Eastland school technology director praises iFiber

Eric Haan, district technology director for Eastland CUSD 308, has coordinated the district’s participation in the iFiber network since the project began in 2011.
Eric Haan, district technology director for Eastland CUSD 308, has coordinated the district’s participation in the iFiber network since the project began in 2011.

Eric Haan believes in iFiber and the benefits made possible by the high-speed fiber broadband network, not just for his rural school district but for the entire northwest Illinois region.

“The truth is, for as many uses as I can name now for the iFiber network, there are so many more we haven’t even thought of that will become a reality because we have the connections,” said Haan, district technology director for Eastland CUSD 308.

Illinois Fiber Resources Group (iFiber) is a collaboration of representatives from NIU, LaSalle County, North Central Illinois Council of Governments, the City of Rockford, Boone County and Blackhawk Hills Regional Council.

Northern Illinois University –the fiscal agent – received a $68.5 million NTIA Broadband Technology Opportunity Program grant in September of 2010 to deploy an almost 900-mile network across the northwest Illinois region.

Various service offerings that schools can take advantage of over the iFiber 1 Gbps network cloud include Moodle sharing, video streaming, IlliniCloud and many others.

These services are made possible by Eastland School District’s participation in the iFiber network, Haan said:

  • Shared hosting services – Eastland CUSD currently hosts Moodle for five school districts at a cost of $800 per school, saving each district roughly $4k annually (some even more as the hosting fees are set by every 10 GB of storage). This does not have to be limited to Moodle, Haan said. Freeport is talking about hosting Renaissance Learning servers because school districts are now charged a couple of thousand dollars a year for hosting, he said.
  • VoIP – The FCC wants to cut funding for traditional phone service and only E-Rate VoIP.
  • Illinicloud – Disaster recovery, ISLE (if school districts don’t know what this is, Haan said they should as they will be using it soon), hosted platforms such as Learn360 and IL Open Educational Resources.
  • Domain Services – Haan said his district has talked with some smaller districts about hosting their DCs on a virtual server. Multiple districts could go together and purchase a virtual box and then have it hosted onsite at a district that has the resources to manage the server to provide cooling, rack space, power management and disaster recovery options.
  • Shared electronic library access – Eastland CUSD is entering a consortium with five other libraries to share its electronic collection. The collection will be available to library patrons at gigabit speeds (including audio and video).
  • Haan said there is no other option to get Internet bandwidth “at the speeds we are going to need in the very near future. People may think that a 50 Mb cable connection will suffice, but it will not handle 300 students streaming at the same time. I can tell you this is a reality in 1:1 districts, which is going to be everyone in the near future.”
  • Sharing virtual classes – Eastland CUSD has talked with Highland Community College about having its instructors teach classes to Eastland schools, in real time, using HD video and audio.
  • Security cameras – because Eastland CUSD had a 10 Gb connection between its buildings, Haan said as a result of the iFiber network, he only needed to put in one recorder instead of a recorder at each building. “At $10K a pop, this adds up quickly.”
  • Student Information Systems.
  • CMS – There are a large number of schools that use Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, etc. Most of them are running these on servers that are capable of running far more than a single site.

Haan also said he just finished installing APs at the Lanark Public Library.

“We have an E-Line connection from the school to the library allowing us to extend our school’s network to our students after hours and on the weekends,” Haan said.

“So not only is the library getting the benefit of the fiber connection and the ICN bandwidth, we have in essence extended our school’s campus. The students will get to use our Moodle server at gigabit speeds and use the school’s bandwidth rather than the library’s bandwidth.”

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