11 Aug Charter Business powers distance learning
Distance education has historically been associated with television commercials offering things such as accredited high school
MADISON — For many years, distance education was associated with television commercials promising degrees in fields such as nursing, locksmithing and gunsmithing, all earned over the mail, from home. This is no longer the case. Charter Business has been at the forefront of utilizing advances in high-speed networking and video compression to create a new face for distance education, allowing instruction to occur in real time, over interactive video channels.
Popular among rural high schools and systems of colleges, DENs (Distance Education Networks) allow schools across Wisconsin to share resources and increase educational efficiency.
Basic language classes, such as French, are readily broadcast over the regional DEN to multiple high schools. A rural school may not have the option to offer such a class on its own. Jane Manske, of the Northern Lights Network, states, “It gives opportunities to students who attend small, rural-district schools equal to the opportunities of students who attend school in metropolitan districts.”
Charter Business has delivered cutting-edge network capacity to distance education networks across the state of Wisconsin. The JEDI (Jefferson, Eastern Dane /Interactive) network and the KSCADE (K-12 Schools/Colleges Alliance for Distance Education) network were installed and maintained by Charter Business. Charter Business also linked the MATC campuses of West Bend, Fond du Lac and Beaver Dam in a distance education project. KSCADE, a Fox Valley-based network, is currently the largest DEN in the country (based on number of sites), and uses the advanced ATM switching network technology.
High school DENs in Wisconsin follow a regional structure. There is no maximum number of schools that can be connected to a high school DEN, however, there is a consensus among network directors that a limited number of school sites in a concentrated area works best. Regional control allows for a more manageable network. A reduced number of people means greater ease in the creation of programming and sharing of resources. If the DEN lacks required or desired classes, it can utilize classes broadcast by other DENs over BadgerNet, a network that interconnects all the public DENs in Wisconsin.
Private telecommunications companies such as Charter Business and Ameritech supply network capacity to high schools. TEACH, (Technology for Educational ACHievment), a program funded by the state of Wisconsin, provides a subsidy to these telecommunications companies that acts as a discount for the individual schools. For example, the network capacity of KSCADE is provided and managed by Charter Business. However, the schools themselves pay for access to the network for only $250 a month, because of the discount provided by TEACH.
Currently, the maximum for a networked class is to have one real class (at the broadcast site) and up to three classes run over the network (at remote sites). Teachers normally use far fewer, as a larger number of sites means more students to monitor. Networking four classrooms together is normally used for staff development opportunities and special programs, rather than teaching four classes at once.
At night when the network is not being used by high schools, many technical colleges and universities use DENs to broadcast classes to the local high schools, where students can attend classes without having to commute a long distance or adjust their schedules.
Charter Business is currently in the process of preparing a bid for the upcoming overhaul of the Wisconsin State Network. The overhaul of all the networks in the state, proposed by Gov. Doyle, will result in a single network that will connect all sites, schools, libraries, state agencies, the UW System and technical colleges together—much like BadgerNet connects the smaller regional DENs to the same network.
The regional networks will maintain their structure, but the potential for interconnectivity will increase. The new Wisconsin network will provide both video and Internet access to all of the connected sites. Many contest the wisdom in the policy of connecting all sites in Wisconsin, specifically the UW System.
The proposal by Doyle originally called for a single comprehensive network. However, he changed the proposal after apparently bowing to pressures from the UW System regarding its research needs. The proposal has recently been changed back once again to a single network with improved capacity for UW sites.
“We planned to be involved in the single network bid, we planned to?offer proposals to both the DOA and the UW under the separate network bid,” said Tim Vowell, of Charter Business, “And now we are back to the single network bid with some revisions in response to changes in the Request for Proposal that apparently are a?compromise between the entities re: required functionality.”
Charter Business will work in conjunction with AT&T as the Wisconsin One team in the bidding process.