Broadband Benefits for Education
Broadband usage is essential to the quality of education in South Dakota. K-12, Technical schools and Universities all rely heavily on broadband services to enhance students learning experience as well as facilitate the day to day activities within those environments. The Digital Dakota Network (DDN), a state managed network, provides connection to South Dakota learning institutions. Internet usage over this network and other broadband connections has grown over 150% since 2008 and will continue to grow exponentially. The trend statewide is that pen and paper is being replaced with mobile devices like laptops, tablets and other mobile computing solutions. The State Broadband Team strongly encourages the South Dakota learning community to get involved in in our program so that broadband usage in the following capacities continues to be met:
- Broadband Internet connectivity – The digital Dakota Network (DDN) is a privatized wide area network that is managed by the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications (BIT). It provides broadband internet connectivity to all South Dakota K-12 and select higher learning institutions. This is the connection that allows them access to the countless resources that are provided by the Department of Education and on the World Wide Web. The needs of these learning institutions are growing at an alarming rate.
- Email services – South Dakota currently has a centralized K-12 Data Center that schools have a direct connection via the DDN. This flagship service provides email services to over 46,000 users. It also allows them to use tools like a Global Address Book, which makes and school employee in the state easily accessed, and just an email away. It allows a web interface to the user’s email accounts, allowing them to access their mailbox from any location with an internet connection. They can also create list serv’s and distribution list’s, which make for fast electronic messaging to a large group of people. Other features include handheld device compatibility, spam blocking and filtering and public folders and calendars for message sharing and event planning and scheduling.
- Web hosting and SharePoint – The centralized Data Center currently hosts 15,340 web sites and SharePoint sites for K-12 schools, teachers and students. This service provides a schools web presence and is often used as a learning tool for students that are responsible for creating and maintaining the school web site. Like most websites, it allows them to post events, announcement and useful information that parents, teachers and students can access from any internet connection. Teachers and students also create websites to post information regarding classroom activities, learning resources and assignments.
- Distance video learning – The video distance learning system in South Dakota is paramount to the education of students in schools, especially those in rural areas. The video service is carried over the DDN network and the “bridging” of these sessions is centrally facilitated by the DDN Video Team in Pierre. Using the state managed video learning system, students are able to participate in virtual classrooms and collaborate from multiple districts. The video is fed from a specified location, and is fully interactive with students using video and audio on equipment located at the schools. As the technology of video over the wire continues to improve with 1080p resolution and High Definition display, broadband needs are increasing all the time.
- Cyber security services (Antivirus, content filtering, firewall services, intrusion protection/detection) – Cyber Security today is more important than ever. And with today’s technology, schools rely on broadband connections to operate the tools the BIT provides them to secure their local networks and administer content access for teachers and students on the web. Currently, antivirus updates are administered to computers in schools from their internet connection. Also, edge firewalls and content filters are managed over DDN lines to manage access to external wide area network resources. Also, over DDN lines school network administrators manage content filters so that school students and staff are able to access the learning resources provided on the internet, while restricting access to non-educational or prohibited web sites.
- Student Information System’s (DDN Campus, Desire 2 Learn) – DDN Campus is the school management program used in South Dakota’s K-12 districts. Desire 2 Learn is the school management program used in South Dakota’s regental higher learning institutions. These complete school management product suites provide school management features to thousands of teachers, staff and students in 152 school districts across the state. It also provides a Parent Portal, which parents and students can access grade books and attendance records from any location with an internet connection.
- Virtual Private Network access – With the reliance on technology in South Dakota’s learning institutions today, network administrators are required to have access to their internal network at all times for troubleshooting and supporting users. These networks can be terminally accessed from any location with a broadband internet connection for access at any time. In addition, today’s staff and teachers can get access to internal resources at any time through a managed connection. One school district, has approximately 105 users that are able to remotely access internal network resources from anywhere with a broadband internet connection to carry out day to day school tasks. Improving broadband services across the state allows these institutions to do more over those Virtual Private network connections. For example, today, local police departments can view video footage of security cameras in the event of an emergency from outside the building; however, video is limited or impossible if there isn’t enough bandwidth for the video to be transmitted.
- WebCT – This is an online course management system for teachers to distribute content, assignments, quizzes, tests and resources for the students in their class. This is especially useful for students when they want to do homework since the WebCT instance can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. This is also useful for students who are out of school for long periods of time due to an illness. They can access the classwork from home so they don’t fall behind. Like many other things, enhanced broadband connectivity improves the feature sets and functionality of what is possible with the WebCT application.
- Web based applications no longer hosted on local networks (Accelerated, Success Maker, Learn 360, etc.) – In this day and age, vendors of learning applications are quickly figuring out that their bottom line is improved if they are only supporting servers that “serve” up their application to users in a single location rather than multiple schools around the globe. The old model of having those servers in several districts is becoming a thing of the past. This means that those applications on those servers have to be accessed over the World Wide Web. This creates a desperate need for robust broadband internet connections to access those applications for student learning, from schools, and from home. The ability to web base applications has also created a surge in the development of these applications, making them more and more prominent in day-to-day learning.
- Online text books – Much like server based applications, publishers of text books are seeing the overwhelming advantage of “digital copies” of text books rather than the expense of printing up ink and paper text books. These books, like many things, are accessed over the internet and are downloaded or viewed as a hosted copy on a server. Textbooks, by the time they are written, edited, re-written, published and printed are sometimes 10 years old before they are in students hands. Digital copies cut out many steps in this process, allowing publishers to have more up to date content that is being taught to the students. These often also tend to be very large files, making broadband connections important for the access to them.
- Cloud computing – Cloud computing is a buzz word many people hear today, but aren’t quite sure what it means. Cloud computing is basically an emerging way to perform day to day computing operations while sharing and utilizing resources, like storage and document sharing over the internet. The large variety of the file types, file sizes and storage repositories place a strong demand for robust broadband connections.
- File transfer and sharing – Todays technology provides several means of document sharing and collaboration. Much like the Cloud, these documents and files can often be large, and require broadband connections to move these files from place to place.
- Remote device access and management – Many of today’s network management tools are centralized to a specific management device. This “parent” management device often communicates with its “child devices” in South Dakota Schools over broadband connections. For example, school firewalls and content filters are all managed by school network administrators by logging into the parent device at our data center. They make the desired changes on the mirror copy configuration file as it sits on that management device. Once the desired changes are made, they “push” that configuration to the child device in their school to overwrite the old configuration. This transmission can be very large, and requires a broadband connection to deliver.
- Virtual High School - The South Dakota Virtual School is a clearinghouse of distance courses offered by approved providers. Courses are available online or via the Digital Dakota Network. All course offerings are approved by the South Dakota Department of Education. The goal of the Virtual School is to provide choice, flexibility and quality for all students across the state. One district was able to save ten’s of thousands of dollars by allowing High School Students to take classes over a Satellite broadband connection using Virtual High School instead of transporting those kids to another district for those classes. The satellite was used because “wireline broadband services” were not available in their area. Virtual methods of learning can be great options in many situations:
- When your school doesn't offer the desired course
- When a course doesn't fit into your schedule
- When you're in need of credit recovery
- When you need an academic challenge
- Interaction among students, parents, teachers, and school administrators has been enhanced via online forums, which is especially significant given the importance of ongoing parental involvement in children’s education.
Not to mention the thousands of interactive web sites and dynamic content available on the World Wide Web today.
We’d like to hear your story. Tell us how broadband is used in your learning environment and how it impacts your teaching and learning experience.