Today’s educators are helping students of all ages become tomorrow’s highly skilled leaders and critical thinkers. But they are doing so in the face of some enormous challenges, including an exponential increase in information, a “digital divide” that threatens to leave low-income students behind, and the ability to deliver world-class education in rural and cash-strapped schools.

Broadband Benefits Education

Ease overcrowding when traditional “ground” classes fill up allowing students to get popular core classes without losing time working towards a degree or diploma. Provide access to electronically captured lectures for students who cannot come to class. Students across the state share a virtual “blackboard” that integrates social media tools, mashups of videos and other media, group chat rooms as well as course curriculum and other resources. Multi-location symmetrical videoconferencing allows colleges to serve several branch campuses or county extension offices at one time. Allows students working in one specialty, such as communications, to provide support and earn real life experience by lending expertise to another program of the school located on the other side of the state.

What is Needed to Bring Broadband to Education?

In addition to broadband however, educators also need to look at several other factors. Do teachers and students have the right technological tools to leverage broadband? Do existing processes and procedures permit use of broadband and are existing personnel trained to use such technologies? The Utah Broadband Project can provide education, awareness, and facilitate broadband opportunities for education. But, we also need to understand how the education community wants to use broadband, and the barriers and challenges you face to integrate it into your public services?

Federal Communication Commission (FCC) National Broadband Plan

The FCC’s National Broadband Plan includes a set of ambitious goals and aspirations for broadband and our education system. And it is just the starting point for conversations that will be held in this state and across the nation about the best way to deliver and use broadband. The Plan’s recommendations include:

  • Modernize broadband infrastructure to support 21st century teaching and learning.  Through the FCC’s E-rate program, 97% of American schools now have Internet access. But as technology changes, so do schools’ needs. Programs like E-rate must be modernized to help education keep up with student needs, and ensure that E-rate’s funding can keep up with inflation.
  • Improve access to high-quality, online instruction. Every day, teachers across America help students strive to reach their full potential. Many students learn best when instruction is personalized to meet their individual learning needs, and online learning can help teachers provide this. Both students and teachers will benefit from high quality online learning solutions. Innovation in online learning will require research and development of online learning systems, the creation of new online course material and standardized ways of sharing it, and lowering barriers to sharing courses and materials across state lines.
  • Unlock the power of educational data. As of 2007, more than 60% of teachers lacked electronic access to student achievement data. Teachers, parents, schools and government agencies at all levels need rapid access to accurate, relevant data, with strong student privacy provisions, to make informed decisions that will improve educational outcomes. Broadband technology will help give teachers the data they need to help students succeed. Sharing data in a secure manner will also give parents valuable information about their child’s progress and promote home-school partnerships.