Students throughout the province, even those living in the most isolated areas, now have access to high-speed Internet in the classroom to support their learning and development as the Next Generation Network (NGN) nears completion.
Over the past three years, more than 1,600 public schools in all of British Columbia’s 60 school districts have been successfully transitioned to the NGN. In some districts Internet speeds are up to 10 times faster than before, making it easier for teachers to bring online learning tools to the classroom so students can follow their passions and embrace B.C.’s new curriculum.
For example, students in the Central Okanagan School District are now interacting with astronauts on the International Space Station through Skype. Grade 2 students at Black Mountain Elementary in this same district are expanding their learning experiences and thinking outside of their classroom by Skyping with students in Houston, Texas in a new program called Reading around the World.
Teachers have reported that the NGN has reduced lesson preparation time and improved access to online resources. For example, the high-speed Internet has improved the performance of e-Exam, an online tool that makes it easier for teachers to mark and administer provincial exams. Teachers and students can now use YouTube, apps, Microsoft document sharing platforms and a wide variety of interactive tools to share ideas and get real-time information. Before NGN, Internet access was often slow and connections weren’t reliable.
The improved bandwidth from NGN has unlocked new learning opportunities for students in the remote Gold Trail School District. Through the Elementary Connected Classrooms project, students are now able to use an innovative app called BlueJeans that lets them see, hear and talk with each other in real time. Students within the district recently collaborated to design an automated Mars rover that can pick up objects. After weeks of designing the prototype the students met in Lillooet to build their rovers together.
There are just three school sites left to be connected to the NGN: Oweekeno Elementary school on the Central Coast, Upper Halfway Elementary and Junior Secondary school in the Peace River North, and Surge Narrows Elementary school near Campbell River. They are expected to be connected by this summer.
The NGN has upgraded schools in both remote and urban areas and provides enhanced network security services. This project was a massive undertaking that required crews to navigate through diverse landscapes, including helicopters transporting crews to mountain tops to connect Internet services to radio towers. Crews also travelled to some of B.C.’s most remote locations, such as Kyuquot Sound on Northern Vancouver Island by boat and laid fibre cables under shallow bridges to connect Internet services for schools.
The Province was able to complete the NGN upgrades through strong partnerships with local governments and service providers including TELUS and IBM Canada. The total cost to build, operate and transition to the NGN was $131 million. The Province invested $91.7 million and school districts provided $39.3 million from their operating grant funding.
Mike Bernier, Minister of Education –
“The completion of this project is great news for students and teachers, especially those living in remote areas. The project ensures that all schools are plugged into a fast, efficient and secure network to connect to the technology and services they need to fully support their unique needs. Students and teachers will now have the resources they need at their fingertips so they can engage in B.C.’s new curriculum as they explore their passions.”
Amrik Virk, Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services –
“As part of our #BCTECH Strategy, this new network aligns perfectly with our provincewide goal to see every British Columbian with access to high-speed Internet. Investing in the province’s connectivity infrastructure is essential for online learning, health-care services, economic development and job training opportunities – and is one of the key ways the B.C. government is strengthening rural communities.”
Tim Draper, vice-president, Business Solutions West, TELUS –
“The Next Generation Network is creating a foundation to improve the delivery of education in British Columbia and, in turn, improving learning outcomes for the students of the province. TELUS is committed to making our home province of B.C. one of the most connected places in the world, and is excited to see the youth of B.C. benefiting from this investment. Ensuring our students and future leaders have access to the information they need to uncover a wealth of learning opportunities will undoubtedly contribute to the future economic success and health of our children, communities and province as a whole.”
Mike East, Canada's national K-12 education manager, IBM –
"IBM has a proven history of working with school districts to advance innovation for educators and students. We are proud to work alongside the Ministry of Education in the delivery of this networking project across British Columbia. Its success will ensure the reliability and confidence our schools need to support BC students' learning and development."
- The NGN was created to replace the Provincial Learning Network (PLNET).
- Before NGN started, more than 20% of schools had less broadband Internet service than the average household.
TELUS and Ministry of Education video collaboration: https://youtu.be/p97coLkiTYg