There is plenty of attention today regarding Internet connectivity in schools and education as a whole. But with the Common Core State Standards initiative pushing schools in 46 states and the District of Columbia to use more digital resources, it’s possible that the demand for bandwidth could exceed more than many first thought.
The Common Core State Standards initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare children for college and the workforce.
Washington-based Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) reported this summer that educators are continuing to express a high desire for more robust, on-campus Internet connections. Recent data in North Carolina points out that the need for broadband in North Carolina schools grows annually between 20 and 40 percent.
According to MCNC, who currently provides broadband connectivity and services to all 115 public school districts and 36 charter schools on the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN), North Carolina schools use seven times the bandwidth than they did just three years ago. And, every community college in the state doubled their Internet traffic last year while higher education campuses on NCREN use about five times the bandwidth today than three years ago.
Common Core will push schools to administer “next generation” assessments almost exclusively online – with an accompanying commitment to use more digital resources. Companies who provide online services in education such as Udacity, MITx, Coursera, and 2TOR already are seeing a boost in business as more schools look for online options.
By the 2014-15 school year, schools must have at least 100 Mbps connectivity to the external Internet for every 1,000 students and/or staff members, and 1 gigabit per second of connectivity for data transactions within a school or district network. That level of connectivity will be necessary to allow students and faculty to use Web technologies such as video streaming, webinars, online courses, and formative and summative online assessments, according to the SIIA report.
That 2014-15 year is the same year Common Core and their new assessments are to be fully implemented.
By the 2017-18 school year, those recommendations call for expanding to 1 gigabit per 1,000 students and/or staff members for an external connection, and 10 gigabits for internal network connections for the same number of people, in anticipation of future technologies not yet conceived.
However, for some schools and districts, particularly rural ones, getting enough connectivity will be a challenge.
The middle-mile connections will be critical to expanding the basic architecture of the Internet to schools and school districts. If the capacity for data transmission is too low in this area, speed will suffer. In the case of many rural schools, it’s these middle-mile connections from hubs to the national Internet backbone that are inferior across the country.
Networking experts also expect to see an increase in competition as well as volume for those applying for E-Rate funding, the $2.3 billion annual federal program that helps subsidize Internet-related purchases for schools and libraries. Many believe these funding requests would increase even without Common Core, as digital resources continue their transition into the educational mainstream, but predict Common Core adoption will heighten the competition.
With the rise of Common Core and Web-based learning, particularly the use of online video and audio, schools are increasingly reliant on the quality and speed of their Internet connection. And, it appears that the bandwidth and capacity these community anchor institutions require today will continue to rise in North Carolina and nationwide.