Originally published in MOREnetworking Vol. 2 No. 2, Jan. 2005
According to Rita Gulstad, Dean of Extended Studies and Learning Resources at Central Methodist University in Fayette, Mo., CMU’s interactive TV program exists to “provide educational opportunities for students in rural areas with no access without travel.” Sounds simple. Actually delivering the classes is more complex, and the forces that drive CMU’s effort to bring distance learning to rural areas of Missouri can be a factor for any school. Gulstad continues, “Technology allows us to maximize our resources by bringing students from different areas into one class.”
Central Methodist University operates several ITV classrooms, offering college courses to its off-campus facilities as well as offering dual credit courses to a number of high schools throughout Missouri. Central’s ITV program is old by Internet standards. Central was part of the original planning group of high school and university administrators who sought to offer better educational opportunities to rural school districts. The program has been active since the formation of the Missouri Interactive Telecommunications Education network in 1993. In the intervening years, the program has expanded to using IP videoconferencing.
During the fall 2004 semester, CMU partnered with 29 schools around the state to offer 23 dual credit courses and two high school courses. And those are only the classes CMU provided the instructor for. Other classes with instructors certified by CMU but being taught from other facilities were also offered. This arrangement not only gives students at smaller institutions and high schools the opportunity to take advanced courses from CMU’s instructors, it also gives CMU students the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of other educational institutions.
The ITV courses CMU offers aren’t only used by high school students looking for a head start on their college careers, though. Increasingly, these classes are useful for continuing education and degree completion programs. Classes in nursing are particularly helpful due to the current shortage of nurses. Hospitals partner with CMU for RN-BSN programs, allowing their registered nurses to take classes to complete a bachelor of science in nursing degree without the need to take time off to travel to a college campus.
College credit or dual credit courses are some of the most common courses CMU’s ITV program offers, but small high schools also take advantage of this resource. These small schools can effectively share enrollment, allowing them to offer “specialty classes” like foreign languages that they would otherwise be unable to offer individually.
These classes don’t happen automatically, though. They are the result of careful planning and scheduling by CMU’s administration. With their stated goal being to meet the needs of the schools they serve, planning usually begins at least a semester in advance. All scheduling is initially done manually, with administrators working to balance the needs of the students with the class resources, instructors and other factors that come in to play.
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