Project Announcement
Fort Lewis College to be hub of $5.6 million educational telecommunications infrastructure in SW Colorado
Release Date: April 11, 1997

Students and library patrons in 12 Southwest Colorado communities, from Telluride to Pagosa Springs, may soon be taking classes all over the world without ever leaving their hometowns or their high school classrooms thanks to a $1 million grant from the Colorado Legislature (view detailed project narrative).
The grant is part of a $20 million statewide project to build the telecommunications infrastructure needed for distance learning.
Of the 178 grant applications submitted, 43 received funding, and the Southwest Colorado project was one of only six to receive $1 million or more.
That $1 million will be used to install communications lines and computers to connect institutions in the new Southwest Colorado Interactive Learning Network, a partnership of 12 high schools, 13 public libraries, the San Juan and Southwest Boards of Cooperative Services, the Pueblo Community College Cortez Center and Fort Lewis College as the lead partner.
The partnership will provide nearly $4.6 million in matching funds.
"This is an educational telecommunications project on a scale that's unprecedented for Southwest Colorado," said FLC Computing and Telecommunications Director Craig Young, who serves as principal investigator for the grant.
"It will give more than 14,500 students in 12 school districts in the region access to the Internet and will allow Fort Lewis College to provide the type of educational services that taxpayers are demanding," he said.
FLC Program Development Coordinator Amy Stenslien wrote the grant with assistance from Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Joe Lounge, and Internet Outreach Project Coordinator Bill Ball and Technical Specialist Jason Besky.
The grant will vastly improve access to the Internet in the region's rural areas, and ultimately, to educational opportunities at Fort Lewis College, Pueblo Community College, other high schools, and around the world.
Currently, the average ratio of K-16 students to one Internet-accessible computer is 39-to-1 throughout the region with a range as low as 3-to-1 to ratios as high as 1,437-to-1. Only 13 percent of the 67 public school buildings in the region have better than dial-up accounts; and 25 percent aren't connected at all.
The grant will be used to install communications lines and computers for high schools and libraries in the following communities across the 8,500-square-mile region:
In addition, telecommunications networks will be installed for both the San Juan and Southwest Colorado Boards of Cooperative Services; and an interactive video site will be installed at the Pueblo Community College Cortez Center.
Fort Lewis College will be at the hub of the infrastructure, where servers for e-mail accounts and web pages will be housed and maintained.
While the infrastructure is impressive enough, Young said he believes the grant was funded because of the programs that the equipment will serve.

Video classes

One project, modeled after a program created by Stanford University, would capture college classes on video and will place them on the Internet for access by students living in other communities.
The Internet page will include a video panel of the class in action, another panel that displays any supplemental notes that the professor had written on a chalkboard or overhead projector, and another panel that includes assignments.
The project will allow Fort Lewis College students taking the class on campus to review the lecture if needed.
And it allows students elsewhere in Southwest Colorado to take college courses without leaving their communities.
Students would communicate with professors through e-mail and by phone.
The most likely candidates will be advanced high school students who are ready to start college courses while they finish their high school classes.
Students who live within easy driving distance of campus already take classes at Fort Lewis College while still enrolled in high school.
Internet access "will give us the opportunity to expand our student base and to make contact with those quality high school students before they start their full-fledged college careers."
Internet access also will allow the region's high schools to share limited resources. For example, a French teacher in Pagosa Springs could teach classes to students in Telluride and Nucla.

Master Teachers

The new network also creates potential for a new model of training teachers in the use of technology in the classroom.
Student teachers, for example, could be sent to rural communities to teach, while master teachers could come to Fort Lewis College for training seminars. The student and master teacher will be able to keep in touch via the network.

Training the trainers

And the third component of the program will train high school teachers and the region's librarians on using the Internet for research, and they, in turn, will teach residents in their communities.
Young said he expects the infrastructure to be completed by August 1998 with at least one pilot class available on the Internet by December 1997.
For more information about the Southwest Colorado Interactive Learning Network, contact Craig Young or Bill Ball.