Rural schools in Ireland have installed LifeSize video conferencing to overcome the traditional problems of small school sizes, limited teacher capacity and a lack of resources.
Two new initiatives: ‘Beyond the Walls’ and ‘Beyond the Seas,’ have been introduced in every school in the county, by Offaly Vocational Educational Committee. With teaching being done via real-time video conferencing (Beyond the Walls), specialist teachers from one school can broadcast to five others in the region.
Minority subjects are now economically viable and students can still ask questions and interact. A recording feature has also been set up to ensure students can catch-up on missed lessons.
Students with an interest in physics or computing at university can now obtain an applied mathematics qualification, which is vital in order to access higher entry points for university.
The second initiative, ‘Beyond the Seas,’ connects local schools with partner locations in Georgia, USA, making cultural and scientific exchanges, which stimulate and inspire students.
As a result of using LifeSize video conferencing, students are now studying specialist subjects and languages regularly and have continuous face-to-face interaction with their sister school, WareCounty High School in Georgia.
The Irish Government’s National Broadband Scheme enabled Offaly VEC to begin these projects as they were the first recipients of high-speed Internet connections.
More projects are in the pipeline, including children designing telepresence robots that the other classes can operate remotely.