Montana/Pacific Distance Learning Project

(Sen. Conrad) Burns Telecommunications Center
Montana State University - Bozeman

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1999 14:43:20 -0600
From: "Obbink, Kim" <>


The digital revolution and economic globalization are taking us into a new era. We are moving towards a global knowledge society where information, skills and competence become the driving forces of social and economic development. The problems associated with this transformation can no longer be solved by traditional means. The Internet, with its extending and improving infrastructure, will be the main telecommunication media of tomorrow. It has been extended to most countries, albeit with slow-to-medium speed. The advancement of videoconferencing, telephony, broadband Internet, World Wide Web, and other communication and information technologies is rapidly creating new opportunities for establishing international distance learning and global-healthcare/telemedicine programs that will allow us to foster global citizenship and achieve "education for all."

Broadband Internet Access:

Broadband Internet backbone development such as VBNS and Internet 2 are expanding high-speed Internet access to higher education and healthcare institutions throughout the country. This technology extends increased band-width to University researchers requiring the ability to manipulate large quantities of data and graphic images. In addition, this technology holds great promise for improving multimedia distance learning capabilities, especially in rural and isolated areas that are not well served by commercial network providers. The enhanced distance learning capabilities of broadband Internet are only beginning to be explored and offer an immediate benefit to the populations served by these networks.

The Montana Test-Bed:

Montana's large geographic distances and diverse terrain, sparse population distribution, and lack of broadband Internet and telecommunications infrastructure makes it an ideal test-bed for establishing technical and education program models that can be replicated internationally in developing countries and remote and geographically isolated areas. Current network infrastructure in Montana is fragmented and uncoordinated. Distance learning and telehealth efforts are far from economical and limited in their ability to create accessible, affordable, engaging, and reliable resources. These are challenges faced by many western states as well as by Hawaii, Alaska, and the South Pacific islands. In spite of the barriers, the demand for distance learning and telehealth capabilities is great. People recognize that access to education and resources through telecommunications will allow them to maintain communities that are competitive and economically viable. This pilot project will utilize the capabilities of broadband Internet access to extend high-end multimedia distance learning and telehealth programs throughout Montana. The program will increase connectivity for Montana Tribal Colleges, create high-speed imaging cababilities for Montana hospital and emergency medical services throughout the state, and establish University linkages with the previously unconnected broadband video network located throughout eastern Montana. In addition the project will make connections and extend programs and resources to other western states and to Hawaii, the South Pacific Islands, and Asia, establishing a prototype for international distance learning and telehealth connections that can be replicated worldwide.

Project Partners:

Montana State University-Bozeman is working in collaboration with the Global University Consortium (GU), and the Foundation for Support of the United Nations (FSUN) to establish this international distance learning pilot project. Pilot project partners include the University of Hawaii Curriculum Research and Development Group, PEACESAT, the Institute of International Education, Maui High Performance Computing Center, the Open University of the Philippines and the University of Tokyo. In addition the project will collaborate with national PBS, Montana Public Television, and the University of Arizona to test applications for utilizing digital television to extend broadband capabilities to rural regions. Initial pilot demonstration programs will include distance learning and telehealth applications in nursing, emergency medical services, engineering, environmental sciences, and professional development for primary and secondary teachers. Each partner brings significant strengths to establishing both the technical and educational success of this project.

A Global Vision:

Montana State University will serve as a hub for broadband Internet access and a model program distribution center for the Western North America/Pacific region. FSUN and GU are simultaneously working to establish pilot efforts for North/South America and Europe/Africa hubs. This project will demonstrate the capacity of broadband Internet technology for high quality and economical distance learning. In addition the model will combine broadband Internet with other existing and cost effective telecommunications technology that reach geographically isolated areas, increase access for all Montana citizens and rural western states, and establish a prototype for the deployment of distance learning and telemedicine efforts on a global scale.

Posted by Steve McCarty on 9/16/99, updated on 17 January 2003
Kagawa Junior College, Japan
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