UNH CIS Signals

Granite State Distance Learning Network: Making Affordable Education Possible

Marty England

April, 2009

The Granite State Distance Learning Network (GSDLN) is an interactive videoconferencing network spanning across New Hampshire and beyond. According to their website, GSDLN’s goal is to “deliver distance learning, professional development, community-based video conferencing, and high speed internet access” throughout New Hampshire. Scot Henley, Executive Director of Mount Washington Observatory said the following regarding his decision to join GSDLN in 2008: “We have been working long and hard on developing a new distance learning program for the Observatory and their support and expertise has helped us navigate through challenge after challenge. Now, with GSDLN’s technological infrastructure, we are able to connect schools across New Hampshire, and beyond, to the summit of
Mount Washington.”

At a time when budgets are tight, GSDLN saves its members and participants travel expenses and time while providing many educational opportunities. UNH IT Security Director Petr Brym is currently using
GSDLN to interact with other institutions, and calculated the following savings figures:

  • Eleven meetings from December 2008 until now for six employees (2 at KSC, 1 at PSU, 1 at GSC and 2 in Durham), saving two hours of travel for five staff = 11 x 5 x 2 = 110 hours of productivity saved.

  • Travel cost for transportation saved for round trip distance from PSU to Concord, KSC to Concord and UNH-Durham to Concord = 11 x (52 + 43 + 35) = 2,860 miles at $0.55 per mile or $ 1,573.

  • Fuel savings (assuming an average fuel consumption of 23 miles per gallon): 125 gallons of fuel saved.

Signals recently sat down with GSDLN Director of Programs and Services George Fryberg to discuss the increasing demand for video conferencing technology, and also its benefits.


Signals: What are the benefits and advantages to being part of the GSDLN network?

Fryberg: In general the overall key is access to classes and educational resources located throughout the state, region, nation and world via the GSDLN video bridge located at UNH. This allows members to participate in multipoint interactive videoconferences with our nearly 40 members as well as others from around the world with an exceptional Quality of Service (QOS) afforded via the association with and support of UNH Telecom team members.

The benefits of the GSDLN consortium model mean that K-12 schools, post-secondary institutions, libraries, other local/regional public entities, hospitals, and non-profit businesses will have access to affordable, advanced telecommunications resources enabling them to connect to a wide variety of distance learning events.


Signals: What services do you provide?

Fryberg: We can assist organizations in developing and implementing affordable, high-speed telecommunications, video conferencing and distance education programs throughout New Hampshire and the world. Key benefits include web based scheduling of videoconferences from the GSDLN web site, program management, technical and training support, and exceptional QOS of the network.

 

Signals: What content can be shared using this technology? What are some examples of events have you hosted?

Fryberg: There is an abundance of content types that can be supported via videoconferencing from standard meeting and classroom formats. For example, our members have offered Advanced Placement (AP) Math courses from one high school in the state to students at different high schools who didn’t have access to such courses. We have also delivered events to the schools for students from such venues as showing an open heart surgery or visiting the Titanic with Bob Ballard from the middle of the
Atlantic. A recent event brought survivors of Pearl Harbor from the Arizona Memorial in Hawaii to visit with students in Lin-Wood High School (Lincoln, NH). One of our biggest efforts occurs in March with our Read Across NH program has schools sharing reading programs via videoconferencing across NH.

 

Signals: How does this technology help lessen financial burdens on its members?

Fryberg: The initial costs of an Interactive Video Bridge and ongoing software maintenance and tech support can be extensive, but the consortium model allows these to be spread over a larger base making
it more affordable for our members, especially those who might use it intermittently. Our members realize a variety of savings by utilizing interactive videoconferencing in the areas of travel costs and time
as well as spreading the content event costs over several sites versus one location.

 

Signals: Can non-members of GSDLN access this technology?

Fryberg: We have had many non-members join us for our content offerings from around the state and even as far away as Pascagoula, MS for an Autism Program we did with the UNH Institute on Disability (IOD). Connection fees are available on our website (see below). We also offer program management services on a project basis, such as one with NH Fish and Game and their Hunter’s training program given at 7-8 sites around the state this past February.

 

Signals: What does the future hold for GSDLN?

Fryberg: GSDLN is hoping to expand this fast growing technology and our capabilities to assist our members, schools, UNH, NH state agencies, and non-profits to help in efficiency improvements and Green efforts around NH. We are working with NHPTV to expand their teacher professional development efforts this spring. We continue to look for ways to help UNH Departments with outreach efforts. We have successfully piloted several programs with the UNH IOD as well as the UNH Center for High Rate Nanomanufacturing, where Professor Glenn Miller has excited hundreds of middle school students from around NH about science via his interactive videoconferences from the UNH Distance Learning Classroom in the MUB.

Please visit gsdln.org for more information, including a list of upcoming events, membership opportunities, and more.