Status date

The objective behind SchoolCast was to plan, to design, implement and bring to pilot utilisation a content delivery system, whereby a variety of multimedia files (internet, video, audio, image) could be multicast to 10 or more Irish schools using a 2-way satellite infrastructure, and cache the files at the school server for fast local access. The pilot also validated the service on high bandwidth terrestrial multicast networks through the collaboration of HEAnet.

The intention was to pilot test SchoolCast in schools in Ireland with a view to its take-up as a sustainable commercial service. Through the pilot the business case for such a service has been refined and elaborated. Key target clients include satellite service providers, educational stakeholder communities including national and regional schools portals, ministries of education and government agencies, schools and educational content providers.

Specifically the project team focused on the following activities:

  • Service management for a seamless delivery of services from registration and booking through to logging and monitoring,

  • Snapshot-delivery of dynamic web sites,

  • Use of pre-fetching to improve latency,

  • Automatic overnight distribution (push) of content,

  • Booking of downloads for delivery within a certain time,

  • Bandwidth management to optimally utilize given link for asynchronous delivery,

  • Content management on the client side (filtering and visualisation),

  • Streaming content delivery.

SchoolCast is a content delivery management service that can be easily and economically implemented in a satellite based service to provide content, access or both to a larger community that is coherent (such as in a compulsory education community) and where satellite access service is likely to be a significant part of the connectivity solution. The main benefits to the various stakeholders can be summarised as follows: 

  • For agencies responsible for schools' digital content like NCTE in Ireland, the value of SchoolCast lies in its ability to place highly relevant multimedia-rich material directly on the local server and, what is equally important, to see exactly how and when such material is being used,

  • For Internet service providers regardless of whether the networks employed are based on satellite or not, the value of SchoolCast rests with its ability to increase network efficiency and therefore cut down on bandwidth usage,

  • For content providers, SchoolCast offers a ready-to-go system for getting their content where it needs to be - on the local hard disk, it enables selection of content and target user and, equally important, feedback on content use,

  • For schools - and in particular teachers - SchoolCast offers, in the words of one of the teachers taking part in the trial, Speed and reliability and the ability to access a whole site in a very short time. Teachers benefit from the materials and sites that have been sourced by their peers - often with content that fits perfectly with their local teaching needs.

The content delivery system is a combination of technologies and human procedures that support the management and the process of selection, validation, aggregation, scheduling and booking of the transmission of content, and furthermore the verification of the reception and access to the content on the client side. This complete system is called the Content Delivery Service SchoolCast.

The specific aim of this development project was to formalise this service in such a form that it can be scaled to a larger network deployment and/or replicated in other networks that are (at least for the larger part) satellite based.

This Content Delivery Service is run by the Service Management. This team is responsible for overseeing the development (where necessary) and integration of the procedures, parts and modules required to run the pilot, and for the integration in a final product, a replicable service model, supported with the appropriate documentation, support and training. Such service is a complete new product, and as such had not been tested in real world environments prior to SchoolCast.

The SchoolCast project does not intend to develop from scratch the different modules or elements that are necessary to drive the service. Most elements exist, be it in some cases in non-commercial or non-operational form. Most of the development work will consist of the integration in a fully-fledged end-user directed managed service.

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The elements and modules required for the integration into a comprehensive service consist on the server side of:

  • Database

  • Management

Phase 1: Design: 1 June 2004 - 16 July 2004

  • Design plans and functional specifications,

  • User specifications with pilot user groups.

Phase 2: Development: 16 July 2004 - 30 January 2005

  • Beta version content delivery system,

  • Programming of Database, the Management System, the Logging Server, the Scheduling Server and the Multicast Server.

Phase 3: Validation Phase: 1 February 2005 - 31 May 2005

  • Pilot management and testing of the entire end-to-end service and individual component parts,

  • Validation of the service via terrestrial network of HEAnet.

Phase 4: Continuation of validation phase and enhancement of service functionalities: 1 August 2005 - 30 November 2005

  • Continuation of Pilot management and testing of the entire end-to-end service and individual component parts,

  • Continued validation of the service via terrestrial network of HEAnet,

  • Development of enhanced functionality linked to incremental updating of snapshots, multimple channel multicasts and encryption/subscriptions.
Phase 5: Exploitation: 1 June 2005 - 30 November 2005
Current status

Following its successful pilot phase which ran from February 2005 to December 2005, the SchoolCast project is now finished.

An evaluation of the teachers who took part is on-going with NCTE, the main stakeholder representative who is responsible for the new Schools Broadband Access Network launched in Ireland. NCTE with the input of HEAnet, who are technically managing the Schools Network, are actively considering the take-up of SchoolCast in the next round of development linked to the schools network in Ireland.

Meanwhile the SchoolCast partnership continues between the 4 companies involved. ATiT, GCS and Intel are focused on opportunities in Ireland and Greece, while ATiT, Web-Sat and GCS are following opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa.