U S West and Utah Education Network Bring the Internet and Video-based Education to Utah Students

The Utah Education Network (UEN), a publicly funded education service, faces the challenge of educating Utah's growing student population using advanced communications networks that connect schools, information and all students.

In meeting this challenge, UEN provides access to educational resources inherent in this new age of information technology. As a consortium of public and higher education, state government, business and industry, UEN serves the online educational needs of 475,000 Utah students, connecting a network of 797 public education, nine higher education and four applied technology center sites from Logan to St. George.

Access to technology-rich education programs and online resources requires a commitment to the future of education along with a history of proven technological know-how. UEN's five-year partnership with U S WEST has taken hundreds of thousands of Utah public and higher education students from all corners of the state to an educational center stage. From K-12 education programs like UtahLINK, to Utah's Electronic High School, to the video-based education services of EDNET, U S WEST has made possible the connectivity solution that is taking rural and suburban students into the 21st Century.

In 1994, U S WEST formed an "anchor tenant" partnership with the state of Utah to construct a fiber-optic-based wide area network (WAN) that would support the online distance and rural education services of UEN. This network would provide every student in Utah, regardless of their location, the advanced technology to access the highest level of education opportunities through the Internet, the World Wide Web and point-to-multi-point videoconferencing.

Fully Interactive Learning

With over 200 videoconferencing locations in Utah, EDNET stands as the state's largest public or private videoconferencing system, with thousands of students at Utah high schools, technology centers, colleges and universities.

From its inception in 1983, EDNET grew to over 17,000 public and higher education enrollments for the school year ending in June of 1998. EDNET has experienced steady growth for the past decade to where it now holds over 100 daily videoconferencing events. Using U S WEST Videoconferencing solutions and its fiber-based telecommunications infrastructure, these 200 public education sites offer Utah high school students the core school curriculum. Additionally, EDNET offers selected college or university courses and provides a cost-effective vehicle to administrators and teachers for inservice training, staff meetings or teacher recertification.

Through U S WEST and its statewide network, UEN can provide a tremendous cost savings at every public education site as well as additional benefits to students and teachers such as the following:

  • Parental access to student records and a more convenient way to communicate to teachers and administrators
  • Free Internet connectivity to individual public schools with assigned e-mail addresses for districts
  • Access to Utah's Electronic High School for rural and remote students
  • Access to training modules and inservice training for teacher recertfication and continuing education
  • Online access to sample lesson plans for teachers and administrators
  • Free online access to over 2,000 journals and publications
  • Free online access to all newspaper articles from The Salt Lake Tribune dating back to 1990, and Deseret News dating back to 1988

Utah ElectronicHigh School:

A charge issued in 1993 to the Utah public education community by Utah Gov. Michael O. Leavitt stated that every high school course would be available online by 1996. As a division of the Utah State Office of Education, the Utah Electronic High School has accomplished that and more, with the latest figures showing that over 21,000 high school credits have been taken, reflecting an enrollment of 16,000 high school students taking courses online.

Through U S WEST and its statewide telecommunications infrastructure, the Utah Electronic High School serves four basic needs of high school students.

  1. Early graduation for students completing coursework online.
  2. Rural and remote students receive the opportunity of taking courses not normally available.
  3. Access to coursework for home school students.
  4. Opportunity for students who have failed certain courses to take them online, thus not jeopardizing their chances for timely graduation.

Multiple Benefits

The benefits of a statewide education network encompassing the telecommunications delivery services of U S WEST are vast. The value of early graduation and training, continuing education for teachers and students, as well as access to Internet technology for every public student can mean different things to different students and teachers. "This network helps teachers better prepare students for a successful future," says Ted Smith, vice president of Utah for U S WEST. "I see more expansion in the use of technology in our schools. At the classroom level, technology will become more of a tool in curriculum development."

Additionally, the advanced fiber-optic network backbone of U S WEST lays the foundation for cutting-edge telemedicine applications, convenient continuing education for professionals, and a range of private-sector business uses. The U S WEST partnership with UEN has extended beyond the normal activities of building and maintaining the state's education network. Additionally, at UEN's request, U S WEST brokers for UEN the ongoing telecommunications interconnection activities of 11 other Utah phone companies, thus making these educational services available to even the most rural and remote of Utah students.

Utah Education Network
Salt Lake City, UT
(800) 866-5852

Denver, CO
(800) USW-HELP

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.