In 2005 the first stage of the main technical Center for distant education was put into operation in the Khrunichev Rocket Center that provided theoretical training of specialists in the ground control system and communication monitoring system for the KazSat space system using distant education, including such forms of education as case-technology and video-seminars in a point-to-point mode (Fig.4).
Fig. 4. Organization of distance learning for the specialists of the Republic of Kazakhstan under the “KazSat” program
In the near future with the purpose of increase of efficiency of process of training of specialists in the field of space activity, it is planned to increase the capabilities of technical center to solve the whole complex of tasks, including the provision of multi-point video lectures, video lessons and video seminars, variety of video and electronic courses of training, creation of data banks and knowledge.
The groundwork created in 2005-2006 allowed not only to effectively organize the training of specialists for the “KazSat” program, but also to develop technologies and methods, which are supposed to be used in the distance learning system in the future.
In addition, it is planned to replicate regional technical centers and group terminal complexes of distance learning both in Russia and in other countries with simultaneous modernization of the main technical center aimed at expanding its functionality.
As for the organizational aspect, it should be noted that at the moment the leadership of our institute is actively working on the creation of a university of distance learning in space activities (Fig.5), the main tasks of which should be training and retraining, training specialists in educational centers, individual training in different countries involving teachers and scientists from educational institutions and organizations involved in space activities.
Figure 5. University of Distance Learning in Space Activities
In conclusion it should be noted that utilization of distance learning system for specialists training in the area of space activities will allow
to expand the possibilities of acquiring knowledge in the field of space activities by different categories of citizens;
to ensure continuous training, re-training, learning and testing process for space industry personnel using modern distance learning technologies
improve skills of specialists involved in space activities without discontinuing their principal activity
reduce the training period for new specialists through the use of specialized training programs
reduce the time of dissemination of knowledge, skills and experience accumulated in the industry;
expand the opportunities for sharing the content of educational programs of different educational institutions
Reduce the time needed to train specialists in new work technologies;
reduce the cost of training specialists.
At the same time it is obvious that efficiency of the system of distance training for specialists in the sphere of space activity will depend on the extent of distribution of the system, on the possibility of attracting teachers from higher educational institutions and rocket-space industry companies, on the quality and variety of educational materials. On this basis, the Space Systems Research Institute offers mutually beneficial cooperation in such areas as:
design and creation of technical centers and group terminal complexes for distance learning;
development of electronic educational and methodological materials (lectures, tutorials, tests, etc.);
conducting lectures and classes using distance learning with the involvement of teachers from higher education institutions and rocket-space industry organizations located in Moscow and the Moscow region;
organization of distance learning in different space activities: designing and creation of rocket-and-space equipment, control, testing and operation of space vehicles, dynamics, ballistics and control of space vehicles, etc.