Here’s an often overlooked fact: The same grant that funded the broadband mapping efforts and our Local Technology Planning Team project had a third component; to help Colorado’s rural schools provide the necessary classroom content for their students through video based Distance Learning (DL).
For the past three years, OIT’s DL team has been traveling the same roads (literally and figuratively) as our broadband team attempting to ensure that all students in Colorado have access to the education content they need to succeed.
Originally tasked with installing the traditional “carts” of equipment needed to enable video-based distance learning (usually costing around $10,000) at 12 schools accross the state, the team installed 14 installations and helped dozens more schools take advantage of their existing equipment. In addition, the team worked with education content providers from across the state, county and world to increase the amount of education content available for schools using distance learning.
While both of these accomplishments are significant, the greatest achievement was completely unexpected. As the program progressed a breakthrough in technology changed the entire landscape of distance learning. The rapid advancement of cloud-based video conferencing systems we have finally broken down the largest barrier to ubiquitous distance learning, cost. What once cost a school $10,000 per classroom can now be done with a laptop, USB camera and a broadband connection.
While we have achieved incredible success with the program, the funding will expire at the end of this year and it’s future is unknown. We are beginning the process of engaging key education stakeholders to help us identify a business owner for the project as well as the necessary funding to continue and even expand the program. We have developed a white paper titled Distance Learning in Colorado: Access Anywhere to Education Everywhere that summarizes our efforts and outlines our vision of the future. Please take a few moments to read the document and pass it along to the education stakeholders in your community as we believe this program is critical to the overall success of our broadband efforts.