The ongoing economic downturn has hit state and local governments hard. As the economy declined, the need for services rose while tax dollars decreased. This caused state and local governments to go into the red and look everywhere for places where they could trim budgets.

One of the areas where states cut funding was in education. And some of the first things that are often cut when school budgets are slashed are low demand subjects.

From foreign languages to music programs, the courses that are often in low demand at schools can be some of the most beneficial or rewarding. However, students that may have a vested interest in learning a language, such as French or German, could find themselves without the opportunity as school funding is pared down to meet reduced budgets.

Luckily, some schools are finding ways around budget deficits to provide students access to classes and subjects that may lie outside of the core curriculum or not appeal to the wide consensus of their peers. In these instances, the path to enlightenment has begun, not from within, but via today’s Unified Communications (UC) technologies, such as video teleconferencing (VTC) solutions.

Utilizing VTC solutions, a school district or individual educational institution can offer low demand classes via video to the students interested in taking them. Since the teacher can have face-to-face conversations with students, receive verbal and nonverbal feedback from them and interact with them as if they were in the same room, these video classes can be extremely effective.

Since no travel is required, a group of schools or an entire school district can share one resource and provide a low demand class across multiple educational institutions. This ensures that a quality educational experience can be provided without exhausting the school’s budget.

New technologies can make it possible for teachers to share content, such as pictures and videos, on the screen with the students they’re instructing. VTC solutions can also enable students to create, save and share their own educational materials. This can help reinforce classes and lessons by having students share what they’ve learned with others.

Finally, VTC can open up the world to students and bring their classes to life. As we discussed in a recent post about the National Parks Service, a wealth of educational content is available, much of it free of charge, where students can take virtual field trips or receive previously unheard of educational opportunities – all via video.

Instead of simply learning to speak Portuguese, students could have an actual conversation with a native speaker in Brazil or Portugal. Students can take their astronomy classes to the next level by having a video conversation with the staff at NASA. VTC can take lessons out of the textbook and deliver an educational experience to students that would be geographically and logistically impossible before.

The ongoing economic challenges facing state and local governments don’t have to stand in the way of giving a quality education to our children. By delivering classes via VTC, schools can continue to offer low demand classes, while opening up a new world of exploration and education to their students.