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 Getting Connected To the WEB


Getting Connected

Planning Your School's Connection

In setting up your internet connection here are some points to consider:

What are the Schools Needs?

  • Do you wish to have access for both teachers and students, you need to ask who will use the internet and why? - teachers in lesson preparations or/and students in research and classroom collaboration.

  • Where in your school should the connection be placed, choices include general areas, restricted areas like the library, staff room or principals office, or even offsite access. This decision should fit into the schools curriculum plans for the technology and you should consider both student and teacher needs, you can extend the capabilities and resources as the finances and curriculum imperatives are decided. It may be better to start small and build up as resources and knowledge grows.

  • How many computers do you want connected. The majority of schools start out with the one computer connected and build up through the use of routers to five - 12 computers as they become more familiar with the technology and the demand within the school grows. Start small - only one or a few online connections initially is enough (both financially and as a first phase as the technology becomes more accepted and used within the school - extend your capabilities and resources when finances and curriculum imperatives are decided

  • How much access time do you think you will need. Start with a short term agreement and compare prices with subscription. By doing this you are able to assess your usage and are also able to take advantage of the tender to internet providers when it is finalized.

Setting up a plan

  • Set up a school 'working party' of interested staff - For example a Multimedia and Telecommunications Subcommittee

  • This technology is certainly not an answer - it is a complement to an already strong curriculum. Ensure someone from your Curriculum Development Area is included on the committee

  • Teacher professional development is important - this technology will only work if staff and students can see it as accessible and relevant to classroom activities. Find our more about the Learning With the Internet Professional Development Program run by the Victorian Department of Education or look at joining a Collaborative Internet Project or obtain a copy of one of the Learning With The Internet TV Series Videos.

What You Will Need

Single User Access

The simplest and most inexpensive form of internet connection is a single user dial up. It is ideal if the only way of connecting is via a phone line and only one person needs to use the internet at one time. Single user dial up access can be done with:

  • a standard computer - this can be a Personal Computer (PC) or Macintosh. The computer itself doesn't have to be a high powered machine to access most things on the internet but to properly experience some of the newer multimedia dealing with sounds, digital movies and interactive software however, you may require one of the more powerful machines available.

  • a modem - which takes the digital information from your computer, converts it to an analog signal so that it can travel over the telephone lines to another modem at the other end which then coverts it back into digital information for the receiving computer. Modems can be either internal (inside your computer) or external (linked by a cable). Modems are rated by the speed that they are able to send and receive information. A 56-kilobaud modem is the standard today.

  • a telephone line - a separate telephone line is preferable as you are unable to make voice telephone calls when you are connected and people will receive a busy signal if they are trying to call you - unless you have call waiting where you will then lose your internet connection and your telephone will ring for you to pick up. This can be pretty annoying if you are in the middle of downloading a 10MB file.

  • An internet access account - which you can obtain through an Internet Service Provider. The Internet Service Provider that you choose will provide you with disks or paper instructions on how to set up your internet connection. With this type of set up you pay for the time that you use the internet. Either a fixed amount for a fixed amount of time or on a per usage basis. There are some points you will need to consider when selecting an Internet Service Provider.

  • Once you are connected to the internet you will need a few extra things such as Web Browser software and Email Software which you can download or purchase from a software supplier.

Multi User Access

Multi-user access means that two or more people can access the internet from different computers at the same time. The simplest way to obtain multi user access is by purchasing another modem and another telephone line, thus having two single user dial up accounts.

A more sophisticated approach involves setting the computers that are at different points in your school or organization into a Local Area Network (LAN). Once set up into a LAN a router can be used to provide multiple access. Routers are available as hardware or software.

Software Routers

Routing software products like Wingate and Vicom can be much easier to maintain and cheaper to run then hardware routers. These software products operate in a similar manner allowing multiple computers to access the Internet through the one modem and one Internet Service Provider account.

Vicom Internet Gateway allows multiple users on a single network to share one Internet address over a standard dial up internet connection. The software then uses appletalk to communicate with the other machines on the network. This means that multiple PC, UNIX, and MAC users can access the Mac-based gateway simultaneously over a Local Area Network (LAN).

The software needs to be setup on one computer. This is done by simply clicking on an install icon and then answering a series of questions to do with how you want the software to be set up.

This computer then becomes the gateway which the other computers on the LAN use to access the internet. Each machine on the network then needs its MACTCP to be set to an IP address within a certain range. This means that the MACTCP program on the computers attached to the LAN use the Internet address of the gateway LAN use to access the internet. Once this is setup the gateway can be logged onto the internet and the machines on the LAN are able to use the Internet through the Gateway constantly "on the net".

The software needs to be installed on a machine which is reasonably new. The speed of the gateway can be improved by installing it on a fast machine which has a high speed serial port.

For more information on the Wingate Software Try this link.

Hardware Routers

Hardware routers can be purchased for use with an ADSL or DSL line and will start in price at about $200. This will give the capacity to distribute information to 4 computers. Hardware routers can also be purchased for use with an ISDN line and will start in price at about $2500. ISDN links increase the number of users significantly. The more expensive the more users able to gain access. At $2000 you will probably have the capacity to distribute information to 12 computers. At a price level of about $7000 - 800 users will have access. Some routers will enable you to attach another modem to them to double the access. You are still using a single user dial up connection with a standard telephone line by using two routers and two modems you now have access for 24 computers.


An internet gateway is another way to provide multi-user access to students and teachers. Gateways serve the function of allowing either access to email systems on the internet or connecting different types of networks. In other words a gateway is a computer system that acts as a translator between different types of computers to allow them to interact in cyberspace. Gateways can cost anywhere between $5000 and $15000 depending on the number of users you wish to give access to, the degree of sophistication you want from the system and how much you actually want to do yourself or outsource. As well as having total control over email accounts and most flexibility to publish material directly onto the internet, you also have the ability to cache web pages on your own server providing much easier access to them.

How to Choose an Internet Service Provider

An Internet Service Provider establishes and gives you access to the internet. Whether you obtain a dial up account or lease a separate ISDN line you will still need to go through an Internet Service Provider to obtain access to the internet. Providers will either give you access on a per usage basis or you can pay a fixed amount for a fixed amount of hours.

There are a number of factors that you need to consider when selecting an Internet Service Provider like:

  • What are the basic services provided?
    Does the provider give you access to Email, WWW, Gopher, Telnet, Newsgroups. The majority of providers will provide you with access to these facilities but this should be checked.

  • What are the special services/educational value added services for schools?
    Some providers will have specially prepared collections of educational resources, mechanisms for filtering out unsuitable material and the capacity to create and manage user accounts at the school level

  • What arrangements are there for internet publishing?
    Are you able to store your web pages with this provider, what sort of charges are there for this service. Are there limitations on the material you can put up, eg. Some providers will not support certain video formats on their web server. If this is the only factor deterring you from selecting a particular provider contact the SOFWeb team as alternate arrangements can be made.

  • What type of technical support is provided
    Is there free customer telephone support? Find out if there is on site Internet setup services, training provision of start-up software, Maintenance of mailboxes and provision of mail space and after hours support.

  • Availability of multi-user connections
    Ensure that figures quoted by service provider relating to numbers of users which can be supported on their network refer to the number of users that can access the service concurrently.

  • Performance
    You must check that the service provider has a high speed connection itself. Investing in a high speed connection for yourself to your provider does not help if the provider does not have the capacity to support it.

  • Initial and ongoing costs
    Some providers charge a set up cost plus a regular fee. This regular fee may be chared on a per usage basis, ie $1-$3 per hour or a flat monthly or yearly fee. Dial up charges usually pay per usage while permanent connections attract an annual charge The cost of an Internet connection is usually related to the maximum capacity for data transfer. For example, ISDN lines enable faster data transfer but are much more expensive than dial up lines. This is initially more expensive but you have to place a cost on the time of users having to wait for information to get to them. Payment options vary considerably between providers. Ensure that you are aware of any technical support costs for both new users and minimal support Compare annual fees with realistic estimates of dial up usage, consider fixed subscriptions rather than dial up accounts

    Some providers will also bill you for the amount of data you download. Try to find one that charges a flat rate for this or only for your online time.

  • Speak to schools in your area
    Other schools in your area have already been through this process. Find out who they are with and why. You can ask any providers for a list of users as well as references from the users. Contact these users and see how they feel about the service.

State of Victoria (Department of Education, Employment & Training)
Initiative of the SOFWeb Project

Contact: SOFWeb

Last Updated: August 11, 2000


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