To those outside the Russian Federation, Siberia conjures up desolate and backward images. Though admittedly remote, the region is far from backward. In reality, it is home to some of the country’s most respected institutes of higher learning. Chief among those is Tomsk State University, which is now using DIRECWAY® broadband satellite for distance learning and for cooperative educational projects with other academic institutions throughout Asiatic Russia.
Founded in 1878, Tomsk State University was the first institution of higher education in Siberia. In 1998, Russian Federation Presidential Decree No. 30 placed the university on the “National List of Institutions of Greatest Significance to the Cultural Heritage of the Peoples of the Russian Federation.” The Russian Ministry of Education ranks Tomsk State University fourth among the country’s classical universities. Today, with an enrollment of more than 22,000, the university prepares students in 75 disciplines and specialties.
The Research Library is the university’s crown jewel. In 1934 the library earned the designation of “scientific institution,” and in 1969 it became the methodological center for libraries of institutions of higher learning in Western Siberia. By 1990, it had been included on a list of Russia’s greatest libraries.
That depth of academic experience and access to a treasure trove of research materials is what draws students from other educational institutions and libraries to Tomsk State University. According to Dr. Vladimir Demkin, the university’s prorector, the distance learning capability provided by DIRECWAY brings academics throughout Siberia rapid access to a wide array of courses and information—creating a new capability to improve the quality of education in the entire region.
The decision to adopt DIRECWAY technology was an important technological advancement for the university. Prior to DIRECWAY, Demkin noted, the 340 schools that make up Tomsk State University were linked to the Internet through terrestrial lines—both DSL and dial-up connection.
“We understand well that online technology is the only means of providing the quality of education comparable to a traditional classroom,” said Demkin. “Unfortunately, existing terrestrial lines cannot provide the quality of communication needed for online distance learning. That is why we decided to implement the DIRECWAY satellite service.”
According to Demkin, the deciding factor in selecting DIRECWAY was the broadband capability of the system and its DW6000 remote terminals. DIRECWAY provides more than enough capacity for the massive amounts of data required for educational and research-related pursuits. The configuration of the DW6000 terminals also is well suited for educational purposes, Demkin added.
The advantage of DIRECWAY for students was immediate. “Students can now make better use of the Internet: The quality is better and the speed is higher, too!” Demkin said. He recounted a recent experience in which a DW6000 terminal was installed in a village school, enabling the village students to videoconference with teachers and students at Tomsk State University. “The quality of images and voice was great. It was really amazing to students and teachers who were not used to such quality of service,” Demkin commented.
In 2000, one-way terminals were installed in 35 villages in the Tomsk region, Demkin said. Soon the university plans to install approximately 20 DW6000 two-way terminals in the same region, and work is in progress to obtain licenses to install the service in 26 additional locations.
Educators from Central Siberia recently celebrated the launch of the new DIRECWAY network at Tomsk State University. At the launch event, attendees observed a multicast TV transmission for distance education, and a videoconference was set up between the University and two remote locations. Following the event, Demkin was characteristically enthusiastic. “[DIRECWAY] is the best solution we were able to find on the market,” he said. “I am very glad that Tomsk State University bought DIRECWAY equipment from Hughes Network Systems.”