Offaly Vocational Educational Committee has revealed that it intends to make problems created by limited teacher capacity a thing of the past in rural Ireland - with the help of video conferencing by LifeSize, a division of Logitech.
Its two new initiatives: 'Beyond the Walls' and 'Beyond the Seas,' have been introduced in every school in the county.
With teaching being done via real-time video conferencing (Beyond the Walls), specialist teachers from one school can broadcast to five others in the region. Minority subjects are now economically viable and students can still ask questions and interact. A recording feature has also been set up to ensure students can catch-up on missed lessons.
Edward McEvoy, CEO of Offaly VEC, commented: "Suddenly we can offer our students a much wider variety of subjects which will give them a vital advantage heading off to university."
Students with an interest in physics or computing at university can now obtain an applied mathematics qualification, which is vital in order to access higher entry points for university.
The second initiative, 'Beyond the Seas,' connects local schools with partner locations in Georgia, USA, making cultural and scientific exchanges, which stimulate and inspire students.
Andreas Wienold, vice president international, LifeSize, said: "Video conferencing is having a positive and quantifiable impact on the Irish education system. Offaly VEC has adopted a great model for learning that others can follow, particularly encouraging the all important study of STEM subjects."
As a result of using LifeSize video conferencing, students are now studying specialist subjects and languages regularly and have continuous face-to-face interaction with their sister school, WareCounty High School in Georgia.
"We're passionate about encouraging science, and this offers the students an incredible way to engage with subjects and other students from different backgrounds," said McEvoy.
The Irish Government's National Broadband Scheme enabled Offaly VEC to begin these projects as they were the first recipients of high-speed Internet connections.
More projects are in the pipeline - next children will design telepresence robots that the other classes can operate remotely.