HomeTechnologyGeoverse Brings Interactive Learning Experience to School Districts Across the U.S.

Geoverse Brings Interactive Learning Experience to School Districts Across the U.S.

Interesting times. So many companies have had to adjust and adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it’s how they operate, what they sell or where they work.

Count Geoverse among those companies.

The Bellevue, WA-based company, which designs, deploys and operates private cellular networks for commercial real estate owners and enterprises, is now doing the same for school districts across the United States as virtual learning has become the new normal amid this pandemic.

“With the start of the new school year, we now have several contracts signed and it’s become a (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) center of focus,” Geoverse Vice President of Partners and Business Development James Jacobellis said. “Not only for us—this has become a big push for our industry to help those communities that are underserved remain connected and not left behind.”

Leading solution providers are shifting their focus because to support the schools, so many school districts want to provide their students with an interactive Internet experience to enable a “symmetric learning model.” Last spring when schools shifted to virtual learning on the fly, it was a one-way conversation or “asymmetric learning mode.” Teachers were talking to their students through video, but most students couldn’t interact in real time. Bandwidth restrictions and dated networks prevented an effective two-way teaching environment. Some schools provided data plans, but interactive sessions often maxed those plans out fast and the costs quickly accumulated.

The approach by Geoverse is to leverage the enhanced capabilities of CBRS to give school districts and the surrounding community a higher performance wireless network to provide that interactive twoway symmetric learning experience for students, so it more closely emulates the classroom. Geoverse is in somewhat of a unique position because as an established mobile operator it already had carrier grade core infrastructure deployed in multiple cities across the country. It could quickly and easily tap into that national footprint to rollout these networks and also include their own SIM cards for any of the CBRS enabled end points used by students and teachers. In this setup, all the enabled end points can securely connect to the private school network and there is also granular control over what websites and resources students and teachers have access to. As part of a turnkey bundle, Geoverse can also provide schools with Mi-Fi devices.

“We happen to be well positioned because we built out these network cores across the US,” Jacobellis said. “If you talked to us a couple years ago, we would have said we were going to support commercial real estate rollouts by putting these cores all around the country,” Jacobellis said. “So here comes (Kindergarten through 12th grade) and through these shared cores we can create a dedicated private network with the performance and security to meet all of the filtering and content restriction requirements. We were ready for this—that’s one of the reasons we’re having success. We made it easy, quick and affordable.”

School districts also don’t have to worry about putting a lot of equipment in their IT closets or manage any systems with Geoverse’s solutions.

“Schools want and need to provide this high-speed Internet experience for effective and engaging learning, but they don’t want to be responsible for installing and maintaining extensive amounts of supporting infrastructure,” Jacobellis said. “They just want to give students something that’s ready to simply power up and connect.”

Google Chromebooks are one thing schools have been giving students to use for virtual learning. Funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act have helped school districts fund for these CBRS connectivity ecosystems.

“There are multiple government programs and funds available to help get these school districts connected understanding the critical need to make remote learning effective on a broad scale,” Jacobellis said. “The CARES Act money needs to be spent before the end of the school year.’ We, like others are working with them to build a plan to rollout these networks to the benefit of their community.”

What’s interesting is that many school districts had already been thinking about or even planning for deploying private networks to enhance their connectivity before the pandemic hit. They didn’t envision putting anything in motion for at least another couple of years, however. The timeline quickly moved from “Two to three years down the road” to “today” because of COVID, and fortunately there were a lot of network assets like dark fiber in place in a number of cities to make the quick turnaround a reality.

“As we got into the details, we were pleasantly surprised to learn about how much dark fiber was already deployed and routed by light poles and buildings across many of these cities and communities,” Jacobellis said. “It’s surprising how much dark fiber has been installed over the years that was not being used, but now it can. All of that has led to what we’re talking about today. And with this rollout for the schools, it offers an economical foundation for many of these communities to launch smart city initiatives later; it really demonstrates what can be done today and primes the community for introducing new use cases and applications down the road. In the end, this exercise can result in a major long-term benefit for these local communities.”-

Geoverse’s efforts couldn’t have come at a better time because there are school districts all over the country that need better connectivity to make the interactive Internet learning experience possible. There are some assumed areas that need the enhancement—like rural parts of the U.S. that don’t usually have good broadband connections. There are other regions one might think would need help however, like the Roaring Fork School District in Colorado that Geoverse is working with. The district comprises 13 schools and more than 5,600 kindergarten through 12th grade students across three towns around the Aspen Valley.

“I think this is something that was going to have to be done eventually because there’s so much learning and interaction that has to happen outside the classroom and not everybody has a solid broadband connection. This just accelerated the deployment of these networks.”

“You might think, ‘Aspen Valley? A highly affluent community probably has this type of infrastructure already,’” Jacobellis said. “But it’s the surrounding communities for people that work to support the town. Some may not have any broadband connection whatsoever, even if they were willing to spend for it. When COVID-19 hit and everyone was forced into a virtual learning environment, they had to quickly scramble to change this.”

“I think this is something that was going to have to be done eventually because there’s so much learning and interaction that has to happen outside the classroom and not everybody has a solid broadband connection. This just accelerated the deployment of these networks.”

As school districts lean on CBRS to deliver or enhance virtual learning, it is likely that other sectors will see the success school districts and communities are having and embrace it, too. CRE buildings will begin to reoccupy at some point, and anyone working with a student doing virtual learning will have had a front row seat to CBRS’s high performance capabilities when it comes to connectivity. It is reasonable to expect parents will want similar connectivity when they return to their office.

“CBRS is increasingly a lifeline for schools and local communities,” Geoverse Marketing Director Tony Eigen said. “It’s a real-world solution that’s extremely cost effective and works, that’s why it’s being deployed today.”

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