New-gen satellite Internet: How it's revolutionised Distance Education for rural kids

Rural kids use nbn satellite internet for education

It’s extraordinary how much of a difference having a Sky Muster™ Internet connection has made to the Distance Education of the youngest two Moller children.

The eldest girl, Mykenzie, managed to navigate her Distance Education on a low data allowance through the early version Interim Satellite Service (ISS) Internet connection.

But a Sky Muster™ Internet connection, and access to Educational Plans, mean that her younger sisters, Zarah and Addison, can garner far more from their Distance Education experience.

The girls are the third generation of the Moller family to get a Distance Education while living on a cattle farm in rural Australia.

And the impact of the internet, especially Sky Muster™, means the quality of education received by the three Moller girls is worlds apart from that of their father and grandparents.


The daughter of SkyMesh customer Alana Moller uses her Sky Muster Internet conenction for distance education

Alana Moller is mum to Mykenzie, Zarah and Addison, all of whom she has home-schooled at their Star of Hope Cattle Station, more than 110kms from Clermont in central Queensland.

She also helps run the family’s cattle station alongside her husband, Scott.

The Moller family live on the same road as the original Moller family property – Recruit – that was first owned by Scott’s great-grandfather and which Scott’s cousin now owns.

Scott’s brother lives next door to them on one side.

Another cousin owns the property on the other side.

One of Scott’s cousins also has children in Distance Education, in the same grades as Zarah and Addison.

From the kitchen table to virtual classrooms:

We asked Alana to reflect on the difference Sky Muster™ made to her children’s Distance Education

“There is an unbelievable difference in the education my girls have experienced when you compare it to my husband’s education,” says Alana.

Scott’s education was done by correspondence on the kitchen table with his mum.

At the time, his parents couldn’t afford to set up the School of the Air radio system. From preschool through to Grade-5, he had no contact with teachers or fellow students and resources were scarce.

At the end of Grade-5, a small school opened up about 75kms from where Scott grew up.

Scott would travel the dirt road, 75kms to school each day.

Then he would travel the dirt road, 75kms back from school each day.

He was in Grade-6.

Then he did it all again for Grade-7.

“There’s a huge difference generationally thanks to the Internet, but there’s even a difference between my eldest child and my next child thanks to Sky Muster™,” says Alana.

Mykenzie, Alana’s eldest daughter, is now away at boarding school but she was home-schooled from kindergarten to Grade-6.

At that time, the Interim Satellite Service was not so reliable.

It was also a time when the family only had 20GB of data a month to school all three kids, run the farm and attend to personal matters.

Here’s how easy it is to use 20GB of data:

  • A Windows 10 update could be 4 – 5GB
  • An iPhone iOS update could be 1.5 – 2GB

Now imagine you have one desktop computer in the school room (5GB update).

And one desktop in the office (5GB update).

And one laptop to enable mobile usage of the computer programs you need (5GB update) to run your business.

We’re already at 15GB of data.

Then imagine you have at least two, possibly three, iPhones in your home. That’s a further 6Gb of data.

You’ve officially blown your allowance as you peak out at 21GB of data without using any programs or surfing the web.

Now the Moller family use Sky Muster™ through two separate accounts, using separate routers; one for Distance Education and one for everything else.

In the Star of Hope school room, Alana has set up two Educational Plans on one router. This is how she isolates and tracks the 50GB of data that each child is now entitled to per month under the State’s Education Service Agreement with nbn™.

Make sure your kids have enough data for a connected Distance Education

check out sky muster™ distance education plans

This wasn’t available when Mykenzie was at home for school.

Alana has also set up the Star of Hope Station account which the family uses for personal activities and running the business.

“Back in the days before we had our Sky Muster™ Internet connection, Mykenzie couldn’t access e-books, she couldn’t even talk to her friends online,” says Alana.

“My next daughter down, as well as my youngest, read e-books from the library in town. They do all sorts of things that just weren’t an option when Mykenzie was here.

“That was only five years ago. The difference in five years is incredible,” she says.

“When Educational Plans came in as well as Sky Muster™, we thought all our Christmases had come at once.”

The younger kids can collaborate with their school peers in a variety of ways not previously available to their older sister, father or grandparents.

They have a WiFi phone, email and instant messaging that enables them to complete group work and enjoy the age-old, school-days rite of passage: passing notes in class.

SkyMesh customer uses Sky Muster for distance education

“In the past, we never had enough Internet to do these sorts of things,” says Alana.

“Zarah is going to boarding school next year. She’s far more prepared to go away because she’s educationally, socially and culturally ready.

“She’s also been able to do extra study in a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program out of Townsville that’s delivered in a virtual classroom,” she says.

The virtual classroom is a whole new experience and one that is only possible because of Sky Muster™ and the Educational Plans.

To participate in the virtual classroom, Zarah has an avatar that sits at a computer alongside other students. She can walk that avatar through school hallways, bump into people that are in her lesson, and participate in group work.

“There’s no way she could have done that before Sky Muster™,” says Alana.

DID YOU KNOW: SkyMesh give every Sky Muster™ account an extra 5GB of data on the Friday of every week during school holiday periods?
*Only applies to regular Sky Muster plans and not Educational Plans 

“And now she’s been able to develop relationships with other people that she would otherwise not get the opportunity to do.

“Through the old satellite technology, you couldn’t even run basic lessons, never mind a virtual classroom. You’d be dropping in and out because you had so little data, and you’d get shaped.  You just couldn’t get into lessons.

“Now, the kids do Skype music lessons with a teacher based in Adelaide. That wouldn’t have been possible on the old system,” she says.

“I had an e-kindy kid on the old Internet system, and Brisbane Distance Education uses video for e-kindy. As soon as you turned on the video, it would drop out.”

Some Distance Education schools, including the one currently attended by Zarah and Addison for their mainstream classes, still don’t use a lot of video because they’re conscious of people in rural and remote Australia who are still without inadequate Internet access.

Give your kids a better Distance Education experience

check out sky muster™ distance education plans

The daughter of a SkyMesh customer uses her satellite internet for education

We talked to Alana about Internet equity in rural and remote Australia

“There is a lot of misunderstanding about Sky Muster™ and how it works,” Alana says.

“This is particularly from people who have been on the Interim Satellite Service, which was pretty dodgy by the end.

“They went off it because they may have had some 3G access, but they’re still in the Sky Muster™ footprint.

“Now they’re facing the challenge of costs associated with the 3G data they need to educate their children,” says Alana.

At a recent school event, people were complaining directly to her about the cost of 3G.

“I asked them if they were in the Sky Muster™ footprint,” she says.

“But then they tell me they are, but there’s no way in the world they’d go back to satellite given how awful it was before.”

Have you tried satellite Internet before?

Acknowledging that satellite Internet has a torrid history, Alana spends a lot of her time explaining to friends, family and others in her community that satellite Internet works quite effectively these days, encouraging them to give it another go.

“I remember telling a friend that we’d have to be given lessons on what to use the Internet for when Sky Muster™ came in,” she says.

“We’d never had the availability of data, so we’d never tried anything technical.”

We asked Alana for any tips she could give other Distance Education parents on managing data

“I make sure we don’t use the education data for anything else,” she says.

“In saying that, there are a few extra-curricula things the kids do, and we use it for that, but that’s part of their education experience where we live.

“I’m conscious that we would hate to see a situation arise where we haven’t been using it for the purpose it has been provided for and so it gets taken away because it is so reassuring to know we have that specific data available for our children’s education,” she says.

Get news, tips and tricks for maximising your rural Internet for Distance Education

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Louise Hughes
Written by Louise Hughes

Louise has had a life-long love affair with beautiful words; writing because it drives her, and reading because it feeds her soul. She's the luckiest woman alive to be able to create clever content and intelligent customer experiences for a living.

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