“Buffering”: When the Internet Got in the Way of Online Learning

This is a guest post by Jared Heath, Content Management and Strategy at School Improvement Network. School Improvement Network and Dell OEM have teamed up to provide HD professional development without compromising bandwidth. We are pleased to have this thought leader share this solution on our blog.



When teachers use School Improvement Network’s teacher effectiveness resources, student test scores have been shown to take as much as a 30% bump—that’s the difference of two full letter grades. But potentially millions of educators have not been able to access the tools they need because of one culprit:

Over-taxed bandwidth.

School Improvement Network’s Teacher Effectiveness System (TES) is the leading educator training module in the industry that successfully prepares all educators to get 100% of students college and career ready. But as more educators got online to get the training, evaluation systems, and data management systems in TES, they found that many schools didn’t possesses enough bandwidth to handle educators’ needs. That’s when School Improvement Network came to DellOEM.

The Magic Bullet

DellOEM and School Improvement Network have partnered to solve a long-standing problem facing teachers who depend on the Internet for training and teaching resources.

DellOEM has custom-built a 1u rack-mount appliance, a type of localized media storage device that houses all content in a networked location. This device, known by School Improvement Network clients simply as the “media appliance,” is a plug-and-play method for providing a smooth and seamless learning experience with high definition video content and immediate access to other resources.

How It Works

The media appliance, built by DellOEM, gives schools the benefit of incredibly fast streaming without having to increase their bandwidth. Most schools in the United States would never be able to expand their bandwidth to provide the same benefit as the media appliance will at only $2,000, and schools in remote areas like Hawaii, Alaska, and some Midwestern states have no reliable way to increase their bandwidth at all. The media appliance delivers personalized professional development without filling up bandwidth or compromising internet speeds.

“The media appliance provides a local cache of all ‘streamable’ content from School Improvement Network,” says Mike Kindt, director of IT at the company. “Rather than increasing the bandwidth pipeline—an endeavor that costs several thousand dollars for the streaming capacity teachers need—the media appliance bypasses the Internet altogether by providing a local cache of the teacher learning content.”

When schools receive the appliance—a silver box roughly 36 inches in width, 24 inches in length, and only two inches thick—the technical staff simply hooks it into the firewall, gives School Improvement Network the IP address, and then they leave it alone. The appliance connects to the Internet at the lowest usage times on the network to update all of its content without compromising connectivity, bandwidth, or usability.

According to Cory Linton, VP of business development at School Improvement Network, the media appliance is the simplest, most reliable method for giving teachers the training that they need. “Teachers desperately need effective, quality training,” he says, “so we had to find out how to deliver quality video content without the obstacle of internet bandwidth. This solution goes beyond even what I hoped we could do.”

Counting the Cost

The media appliance is available to all schools that use School Improvement Network’s resources. Only $2,000 provides a school with year-round 24-hour service and complete technical support—including any necessary hardware repairs.

When asked about the low cost, School Improvement Network’s chief financial officer (CFO), Chris Nielsen, responded, “Our goal is to help teachers everywhere become more effective. We are using [the media appliance] to eliminate barriers, and we don’t want price to be an obstacle for any school.”

The media appliance is available for only $1,995 and will be available for order on July 1, 2012, from School Improvement Network. For more information about School Improvement Network and the Teacher Effectiveness System, visit www.schoolimprovement.com.

Jared Heath

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  1. Leave it to marketing spin to make a simple proxy server sound like magic.

    By: Nathan Schmidt on July 16th, 2012 at 9:38 pm
  2. Nathan,

    That’s very kind of you! I’ve been told I’m good, but “magic”…that goes above and beyond.

    To a lot of educators, this stuff may not be magic, but it means a lot more than just stored content to any school.Isn’t it pathetic how much we expect out of our schools when we put so little into them? When a school barely has as much bandwidth as you get in your own home (I have 26 mbps in my little two-bedroom apartment, which far outstrips many a classroom out there), they can’t give their teachers what they need. And if teachers aren’t getting what they need, then they can’t give their students what their students need, either (proven fact).

    Besides, the proxy server is not something that other people are providing schools. It’s one small proxy server for the world, but it’s a giant leap for education. School Improvement Network is finally pulling them out of the 19th century.

    But once again, thanks. “Magic.” Wow. I’ll have to add that to my resume.

    By: Jared on July 23rd, 2012 at 11:48 am

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