|Expansion of Services||Introduction||Software Development|
|Fiscal Management||Student Administration||Physical Management||Curriculum and Instruction||Miscellaneous|
In 2001, the Ohio Education Computer Network (OECN) concluded its 22nd full year of operation as a consortium of educational cooperatives that provide diverse and comprehensive educational computer services to schools. Since its inception, the OECN has attracted national and international attention in that representatives from other states and countries have visited Ohio to study the network's operation or have requested information to enhance their understanding of the computer network concept.
Although the OECN was originally created and funded to provide financial accounting services, the network's creators envisioned that the OECN would become a comprehensive source of both administrative and instructional computer services for Ohio's schools. The network has successfully progressed from a developing program with financial accounting as its sole focus to a multipurpose program with a broad range of services that have opened up new horizons for school personnel across the state. The OECN now provides administrative and instructional information technology services to Ohio school districts.
The OECN connects computer mainframes, terminals, and personal computers in a communication system that utilizes microwave technology, fiber optics, and telephone lines. It has resulted in a high-speed, cost-effective means of communications among students and education personnel throughout Ohio school districts. The ability to network computer mainframes, terminals, and personal computers has opened up the field of information technology services for educational purposes and has allowed Ohio schools to maximize cost effectiveness for both hardware and software.
The OECN's strength is based on voluntary cooperation. Although it is centered on local control, the necessity of effectively sharing resources statewide in order to maximize the benefits of network participation pointed to the importance of implementing interactive time-sharing, distributed processing, and compatibility. Through the OECN, school districts in Ohio have been able to operate management systems, such as fiscal, curriculum/instruction, and student administration, at a low cost. With these systems operating, school districts have been able to move massive files of educational data to the Ohio Department of Education and other agencies on a timely basis. This capability eliminates the need for hard copy reporting--such as funding, teacher certification, and accreditation reports--that was cumbersome and time-consuming for school districts to complete in the past.
Expansion of Services
The OECN consortia (also called Information Technology Centers, IT Centers, or ITC's) continue to enhance and enlarge their menu of service offerings to their member school districts. In the last few years especially, a considerable number of services have been added in the area of curriculum and instruction. Learning management systems have become more feasible and affordable for Ohio school districts via the OECN, thus improving educational opportunities for students as teachers and administrators emphasize academic excellence and design programs to meet individual needs.
The OECN's data communications capabilities have been upgraded regularly and the regional Information Technology Centers are currently provided with high speed communications lines of DS-3 quality (45 million bits per second) and ATM core switches. Such upgrades now provide network gateways which permit global access (via the OECN and the worldwide Internet) for educators and students to conduct remote database searches and other educational research. Such network data communication links also deliver the connectivity required for interactive distance learning activities which provide needed instructional opportunities for students in many of Ohio's small rural school districts.
A library automation system option has also recently been added as a service to OECN member districts. This library automation system (called INFOhio) consists of the following components:
Software Development and Acquisition
The 23 Information Technology Centers consortia that comprise the OECN use software from three principal sources: state-developed software, software purchased from a supplier, and locally developed software.
Several software applications are state-developed through the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). For example, the department's Division of Information Management Services initially developed the payroll and accounting applications that are part of the fiscal management cluster of services. State software packages are currently developed and maintained by a State Software Development Team (SSDT) under the direction/support of ODE Information Management Services. The SSDT personnel provide a comprehensive program of technical assistance to the OECN to develop, distribute, and maintain these user-driven software applications and to provide inservice programs to IT Center staff who use these applications to supply services to their member school districts.
IT Centers may also purchase software from a supplier. The Management Council of the OECN (MCOECN), a statewide umbrella organization comprised of all the OECN consortia, has been instrumental as the purchasing agent in acquiring innovative software for use at the ITC's. Applications purchased by the consortia through the MCOECN include those in the student administration cluster as well as school bus routing, national and criterion-referenced test scoring, learning/curriculum management systems, spreadsheet, and library automation services. The availability of software purchased through the MCOECN has provided the network with a high level of uniformity, continuity, compatibility, and cost effectiveness.
Many of the OECN Information Technology Centers have developed software to meet local needs. Through statewide collaborative efforts within the OECN, such locally developed software is often shared with other regional sites whose member districts have similar needs.
Click here for a list of core services which are offered at all ITC's.
The service applications currently in use and listed below do not represent a packaged unit that is necessarily offered by all OECN
Information Technology Centers. The range of services differs at each site and is determined by the individual consortia governing boards according to the needs of their member school districts. During fiscal year 1994, for example, the actual number of applications offered at the various OECN consortia ranged from 12 to 33, for an average of 20.2 applications per site.
Student Administration Services
Physical Management Services
Curriculum and Instruction Services