Since the One Room University (ORU) pilot program began in 2011, enrollment has increased every semester except one.
At ORU, local students take college courses from New River Community and Technical College (NRC-TC), using Interactive Video Networking (IVN), a broadband-intensive application. This spring, when enrollment surpassed 30 students, the school outgrew the available broadband in downtown Marlinton.
“In the Spring of 2014, we had so many students – and that’s a good thing – but it’s a growing pain,” said ORU Administrator Elaine Diller. “The number of students increased and it bottle-necked our system, so that you couldn’t get good video. It caused distortions and delays, just like you get at home when everybody boots up at four or five o’clock. It’s because we didn’t have the speed we need.”
NRCTC Vice President for Technology and Library Services David Ayersman provided technical details on recent upgrades.
“Recently, the Internet connection for the ORU was upgraded,” Ayersman wrote. “Initially, our Internet connection was a single T-1 (1.5MB) connection. We’ve been most concerned about the impact of video conferencing on this connection, because each of our IVN connections requires nearly 1MB of bandwidth. There were even some occurrences of multiple IVN connections to the ORU at the same time, so the quality of the video was degraded just so each of them could connect.”
NRCTC contracted with Hurricane firm Alpha Technologies to install the upgrade. ORU students should expect much better quality video classes, starting with the fall semester.
“We are very pleased (and eager to test the IVN system) with the new 25MB Frontier Metro-E circuit that replaced the T-1,” Ayersman wrote. “We expect the IVN connections to be of much better quality and users will finally see the high definition capability of our IVN system. We expect this larger amount of bandwidth to accommodate our needs into the near future at the ORU as they continue to grow.”
ORU receives support from the Pocahontas County Commission and City National Bank. The bank provides its spacious second floor for the school. The Commission pays for utilities, office supplies, half of Diller’s salary, and an assistant’s salary. Last year’s county budget allowed $64,000 for the school.
“I think we’re very unique, especially to have the cooperation of the three different partners, who are very different,” said Diller. “They pulled together for something very much needed in the community, so that we can be successful. Without the three working together, it would have been too costly.”
NRCTC is in the process of deciding whether to make ORU a permanent branch campus. Diller said NRCTC president Dr. L. Marshall Washington has shown great interest in the project.
“Dr. Washington is the new president, he’s been here a year,” she said. “He came here twice. We were the first campus he came to from Beckley to visit.”
For information on taking classes at ORU, call 304-799-4950.