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Rural Schools Given New Life With Faster Internet Connection

Students at Butner Public Schools have new educational opportunities thanks to affordable high-speed Internet

Thanks to virtual testing and digital learning, schools need more bandwidth than ever before, and meeting those needs can be a challenge, especially in rural communities. To address this challenge, OneNet is working with schools and telecommunication providers across the state to find solutions to meet the growing bandwidth needs of Oklahoma’s students.

One school that has benefited from this effort is Butner Public Schools in Cromwell. A bandwidth upgrade through OneNet has enabled the school to offer new educational opportunities to its students. Butner’s high-speed connection allows them to utilize nearly $1 million worth of technology, including iPads, smartboards and an arsenal of e-learning courseware.

A few years ago, the rural school had almost nothing—not even an address—then, in 2012, they received a school improvement grant from the Oklahoma State Department of Education. The grant allowed them to purchase new educational technology. Butner Principal Melissa Allensworth-Baughman said the school’s connection was too slow at the time to handle streaming a single YouTube video, let alone online learning with more than 240 iPads.

“Santa Claus gave us this great gift that we couldn’t play with at all,” Allensworth-Baughman said.

Butner lacked the bandwidth needed to support the new technology, as well as the minimum bandwidth recommended by the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students by the 2014-15 school year. SETDA says that access to reliable broadband is vital to modern education, and by 2017-18 the minimum requirement will be 1 Gbps per 1,000 students.

All of that changed for Butner thanks to its new 50 Mbps connection through OneNet, which brought them closer to the SETDA recommendations for its 250 students. The new connection enables the school to utilize the new learning technology at a lower cost than it was paying for its previous 4.5 Mbps connection. The school now boasts online classes ranging from engineering to Latin.

“By partnering with local telecommunication providers across the state, OneNet is able to secure more affordable Internet options for schools in Oklahoma’s rural communities,” OneNet Executive Director Vonley Royal said. OneNet partnered with AT&T for Butner’s upgraded connection—a partnership that brought Butner students into the digital learning age.

Some people might remain skeptical about technology in the classroom, but Butner staffers will quickly vouch for their gear.

“We had an English 4 student who could hardly read, let alone pass the class,” Allensworth-Baughman said. “He took a more basic version of the course online, which read the text aloud; he ended up passing the class with a B.”

Beyond English, the impact of these courses has been felt in every area of the school’s curriculum. An entire class raised its math IQ a whole grade level in six weeks with the math-learning app Sushi Monster, according to Allensworth-Baughman.

“The new connection gives our students the same learning opportunities as students from Oklahoma’s metro areas,” Butner Superintendent Bobbette Hamilton said.

Having high-speed bandwidth on tap is a precious resource for schools like Butner and will continue to be vital as educational bandwidth needs continue to grow.

“OneNet is dedicated to delivering high-speed Internet options to Oklahoma’s rural communities,” Royal said. “We will continue to seek partnerships and new avenues for providing the bandwidth our state’s students need to fully take advantage of today’s digital learning opportunities.”

OneNet is a division of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. OneNet’s mission is to advance technology across Oklahoma. OneNet enhances economic growth by meeting the mission-critical needs of our state’s education, research, health care and public service communities. For more information, contact OneNet at 405-225-9444 or visit www.onenet.net.

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Media Contact: April Goode
(405) 225-9251 • april@onenet.net

2 Comments

  1. Wallace on April 17, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    I came accross this article accidently and found out this is actually right thing to do.
    As of today years of 2018, there’s is still a lot of schools in rural facing the same issues.
    Great efforts from OneNet to provide more affordable Internet options for schools in Oklahoma’s rural communities.

    • April Goode on April 23, 2018 at 9:53 am

      Wallace, thanks for your comment. Yes, there is still a lot to do to support our rural schools!

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