McMaster announces datacasting program to help students without internet access

S.C. governor unveils new education initiative

YORK, S.C. (WBTV) - For the first time ever, South Carolina will use the state TV network to broadcast educational lessons to students without Wifi.

Governor Henry McMaster calls it bringing the schoolhouse to the homes.

“She hasn’t done any virtual learning," says Lesa Benjamin. "She doesn’t have the internet.”

Despite being signed up for it, lack of internet prevents Benjamin’s daughter, Hanabel, from learning virtually. Instead, the family is using packets. Benjamin says it is not fair to Hanabel because both her parents work full-time and cannot stay home to help her.

“Working with her on that is hard because some of the stuff she doesn’t get. I’m having to sit down and take longer…longer than the two to four hours each day should take," she says.

The new project, announced Wednesday, is giving Benjamin some peace.

SCETV is using datacasting, a process transmitting schoolwork and lesson to tablets, computers, and phones through broadcast signals.

“That would be a Godsend. If she has questions she could ask," she says. “The videos of teachers are some much better than me trying to sit down and explain everything to her.”

A $1.3 million investment is helping connect virtual students to school lessons without WiFi.

The SCETV signal sends lessons from a transmitter directly onto these devices. No internet access is required. Anyone using it only needs an antenna, receiver and a smart device like a cellphone or a tablet.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman says this is a huge help for students across the state. About 20 percent of South Carolinian households do not have access to internet, according to data in the SCETV datacasting explanation page.

However, she knows it is only a quick fix to help the bigger problem: students lost in the digital divide.

“This is really a true collaboration. It’s a step in the right direction. It doesn’t solve all of our problems," says Spearman.

“The department of education will expand educational opportunities throughout our state. That is our goal to cover the whole state with educational opportunities of the highest caliber,” says McMaster.

It is only in the beginning stages, but Hanabell is getting the datacasting faster than most. She goes to York District One, who is helping spearhead the project. The district is one of three districts chosen to pilot this program. Officials say the district was chosen based on several factors including having many students without internet access.

“That’s awesome. So many of our kids in our school district can’t learn or learn like they need to. For the district to pilot something like this, it shows there’s an issue in our area and it needs to be fixed," says Benjamin.

York District One sent a statement about this saying “We are excited to partner with SCETV on this unique and groundbreaking technology to help reach our students who may not be served by traditional internet connectivity. This is yet another way we are working to serve our students while they are learning from home.”

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