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Rural Oklahoma Students Get Access to College through Distance Learning

High school students in rural Oklahoma schools can now earn college credits prior to graduation without commuting long distances or being limited to online-only courses.

Great Plains Technology Center, Cameron University and Western Oklahoma State College and more than a dozen rural Oklahoma public schools have partnered to offer the GPNet distance learning system, according to a report in the Lawton Constitution of Lawton, OK. Participating colleges and high schools have received video-conferencing equipment, so students can participate in on-campus college courses from their own high school. The technology enables the students and college instructors to see and hear each other, almost as though they're in the same room.

This year Great Plains Technology Center received almost half a million dollars as part of a United States Department of Agriculture Rural Services Grant for distance learning, which it used to implement the live curriculum-sharing network and video-conferencing equipment. At most of the sites, the equipment has been placed on mobile carts, so students can participate in a college course from their school's library or an empty classroom. The technology has already been distributed to the participating schools and is being rolled out now.

Initially, the GPNet distance learning system will offer general education classes with few prerequisites and it will add more courses after learning more about student needs and schedules. Great Plains Technology Center plans to offer courses for students preparing to enter the fields of health and engineering, as well as distance training for emergency medical technicians (EMTs), volunteer firefighters and community residents during emergencies.

In addition to offering distance education courses, the GPNet enables colleges to record lectures for future use and lets teachers participate in professional development and collaborative lesson planning. Eventually, the technology may also support other online meetings such as parent-teacher conferences.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at [email protected].

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