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IPBS, Jennings County School Corp. Expand Access To Remote Learning Through Datacasting

Learning from home

Jennings County School Corporation (JCSC) and Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations, Inc. (IPBS) have entered into a partnership that will provide datacasting technology to roughly 1,200 students in Jennings County who have little or no access to reliable broadband. Datacasting overcomes the unmet need for internet access by sending computer-based files over a television broadcast signal.

IPBS member-station WTIU in Bloomington and SpectraRep, a leading provider of datacasting solutions, will carry out the implementation.  Funding for the project was made possible by a $1.38 million grant awarded through Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s emergency education relief program (GEER Fund) to JCSC and IPBS. The GEER Fund was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) for the purpose of developing and improving the availability of distance/remote learning techniques and technologies.

Jennings County is a predominantly rural county located in southeastern Indiana. Datacasting has the potential to change the remote learning landscape for children and educators in rural, low-income, and internet desert communities because of its ability to transmit the same instructional content and educational resources that would normally require an internet connection.

“We are delighted to be among the first school districts in the nation to use educational datacasting,” said JCSC Superintendent, Teresa Brown. “When the pandemic hit, we knew we needed a sustainable cost-effective solution to enable remote learning in the areas of our county where internet connections are challenging, and datacasting was the answer.”

The GEER grant provides for equipment that will enable WTIU to stand up datacasting at their station and simple receivers and antennas for households that will pick up the signal and relay it to inexpensive Chromebooks and tablets over Wi-Fi.

“The datacasting implementation in Jennings County will serve as a proof-of-concept that can be replicated in counties and school districts across Indiana,” according to Mark Newman, IPBS Executive Director. “It can be a game-changing technology for areas of the state where broadband is limited or unavailable.”

The datacasting initiative will be ramped up over the next two months. It is expected to be available for household use in early November.