This article presents a snapshot of one state’s experience with connectivity from the early 1980s to the present and illustrates how distance learning has utilized that infrastructure to grow to serve more than 100,000 Ohioans. In early 1980s, most of Ohio’s telecommunications traffic traveled on dial-up connections. Ohio’s history of formidable statewide networking began in 1987, when Compuserve and OARnet (Ohio Academic Resources Network) were among few regional networks in existence. Through various mergers and acquisitions, Compuserve became Worldcom, AOL, MCI-Worldcom, and, finally, Verizon. OARnet became the Third Frontier Network (TFN) in 2004 and now is referred to as OSCnet and Broadband Ohio Network (BON). OARnet was created in 1987 by the Ohio Board of Regents to provide statewide connectivity to resources at the Ohio Supercomputer Center (OSC). In later years, the network extended support to the 89 member institutions of the Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK), and the 83 colleges and universities of the Ohio Learning Network (OLN), a consortium offering blended, online, and distance education. OLN provides faculty development, infrastructure support via Collaborative Learning Environments (CLE), and various student support services and grants.
Historical Understanding Of Distance Learning And Networking In Ohio
Broadly speaking, there have been three distinct network variations in the state – OSCnet, which caters to education, research and innovation; the State of Ohio’s Office of Information Technology network and many of its departmental components; and private sector networks developed by various telecommunications and cable operators. (Figure 1)
At OARnet’s 1987 inception, Ohio’s higher education network backbone consisted of fourteen 56Kbps circuits from various parts of the state connecting back into Columbus. Since 2000, exponential demands for the bandwidth with predictable time-of-provisioning and somewhat predictable cost became an important factor for growth in education and research. These demands drove OARnet to consider the substantial, long-term investment in a statewide, fiber-optic infrastructure that resulted in the November 2004 launch of the Third Frontier Network (now OSCnet). Today, the OSCnet backbone consists of 1,850 miles of optical fiber, with a current capacity of OC-48 (2.5Gbps). Upgrades are underway to increase the backbone capacity to OC-192 (10Gbps) over the next 24 months.
Ohio’s colleges and universities, K-12 schools, public broadcasting stations, and university hospitals and their partners are current OSCnet stakeholders. OSCnet provides commodity Internet service to its members, procuring these services at six different points of presence in the state from Tier-1 Internet service providers.
The Ohio Board of Regents created OLN in 1999 to build a catalog of distance education, provide faculty with tools and resources to teach at a distance, and to create efficiencies through shared services, including course management systems. By 2002, 67 degrees and certificates were listed in the OhioLearns! catalog, and, today, 211 degrees and certificates appear. Some of that growth was funded by grants from the Ohio Learning Network. Ohio is rich in number and diversity of colleges and universities with 14 state universities with a total of 25 regional campuses, 23 community and technical colleges and 60+ independent institutions. Within the context of its mission, each Ohio institution will continue to choose how, when, where and why to provide e-learning to a clientele increasingly hungry for new and different ways to enhance learning.
OLN has funded 175 Learning Communities of faculty, and staff and students exploring improvements in teaching and learning using various technologies, from hand-held devices to Second Life worlds to topics such as portfolios and the future of distance education.
OLN provides statewide collaborative licenses for CLEs and tutoring, thus saving member institutions thousands of dollars. OLN also supports a statewide Blackboard hosting service provided by the University of Cincinnati.
Key Terms in this Chapter
CLEs: Collaborative learning environments characterized by a technology tool, often called a course management system. CLEs differ from a course management system in that they involve the people and the technology working in collaboration
Learning Communities: Groups of colleagues that come together and commit to work collab0ratively. The Ohio Learning Network was funded communities since 2002. For details see http://wiki.lci.oln.org/page/LC+Defined
Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP): A protocol optimized for transmission of voice through the Internet or other packet switched networks. VoIP is often used abstractly to refer to the actual transmission of voice (rather than the protocol implementing it). VoIP is also known as IP Telephony, Internet telephony, Broadband telephony, Broadband Phone and Voice over Broadband. “VoIP” sometimes is pronounced voyp
Collective Intelligence: This definition has emerged from the writings of Peter Russell (1983), Tom Atlee (1993), Pierre Lévy (1994), Howard Bloom (1995), Francis Heylighen (1995), Douglas Engelbart, Cliff Joslyn, Ron Dembo, Gottfried Mayer-Kress (2003) and other theorists. Collective intelligence is referred to as Symbiotic intelligence by Norman L. Johnson
Cyberinfrastructure: A rapidly growing and expanding component of information technology focused on distributed computing, data, and communications technology. Hardware and software systems are being rapidly developed and implemented to build virtual research communities, along with the collaborative tools to knit these user communities together
Quality of Service (QoS): Refers to resource reservation control mechanisms. Quality of Service can provide different priorities to different users or data flows, or guarantee a certain level of performance to a data flow in accordance with requests from the application program or the internet service provider policy
TCP/IP: The Internet protocol suite is the set of communications protocols that implement the protocol stack on which the Internet and most commercial networks run. It has also been referred to as the TCP/IP protocol suite, which is named after two of the most important protocols in it: the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), which were also the first two networking protocols defined
E-Learning: In Ohio is any course content delivered away from the central campus and using technology for the delivery method. Courses in the OhioLearns catalog must be 70% or more at a distance.
ROI, Return on Investment: A calculation to determine the value of a project or program. Various methods are used to create an ROI form sophisticated modeling to simple arithmetic
Regional Optical Network (RON): A model of facility-based networking built with owned assets.
Local Area Network (LAN): A computer network covering a small geographic area, like a home, office, or group of buildings. The defining characteristics of LANs, in contrast to Wide Area Networks (WANs), include their much higher data transfer rates, smaller geographic range, and lack of a need for leased telecommunication lines