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South Carolina is testing a way to get lessons to students without internet access

Published: Jul. 31, 2020 at 8:49 AM EDT
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YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WIS) - Teachers in York School District 1 will have a new tool to get lessons to their students without internet access this fall.

“It’s not too often you’re some of the first in the nation to do something,” York 1 Pubic Information Officer Tim Cooper said.

The school district is taking part in a new pilot program with South Carolina Educational Television (SCETV) and others testing out the effectiveness of datacasting. South Carolina is the first state to try this out.

SCETV Vice President of Education Stephanie Frazier said they began looking into this after schools closed their doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s not a new technology by any means, but this is the first time it’s being used for educational reasons, according to Frazier.

“It is something that is used for public safety for at least a decade now,” Frazier said. “As it relates to education, it is a new concept.”

Frazier said anyone with an inexpensive antenna, receiver, and device like a computer, laptop, tablet, or cellphone can receive datacasts. No internet is required.

Datacasting uses SCETV’s signal. If you receive its their channel via an antenna, you can receive this content, officials said.

Teachers and ETV staff work together to create lessons in a format that can be transmitted via SCETV’s signals. Any type of file (JPG, PDF, mp4, etc.) can be transmitted.

The content is then encrypted and sent to SCETV’s network over a secured signal. That content is then sent to the student’s device for consumption.

According to SCETV, its signals cover 98% of South Carolina.

Cooper said this will be a big help in his school district, especially in the more rural areas where high-speed internet access is at a premium.

Datacasting allows students without internet access to receive lesson information from teachers that's broadcast as data over a TV signal.
Datacasting allows students without internet access to receive lesson information from teachers that's broadcast as data over a TV signal.(WRDW)

“The datacasting piece is really going to come in to play for those students who need to stay remote for health reasons but need to stay up to date on what’s going on in the classroom,” he said.

The content sent out can be personalized for each student if needed.

There are some limitations with datacasting. it only sends the information one way. There is no way for the student to send anything back. Dr. Frazier said the school districts participating in the pilot program will help come up with the best practices for students to return their work.

“Teachers could do conference calls with the student or students could take their completed work to the school,” Dr. Frazier said.

Cooper said any way to connect with these students without internet access is a big help. “These are students who live in isolated places that struggle to get a phone call, much less data on a phone,” he said.

According to officials, datacasting is not meant to be a permanent solution but rather a way to fill the gap until more families in South Carolina have high-speed internet access.

Frazier said if they have success, they hope to expand this statewide as soon as they can.

SCETV said they are currently having exploratory conversations with other school districts in the state for the pilot program, including Fairfield County School District.

To learn more about datacasting, click or tap here.

Copyright 2020 WRDW/WAGT. All rights reserved.

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