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How to Develop Your IT Skills - Radio World

How to Develop Your IT Skills

Keep Up With IP Audio, Mobile Media, Broadband Wireless, Data Networking
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Keep Up With IP Audio, Mobile Media, Broadband Wireless, Data Networking

The radio broadcasting infrastructure rapidly is transforming itself into an IT enterprise. IP audio is gaining momentum for studio operations and remote broadcasts. TCP/IP has become the lingua franca for studio and transmitter interconnects. New distribution channels for content such as podcasting and mobile media are developing at a rapid pace.
Back to School, Without the TuitionMid-career professionals often don't have the luxury of going back to school to pick up an advanced degree. That doesn't mean they can't access graduate-level courses in IT, electronics or communications.

Some large universities are putting their course materials, including syllabi, lecture notes, reading lists and exams, on the Internet. While these are not part of a distance education or degree program, a wealth of valuable information is free for the download.

Here are the Web sites of three top universities and a sampling of the courses available.

MIT OpenCourseWare Massachusetts Institute of Technology ocw.mit.edu

Through its OpenCourseWare initiative, MIT says it is committed to placing its entire undergraduate and graduate catalog of courses online.

From the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department:

  • 6.002 Circuits and Electronics
  • 6.101 Introductory Analog Electronics Laboratory
  • 6.111 Introductory Digital Systems Laboratory
  • 6.170 Laboratory in Software Engineering
  • 6.930 Management in Engineering



And from the Media Arts and Sciences department:

  • MAS 863 How to Make (Almost) Anything



School of InformationManagement Systems Univ. of California, Berkeleywww.sims.berkeley.edu

Information science, the school says, is becoming an important topic in understanding how different media work on the Web and wireless environments. Some course materials must be accessed by searching faculty Web pages. Samples:

  • SIMS 250 Computer-Based Communications Systems and Networks
  • SIMS 247 Information Visualization and Presentation
  • SIMS 290 Effective Project Management
  • INFOSYS 290 Mixing and Remixing Information



College of Computing Georgia Tech www-static.cc.gatech.edu

Georgia Tech says it has one of the largest computer science programs in the country. Samples:

  • CS6725 Information Security Strategies and Policies
  • CS7260 Internet Architecture and Protocols
  • CS4255 Principles of Network Management
  • CS4235 Introduction to Information Security


Broadcast engineers face an enormous challenge keeping up with the changes in IT technology. We talked with several industry experts in search of success strategies for education and certification, and identified some sources of tech knowledge.

Jim Garnier, chair of the National Certification Committee of the SBE, said the organization does not recommend study strategies, but the society does offer a list of SBE-certified schools offering technical training in broadcast engineering or related topics. The programs have been reviewed and certified by the SBE National Certification Committee.

Terry Baun, an independent contractor and member of the SBE's Certification Committee, said changes may be coming to the exam for the Certified Broadcast Networking Technologist classification. "The exam will remain a way to demonstrate an entry-level computer networking skill set, but it may be revised to reflect changes in technology."

Baun said questions on topics such as coaxial networks, for example, could be replaced by more relevant subjects such as subnetting, IP addressing and backup systems.

E-smart

IP audio may push broadcasters to develop new skills.

Kirk Harnack, U.S. director of sales for Telos/Omnia/Axia, says engineers learn by doing and working with the latest technologies. But, he said, a would-be student needs to take further steps.

"Most important is demonstrating basic IT skills by passing the SBE's CBNT certification exam. An additional step would be to get A+ Certification, which is more generic in scope than CBNT."

He says engineers must be self-directed learners. Worthwhile reads, he said, include the book "A+ Certification for Dummies" and his company's white paper "Introduction to Livewire," available on the download section of www.axiaaudio.com

An important skill for those doing IP audio installations is how to separate networks physically, yet still allow them to talk to one another. Doing so requires knowledge of subnets, LANS and VLANS, topics worth additional study.

A wealth of webinars, lectures and other educational materials on technical topics is available at www.techonline.com Areas include RF basics, broadband wireless access and data networking hardware. Course materials are free, although users must register with Techonline. Because the materials largely are sponsored by component manufacturers and equipment vendors, users can expect occasional commercials and promotions.

Some universities are putting computer and IT course materials online (see sidebar).

Mathematics is the cornerstone of electronics and computer science. For many engineers, closing knowledge gaps or getting refresher material in math is necessary before tackling advanced topics.

ALEKS is a full-time automated math tutor on the Web, which includes explanations, practice and feedback. Topics range from basic math to algebra, trigonometry and pre-calculus. The cost is $17.95 per month for unlimited use. More information is available at www.aleks.com

Keep it moving

Mobile media is developing at a blistering pace, and some radio groups are involved. Success in both content production and engineering may involve acquiring skills outside the traditional IT box.

For engineers, an understanding of mobile operating systems such as Symbian, J2ME, Windows Mobile and Palm OS would be useful, as well as a knowledge of WAP, the Wireless Applications Protocol and SMS, the Short Message Service.

Mobile applications development is evolving faster than textbooks can be written. One way to obtain in-depth information is by spending time on the carriers' developer Web pages, such as www.sprint.com/business/developer_program.html.

Flash-enabled mobile devices are becoming more common in the United States. Engineers looking to expand their skill sets may wish to learn how to develop interactive media and promotional materials in FlashLite, the mobile version of the application.

Users seeking to come up to speed with Flash or to receive training on Adobe/Macromedia's other Web development products such as Dreamweaver or Cold Fusion can take a number of courses from authorized training centers nationwide. Certification exams are also given on Flash and some other applications. See www.macromedia.com/support/training.

Some companies present classroom instruction on their products, enabling users to come up to speed quickly. For instance, Digidesign offers a certification program and a series of classes on its popular audio editing program Pro Tools. Information is available at www.digidesign.com

Broadcast engineering is becoming a profession in which continuous education is necessary to stay in the game. Given the diversity of media technologies and job descriptions, no one education path works for all. An engineer must take the initiative in developing and following through on a personal learning strategy.

A treasure trove of knowledge is out there, but you may have to do some detective work to find all the pieces and stitch them into a cohesive plan.

Tell us about your recommended education resources. Write to radioworld@imaspub.com.

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