Bacone College and OneNet have a shared mission. Bacone College is a historically Native American serving college, with five Oklahoma Tribes chartering the college. Part of OneNet’s mission is also to serve Oklahoma’s tribal communities. This shared mission has led to a relationship that has lasted over 20 years.
Located in Muskogee, Bacone College’s origins date back 140 years. Founded in 1880, the college began classes in “Indian Territory” before Oklahoma was a state. Today, they work with five tribes, including the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma, Osage Nation, Otoe-Missouria Tribe, Kiowa Tribe, and Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes.
The college is proud of the diverse background of its students. The student body includes men and women from tribal, Hispanic, African-American and Anglo backgrounds. While they have a Christian heritage, they welcome all students. An important goal currently for the college is to transition from a private college to a public tribal college. Another goal is to meet their students needs, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“Bacone College is home for our students, so we do our best to provide for all of their needs,” said Wendy Burton, director of college relations and technology. “Many come from families with few resources, no internet or computer in the home, and little knowledge of learning software when they arrive.”
Like most higher education institutions, Bacone College’s faculty and staff have faced a number of challenges during the pandemic. Their biggest challenge in terms of technology has been getting all students online and learning as soon as possible and ensuring students have proficient skills to keep up with their courses.
“Because of COVID-19 and the change in our learning modalities, many students came to campus unprepared, with many attempting to write thesis papers on a cell phone,” said Burton. “We have implemented a laptop borrowing program for students that is going well.”
The college’s open-door policy for technical assistance of any kind has been helpful as well. “We’ve gotten to know most of the student body this way, which is a pleasure for us to be of assistance to our Bacone family,” said Burton.
Another more positive challenge is that enrollment is up this fall by 21%, despite COVID-19. The college decided to offer both hybrid and online courses for the semester. This required a lot of work to prepare to provide all courses online to students. They installed Meeting Owls and televisions, purchased new software, trained faculty and staff, and deployed a major overhaul to their learning management system.
With all of the updates and training, one thing the college didn’t have to worry about is connectivity, thanks to OneNet.
“OneNet’s high-speed connectivity is crucial for our school. Because of COVID-19, we have hybrid courses that are live-streaming each class. With 17 faculty members and about 10 adjuncts live-streaming a course at any given time, the speed is critical,” said Burton. “In addition, instructors upload and post saved video lectures daily. OneNet has been steady and reliable for us to get through this major increase in usage.”
Bacone College has been a OneNet customer since 1997, starting with a T1 circuit. The school upgraded twice over the years and now has a 250Mbps circuit. Bacone also utilizes OneNet’s virtual infrastructure to host their website.
The college’s technology department works with several online vendors to provide database services that the school does not have the resources to own and operate on its own. According to Chris Ehlers, the director of information technology, OneNet’s connectivity makes it seem like those remote servers are in the school’s facility, but without the maintenance and upkeep.
The school also plans to utilize its OneNet service to expand connectivity on campus.
“Our OneNet connection allows us to live-stream our campus activities, classes and library Wi-Fi,” said Ehlers. “In the near future, we plan on extending our Wi-Fi to areas outside our buildings to allow use in our campus quadrangle and in parking lots and other common outside areas.”
While connectivity is vital during the pandemic and year-round, customer support is just as important to Burton and Ehlers, especially in times of crisis.
“OneNet staff have always been friendly, courteous and helpful, even when we are having a crisis,” said Burton. “We had to make a major repair to our learning management system early in the semester, and Bradley (Sanders) responded and assisted immediately with no delay. His expertise has been invaluable.”
For Ehlers, OneNet’s 24/7 availability is critical.
“They are an excellent resource for us and are always available 24/7,” said Ehlers. “Unfortunately, things that ‘go bump in the night’ often do happen at night or on weekends, and we are always able to contact someone at OneNet to help with problem resolution regardless of the time of day.”
As part of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, serving higher education institutions has always been a part of OneNet’s mission. However, the OneNet team is particularly appreciative of the opportunity to serve private or minority colleges, such as Bacone College.
“At OneNet, we are here to advance the missions of the institutions we serve. By educating our state’s Native American students, Bacone College is creating opportunities for success for our tribal citizens,” said Vonley Royal, executive director for OneNet and higher education chief information officer. “We are proud to be a part of that mission and provide the connectivity Bacone College needs to achieve its goals.”
In the age of COVID-19, connectivity and educational opportunities should be available to every student. Bacone College aims to help students transform their world, with the knowledge, skill and abilities to be successful leaders. OneNet is helping Bacone College make that possible on their campus.
“OneNet is our link to the outside world through the World Wide Web,” said Ehlers. “It is a rock-solid, stable connection with robust services.”