In 1972, there were a number of regional computer centers offering a variety of educational data processing services to Ohio school districts. These centers developed independently and without the benefit of state-wide planning and coordination. As a result, they were operating with computer systems that were not compatible and were therefore unable to effectively share their resources. This situation prompted the Ohio General Assembly to pass legislation requiring the State Board of Education to adopt regulations covering the lease and purchase of data processing equipment. Soon after the regulations were formally adopted, legislation requiring a uniform accounting standard for Ohio school districts was passed. These pieces of legislation, coupled with the advances taking place in computer technology and a growing awareness for the potential benefits of educational data processing, provided the impetus for the development of the Ohio Educational Computer Network (OECN).
The network became a reality in 1979 when the 113th Ohio General Assembly provided 7.1 million dollars for the 1979-80 biennium to develop a computer network which would provide Ohio schools with a method of computing for Uniform School Accounting purposes. The legislature also earmarked project funds to establish and maintain computerized data files which could be structured in various ways in order to fulfill the report requirements of state, federal, and other data acquisition agencies.
Since 1979, the Ohio Educational Computer Network has become a valuable part of the educational process with 24 strategically located, locally operated, computer network sites --providing comprehensive on-line computing services to over 669 out of 746 local, exempted village, city, county, and joint vocational school districts. While districts are not required to utilize network facilities, the extraordinary success of the project is ample evidence that the computer network concept makes a great deal of sense. General Assembly has acknowledged the value and success of the OECN by making a 1996-97 biennial appropriation of 38.2 million dollars to advance its development and operation. These state resources, when coupled with local contributions, have provided a unique opportunity for state and local cooperation in the development of an innovative program of comprehensive, coordinated computer services supporting the administrative and instructional requirements of Ohio schools.
Northern Ohio Educational Computer Association began on-line operations in December 1980. Prior to that, many months of planning and preparation were spent by various members of the group. At that time, it was comprised of 27 school districts in a six (6) county area. Today, the network has grown to 49 member school districts and a seven (8) county area. The services offered have been expanded from the financial accounting first offered in 1980 to include payroll, personnel, student administration system, school asset accounting, special education management reports, educational management information system, library automation system, electronic spreadsheet capabilities, access to the Internet, along with electronic mail to communicate among users.
The Information Technology Center (ITC) that operates the data processing equipment which provides services to itself and to the other consortium members is housed at 219 Howard Drive in Sandusky, Ohio.
The ITC operates the main data processing systems in the consortium with each school district operating its own device, which access the ITC computers via communication lines. The network concept makes efficient use of dollars by eliminating the need for each school district to own and operate a self contained data processing system.