Looking to take the use of video in the classroom and the community to new heights, a group of forward-thinking educators in Missouri has launched a new internet-based television network–one that might transform how education and training is delivered in schools throughout the state, and beyond.

Imagine being a high school football coach and having the capacity to screen the last 10 years of game films, simply by logging on to the internet; or a rural high school student who, thanks to a unique television program, now can enroll in classes previously unavailable at his or her school. How about a teacher looking for instructional videos to supplement a difficult biology or history lesson, or a school administrator attempting to wedge important continuing-ed courses into an already bloated schedule?

These are just some of the benefits educators at the Missouri School Boards Association (MSBA) say will be possible through their latest foray into online video instruction, called Internet Protocol Television (IPTV).

The ambitious project, which kicked off March 3 with a live broadcast from the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Zooquarium in Springfield, Mo., aims to marry all of the benefits of video with the ubiquity of the internet, providing a completely interactive learning experience, the likes of which few schools have ever seen before from a nonprofit education organization.

“When we integrate video material into core lessons … learning takes on a new dimension,” said Carter Ward, MSBA’s executive director.

Dubbed the “Education Solutions Global Network,” or ESGN, the network supports the delivery of a broad spectrum of original and rebroadcast video content–from live coverage of educational events and conferences, to playbacks of classic high school sporting events and video-conferencing, to virtual learning programs for teachers and students.

Apart from simply downloading a video and broadcasting it, said Joel Denney, MSBA’s associate executive director, the ESGN portal provides the capability to perform instant text messaging; conduct live polling; offer anytime, anywhere access to content; and broadcast both live and pre-recorded events with the same professional-grade method of delivery.

Given the technical acumen of most modern-day students, Ward said, the content available through ESGN will represent “a very strong alternative” for technology-literate learners to receive “educational material and entertainment” 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

What’s more, he said, the project could result in a substantial cost-savings for schools. By connecting students and teachers with video virtually via the internet, MSBA says schools can save themselves the time and expense associated with organizing unnecessary face-to-face meetings.

Plus, he said, the technology is affordable. Because the majority of production and infrastructure costs required to power the network are covered by MSBA, the only significant investment required of schools is the purchase of an internet-connected computer.

“Most classrooms today are equipped with the technology necessary to take advantage of the network,” explained Ward.

Depending on what infrastructure is in place at the school level, Denney added, users can choose to view the video on separate desktops, or to simply pull the content down from the internet to be used in whole-class demonstrations via a digital projector or interactive whiteboard. He said the back-end system, developed in conjunction with Texas-based Continental Vista Broadcast Group Inc., is compatible with a variety of internet connections, from traditional dial-up modems to high-speed T-1 lines.

MSBA says it is experimenting with a variety of pay and for-free delivery mechanisms–each of which will depend on the type of content schools want to access.

Though some instructional videos might be made available free to schools, Denney said, other programs–including access to on-demand high school sports archives–will be available under a pay-per-view or subscription-based model.

Linda Ross-Happy, a former Missouri educator and retired director of the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, said the project harbors great potential, especially when it comes to reaching poor and disadvantaged students. With ESGN, she said, “education can be so much more interactive. It no longer has to be just a flat screen up there [on the wall]. The possibilities are endless.”