Anchorage -- A new relationship between Alaska Communications and Iḷisaġvik Tribal College is advancing educational opportunities for the North Slope educational institution.
College representatives say the high-speed Internet services provided by Alaska Communications allow them to increase their course offerings and provide enhanced multimedia lesson plans. In turn, the college says, the technology infrastructure improvements drive increases in enrollment and allow them to improve the level of services offered to both students and staff.
The relationship is made possible through the Arctic Fiber project which significantly increases bandwidth opportunities in the Utqiagvik community, formerly known as Barrow, and drastically reduces consumer costs.
Prior to the contract, the rural college's Internet users faced a 600 millisecond delay before any data could transfer; now it's 20 milliseconds, similar to that of urban cities. Users can now download large files, watch videos and open multiple tabs at the same time -- all regular activities that previously were not possible in the rural area.
"This is allowing our faculty to use multimedia in their courses and access state-of-the-art learning content," said Ezra Lockhart, Iḷisaġvik Tribal College's director of Information Technology. "It feels like we've moved from standing in front of a chalkboard and teaching to students seated in the room to being able to serve students connected via live streams."
This summer, thanks to the improved infrastructure, the college hosted a tech camp for middle and high school students which they wouldn't have been able to do without high-speed Internet.
Lockhart said the online capabilities have expanded their distance education opportunities which has led to increases in enrollment from nearby villages, where people can sign up for online courses without having to leave their home villages and travel to Utqiagvik.
"The ability to put the Learning Management Software in the cloud essentially means students gain the capability to access quality courseware, which gives equal access to all students, on or off campus," he said.
Additionally, the cloud-based solution and the voice over IP data phone network generate substantial cost savings for the college.
"Alaska Communications is pleased to partner with Iḷisaġvik Tribal College to further educational opportunities in rural areas," said Bill Bishop, senior vice president, Customer and Revenue Management. "Our company places significant value on education, and helping the remote college improve connectivity to the rest of the world, whether rural or urban, is incredibly meaningful to our work."
Access to technical support and customer service provided by Alaska Communications helps the college focus on its mission to provide quality post-secondary opportunities for students, Lockhart said.
“Alaska Communications has demonstrated it can provide the level of service which is really important for us to deliver courses, address staff needs and continue running the college,” said Lockhart.
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