The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) convened two focus groups consisting of the CTO’s and Superintendents for rural districts to ask them what their challenges and opportunities were, with the top four challenges being:
1. Broadband access - For rural districts, access is the most pernicious obstacle to taking the digital leap. Even if a school has internet access, it may not be up to par since it’s not cost-effective for telecommunication providers to lay fiber to remote areas where some students live and many students live far apart from each other and the school.
2. Funding - Rural districts are often funded from a smaller tax base and, because of their smaller size, have a larger percentage of per student spending go to overhead costs such as transportation.
3. People - Rural districts have a difficult time recruiting staff, substitute teachers and support services personnel.
4. Understanding the “why” - Finally, some rural communities may be skeptical of the role of technology in their schools and their communities.
The study stated, however, that opportunities exist at the same time. Rural districts have unique opportunities due to their smaller size. They are often nimbler and leadership has more ownership of the schools. Rural districts often have community involvement. Teacher retention is strong – often teachers in the town were once students at those same schools.
CoSN (2018). The challenges and opportunities of rural districts in taking the digital leap. Washington, D.C.: CoSN. http://cosn.org/sites/default/files/Challenges%20and%20Opportunities%20of%20Rural%20Districts%20Taking%20Digital%20Leap.pdf