SCILnet Project Description

I. Project Need II. Goals III. Project Staffing
IV. Partnerships V. Impact VI. Sustainability

I. Need for the Project

The southwest corner of Colorado is the most geographically isolated area in the State. The land is bordered by New Mexico and Utah to the south and west, and Red Mountain and Wolf Creek passes to the north and east. Sparse population and mountainous terrain have left the area behind in the availability of telecommunications infrastructure. In response, educational institutions have made steady improvements in their individual abilities to bring distance resources to the schools. Because of the geographic isolation, the need to continue the systemic shift toward sustainable, cost-effective uses of tele-technology for learning is acute. The physical remoteness create both the capacity and the need.

In the words of one public school partner; "Technology is having and will continue to have a great impact on how students learn. No longer can the use of computers be seen as an end to itself. We must go beyond merely providing access to computers. We must provide access to resources and information. Telecommunications provides this necessary access. The proper use of this technology will enhance learning and change education as we know it. We need to make sure we are not left behind."

The Four Corners is a region of diversity and change. The total population is about 75,000. Yet, over a million tourists each year flock to regional attractions like Mesa Verde, the Durango-Silverton train, Telluride and Purgatory ski areas and influence citizens, expanding our world-view. Higher education institutions in New Mexico and Utah are emerging with distance based initiatives, opening doors for Colorado students. The economic base has moved from the extractive industries (mining, logging) to tourism and services. Silverton, with its closed mines, declining population and high unemployment, and Telluride with its explosive growth, exemplify this change. Dove Creek, where fifth generation families ranch and grow beans, to Ignacio with an expanding Indian reservation casino, managed over a T-1 line from Las Vegas, provide further contrast in the shift from the old west to the new west.

The proposed project has grown from years of experience working to incorporate technology into learning. Lessons learned from classroom level networks, regional grant funded access projects and higher education faculty development in technology initiatives have been incorporated in this design.

The Southwest Colorado Interactive Learning Network (SCIL-Net) is designed in two phases. Phase 1, which this proposal addresses, focuses on building capacity at the public libraries, high schools and higher education. The second phase will concentrate on expanding resources at the preschool through middle school grades and improving business relationships. Table 1 provides a brief summary of the regional partnership. Learners are defined as 14,645 K-12 students, 4,700 college students, over 1,000 teachers and faculty, and more than 50,000 patrons of public libraries. The learner is further described as stimulated, self-motivated and actively engaged in the learning process and the construction of knowledge through the cyberspace experience, adequately enabled and supported.

Access

Access must reach the learner-- the first mile in distance education (formerly referred to as the last mile). This access requires equipment -- computer workstations, network hubs, servers and routers, teaching stations and printers. Currently, the average ratio of K-16 students to one Internet accessible computer is 39 students to 1 computer across the region, with a range of 3:1 to 1437:1. As shown in Table 2 a, there are vast differences in end-user access to the Internet across the 12 school districts in the region. Of the 492 total Internet accessible computers available for over 19,000 students, only 192 are in classrooms, enabling integration with daily instruction for about one in a hundred students. For the high schools, the Internet ratio is 38. For the libraries, there is one Internet accessible computer for every 2,100 patrons , see Table 2b.

All partners have been steadily expanding their ability to access the larger world through tele-technology primarily by increasing intrabuilding networks, end-user stations and training. An overriding need in this large regional project is to meet partners where they are, not forcing them into a mold that fits all. The partnership needs to respect the autonomy of the independent partners while providing the leadership and resources to move the region toward the goals shared by all, for education in the 21st century.

Interactive video (Picture Tel) access is limited to the one unit on the Fort Lewis College campus in Durango. Although partners from Pagosa or Cortez may occasionally drive the 120 miles round-trip to attend a video conference for a special meeting, such distances prohibit regular use of the technology.

Connections

As shown in Table 3, of the 55 school buildings in the region, 25% (14) have no connectivity, 62% (34) have at least one dial up line, 11% (6) have 56k lines and only the Fort Lewis College campus has an operational T-1 connection (Telluride School District is currently installing a T-1). Some partners have plans for upgrades but have had difficulty getting the service. Of the 13 public libraries, one has a 56k connection, one has no connectivity and the rest have dial-up accounts. Few offer internet access to the public, restricting access to staff only. ISDN and other options used on the Front Range are not available here. Local traffic needs to stay local. The plan for the local network, designed to be completely compatible with the Connect Colorado framework, will reduce congestion out to the backbone, thereby improving speed and efficiency for all partners. The large consortium of partners over the relatively sparsely populated area provides the needed leverage to make the business case that additional bandwidth is in sufficient demand for US West to invest in the necessary infrastructure. The plan for telecommunications is designed to promote sustainability and reduce dependence on leased lines. In every possible case (ten sites), wireless connections to the high school T-1 will be installed using uni-directional antennae. In Phase 2, the plan is to connect the middle and elementary schools to the high school T-1's through wireless technology, where geographically possible. Not only does this reduce costs to all partners, but also opens alternatives to leased lines. If the wireless connections prove to be viable, this may provide a model for other entities to eliminate dependence on leased lines from common carriers.

There exists a need to keep costs reasonable and build for long-term stability. The FCC decision on telecommunications discounts for educational institutions expected May 7, 1997 may significantly lower projected rates. However, it is unlikely that the effects of that ruling will be seen immediately in the hinterlands of Colorado. The partnership chose to plan conservatively, making commitments on rates which could turn out to be the 'worst case', instead of banking on expected discounts. Commitments for staff participation from the outset will build capacity for continuation at each of the partner sites.

Given the dramatic changes in tele-technology, there is great need to build scalable infrastructure. That is, as compressed video and the Internet merge separate networks will not be necessary to support interactive video and Internet access. Additionally, it is our understanding that the Colorado Division of Telecommunications intends to install an ATM switch in Durango during the summer of 1997 for this for SCIL-Net area

Equity

The project addresses issues of equity not only across the three rural and four frontier counties of Southwest Colorado in relation to the urban areas of the State, but within the region as well. Again, Table 2a demonstrates the disparity in access across the region. US West is a major provider, though five independents also provide service in the region (PTI, Universal, Farmers, Rico, Nucla-Naturita Telephone Companies). Some of the most remote schools with few students face the highest charges -- from US West, the independent phone company and a meet point fee. In this remote corner of Colorado there are equity issues related to telecommunications carriers. For example, monthly charges for T-1 access to two high schools about 20 miles apart vary by over 200%;

Nucla High School -- $550/month (US West) + $571/month (independent) = $1,121/month = $13,452/year compared to Norwood High School -- $366/month (US West ) = $4,392/year .

In addition to equity across the diverse region, there is need to respect and work with the independence of each of the partners. Southwest Colorado is far from a blank slate when it comes to educational technology. The project must be flexible and responsive to differences while promoting regional development and fairness in distribution of State resources.

Content

All partners were surveyed as to their highest priority educational needs related to distance learning. Results are summarized in Table 4. "Enhanced Internet connectivity" was unanimously identified by all K-12 partners as a priority educational need, for use across diverse content areas. Similarly, districts want "high tech experiences" for their students. Distance learning is ubiquitous across content areas.

One of the needs by the school districts is for shared course offerings, including special courses, 4th year and 5th year programs. For example, Silverton has a few high school students who would like to learn French and one who is ready for calculus. With district totals of 109 pupils and 11 teachers, it is not possible that the district could ever afford a French teacher or a calculus teacher. Yet these courses are taught at Fort Lewis College regularly and could be made available through telecommunications technologies.

The libraries identified:
1) enhanced Internet connectivity,
2) automated libraries,
3) continuing education for the public,
4) community Internet access and ,
5) Internet Web presence as the highest priority needs.
Training of trainers or direct training for patrons on how to use the Internet was also prioritized.

Training

Telecommunications-based distance learning is the only reasonable option for the small remote schools to access the educational resources of the State. Yet more is needed than just setting students in front of a high-powered Internet-connected computer. The pedagogy of distance learning is still in its infancy, yet sound delivery mechanisms in effective learning environments must be developed hand-in-hand with the infrastructure. This project provides a pilot for three different mechanisms for exploring effective change in learning. Survey results show that teacher professional development is an important area targeted for improvement through distance learning. Partners identified not only traditional content for teacher on-going development but also an initial focus on training in tele-technology and its appropriate uses in instruction.

Finally, there is a great need for support - technical support including installation of wiring as well as networked software, and training support for those teachers and librarians who are responsible for guiding the learners. One partner likened these needs to driver education and a good mechanic - support most of us need to drive on the regular highway. The information superhighway drivers need training as well, until they become experienced and competent. The need for good technicians is probably on-going, with continuing support for district and BOCS staff . SCIL-Net will use the State resources to build capacity, at both the technology and human infrastructural levels.

II. Goals and Outcomes of the Project

SCIL-Net has two primary goals:

Goal 1:

Learners in Southwestern Colorado will have access to world-wide resources via efficient connectivity as geographic barriers are removed, moving toward true equity in distance learning opportunities.

Goal 2:

Learners in Southwestern Colorado will have the skills necessary to efficiently use telecommunications-based resources through supportive training of and by the most qualified faculty and teachers.

Public Education K-16

Atop all of the T-1's, wireless antennae, stations, training and technical support, there is a critical need to translate how all of this impacts learning. This project does not profess to know the single answer, but we are exploring and experimenting with methods that will enhance the tele-technology based learning experience. For purposes of discussion, there are two ends -- the teacher and the student. The Information Age is transforming the teacher's role from that of the "sage on the stage" to one of the "guide on the side". Students are no longer empty vessels to fill with facts and figures in specific content areas, rather, they must learn how to navigate information to construct knowledge. Change must occur at both ends for distance education to improve learning. How do the changes interact with each other? Must the teacher change, or just the students, or both? We propose three different small-scale pilots to explore the pedagogical, policy and procedural issues underlying the shift to learning via telecommunications.

Model 1. The most qualified faculty at teaching in traditional ways are captured by tele-technology and the delivery mechanism changes from the lecture hall to the Internet via streaming audio and compressed video. Instruction is augmented with faculty-student dialog both in person and via email and through grouping of learners with team assignments. The learning environment changes significantly to that of guiding and supporting the student.

Fort Lewis College is an excellent teaching institution where the focus is on student learning. In the past six years, Fort Lewis College is only one of 26 institutions nation-wide and the only Colorado institution of higher education to have three or more winners of the State Professor of the Year Award. FLC has also been recognized for "teaching innovation and success with students" by CCHE as winners of three Programs of Excellence awards. In this context, this pilot will capture what our faculty already do so effectively, without expecting additional work, time away from the classroom or years of development. The project will pilot a very successful model from the University of Delaware, considered to be a premier institution in the field of distance learning. This delivery mechanism, available through the Internet, is a new and innovative approach for Colorado and Fort Lewis College. Streaming audio and compressed video over the Internet is an emerging technology -- the Internet is truly any time any place, given connectivity and end-user equipment. We believe the quality of compressed video will increase dramatically over the next five years and that the Internet is the most scalable technology for distance learning.

Video cameras will be used in regular classrooms at Fort Lewis College. The faculty member will be taped doing what he/she normally does. The cameras capture the lecture/lesson at very low cost. The video tapes will be digitized and compressed on the instructional server at the college and organized into a Web site.

The faculty will be volunteers without additional compensation. Once the course is available as a Web site, a separate contract with the instructor for remote student support is entered into as the incentive. The faculty member will be compensated at a fair percent of tuition revenue, for supporting the learner through email, assignments and testing using interactive tools including the traditional telephone. Two physical meetings will occur during the course to encourage social rapport among the remote learners.

Delivery to learners requires change for the teachers at the learning end, where they guide and support the students. Distance learners will be organized into cohort groups with social context for learning-- not isolated in front of computer boxes -- with a minimum of three students per distance site. Learners will be required to do interactive team projects, to be presented in person at the end of the term. On-site support by teachers will continue to be a critical ingredient for learning. This delivery mechanism will first be piloted using the Internet 101 course already developed, implemented and evaluated in Southwest Colorado through grants from NTIA/TIAPP and PUC/US West. Over 125 teachers, students, Southern Ute Tribal employees and community members have been effectively trained in how to use the Internet using this course. Evaluation and satisfaction results have been excellent. The community access project was one of 180 semi-finalists in the nation for the NII Awards. We anticipate developing Web-based courses in Southwest Studies, Teacher Education, Chemistry, and Archaeology. Selection and development of courses will be responsive to K-12 partners needs, and will use our most excellent teaching faculty volunteers. In addition, after some experience with this delivery method, high school teachers of renowned effectiveness will be invited to develop their existing courses into Internet available courseware.

FLC is teaching intense -- faculty are constantly improving teaching through innovation, self-evaluation and experimentation. The college has to find ways to adapt the effective teaching methods into new distance learning models. The pilot leverages what we are already doing. It does not require an immediate change in methods of teaching at the production level while it does support faculty exploration of distance learning. This model is a reasonable and cost-efficient method to expand opportunities for higher education to areas of the State where no post-secondary institutions are located using the most excellent faculty available.

Model 2. A situation is created whereby master teachers are highly motivated to use telecommunication strategies. This is accomplished by having them be physically absent from their buildings while retaining responsibilities. They are given all available distance learning resources and must teach across telecommunication lines while the students' learning environment stays the same.

Master teachers, including those voted teacher of the year by students, will be identified and invited to volunteer to participate in the Spring Institute for Distance Education. Student teachers from the Fort Lewis College Teacher Education program will be assigned to these teachers following normal procedures. During the 8th, 9th and 10th week of the 15 week long student teaching experience, the supervising master teacher will come on-site to FLC for an intensive three week institute where they will work toward a proficiency certificate in distance education. Although the student teacher will be in their classroom, they will retain responsibilities for supervision of that student teacher, regular departmental and committee work and oversight of student learning. This model provides an excellent example for the student teachers in distance learning. The pilot will be small -- three teachers in spring of 1998 and six teachers in spring of 1999.

Model 3. High school teachers are trained first along with public librarians in using the Internet, second in methods of teaching using tele-technology and last, in content-specific professional development courses, all delivered through telecommunications.

This last pilot follows more of a traditional professional development model except that all learning occurs using telecommunications technology. Teachers retain their same responsibilities and stay in their respective buildings. Resources including locally developed Web pages, interactive video conferencing, Internet-based courseware will be made available. High school teachers will be given access to the Internet 101 course and each district will determine its own policies on release time and incentives. Teachers will move through the course independently or in learning teams. Partners will be encouraged to include the public librarians in the learning teams. Modules for using technology in education in development by the FLC Teacher Education faculty will be made available over the Internet to regional teachers, using the compressed video technology. Teachers will work on learning and integrating at their own pace. Lastly, the teachers will search the Internet for content-specific resources relevant to their professional development. Communications are enhanced through email connecting content area teachers in each of the 12 districts, helping teachers share what they learn, and develop methods for integration with classroom instruction. Each teacher has the authority and independence to change classroom delivery strategies to use tele-technology, within building, district and State guidelines. Teachers self-assess differences and effectiveness, using normal procedures including personnel evaluation and professional development plans.

High School Students

Each high school will incorporate interactive distance learning into its curriculum, as makes best sense for that school. Some schools are;
discussing about adding a required class,
developing a differentiated diploma including technology proficiency,
planning to include distance learning into Information Literacy classes using the Colorado Standards integrated with public library operations, and,
looking into ways to better incorporate tele-technology into standard content area classes.

Library Patrons

Plans for training patrons of the public libraries will follow traditional methods with hands-on workshops. First, training-of-the-trainers will be expanded. The majority of public librarians have had some training in the Internet. The Internet 101 course will be made available to the librarians with support from SWRLSS staff and in collaboration with the high school teacher training. Local libraries will work with their public school partners (which all have at least one multi-user lab) for use of the school labs as training sites for groups of patrons. The contracted marketing consultant will provide support to the libraries to raise awareness about the Internet availability and the training sessions. Marketing will primarily take the form of Public Service Announcements, local media press releases, flyers and posters and electronic bulletin board postings. The group trainings using the Internet-based Internet 101 course will be supported by the librarians, technology coordinators at the school districts, school librarians and the contracted training service. Librarians will also be trained to help individual patrons through the Internet 101 course at the library site.

III. Staffing

The partnership brings the equivalent of over 5 FTE to this project. This includes:

• Project Director, 10% time in-kind contribution from FLC
• Internet Outreach Staff including the Coordinator, Technical Specialist and Lab Coordinator, 100% time each cash contribution from FLC
• Grants Management and Administration Director, 43% time cash contribution from FLC
• Library Internet Trainer, 50% time in-kind contribution from SWRLSS
• Library Technical Consultant, 75% of the contract, in-kind contribution from SWRLSS
• Technology Coordinators/Specialists at each of the school districts, committed minimum 10% time (x 12 districts = 1.2 FTE), included in the $739,574 in-kind contribution of personnel by the districts
• Active membership in the Advisory Council by all partners In addition, the partners are supportive of some release time for teachers and librarians for training. The project will contract out for technical, training, evaluation and marketing/community awareness support. These consulting contracts amount to $127,000 over the two year period. Appendix B includes more information on the quality of the staff and administrative level support.

4. Partnerships

This southwestern Colorado partnership includes all K-16 educational agencies and public libraries extending over 8,500 square miles through the San Juan Range of the Rocky Mountains and across the Colorado Plateau. SCIL-Net covers 29 physical sites in the regional network:
Lead and Fiscal Agent (1 site ) Fort Lewis College
Office of Computing & Telecommunications
Office of Community Services
School of Education

Sub-Contractors (15 K-12 sites) San Juan Board of Cooperative Services, serving
Archuleta School District (Pagosa Springs)
Bayfield School District
Durango School District
Ignacio School District
Silverton School District

Southwest Board of Cooperative Services, serving Cortez-Montezuma School District
Dolores School District
Dolores County School District (Dove Creek)
Mancos School District
Norwood School District
Telluride School District
West End School District (Nucla-Naturita)

Pueblo Community College (1 site, Cortez)

Sub Contractors (12 Library Sites)

Southwest Regional Library Service System, serving Cortez Public Library
Dolores County Public Library (Dove Creek)
Dolores Public Library
Durango Public Library
Mancos Public Library
McClanahan Library (Ignacio)
Norwood Public Library
Pine River Library (Bayfield)
San Miguel Public Library (Telluride)
Silverton Public Library
Sisson Public Library (Pagosa Springs)

The partnership uses natural and historic networks, both institutional and social, to accomplish the project. These relationships include extensive experience with student teacher placement, inductee-mentor program, high school graduates matriculating to Fort Lewis and Pueblo Community College, articulation agreement between the two high education institutions, significant numbers of regional teachers and school administrators are FLC Teacher Education graduates, sharing of district resources through the SWRLSS and BOCS, including special education services, technology and an alternative high school.

As part of these ongoing and deep-rooted relationships, partners respect each other's independence. The partners value participatory democracy governed by consensus-based decision making. No one is dictating to another what they must do. The partnership meets each entity where they are and responds to their needs appropriately. Further, trust among partners is implicit. The partnership will be coordinated through an Advisory Council and contractual agreements. Each partner has committed to membership on the Council which will meet quarterly. Meetings will utilize the Picture Tel once the infrastructure is installed. In addition, the Advisory Council will be organized into three working sub-committees -- telecommunication infrastructure, hardware and equipment and training.

Administratively, the grant funds will be distributed through the existing mechanisms of the BOCS and SWRLSS system. These regional organizations are designed to consolidate and distribute resources from a pool. Fort Lewis College will sub-contract, following Colorado Fiscal Rules, with San Juan BOCS for the five school districts it serves, with Southwest BOCS for the seven school districts it serves and with SWRLSS for the 13 public libraries it serves. These organizations will in turn distribute the funds to the partners using established protocols. An important part of this design is that each partner becomes the owner of their own equipment and responsible for their own contracts for telecommunications leases. In addition, the two BOCS will split the funds and be responsible for the training and technical support contracts and SWRLSS will administer the marketing contract. Fort Lewis will sub-contract directly with Pueblo Community College, Colorado SuperNet and for the evaluation contract.

V. Impact of the Project

SCIL-Net primarily impacts almost 20,000 K-16 students and over one thousand teachers in southwestern Colorado. This project will open the 'information superhighway' to these learners who are geographically restricted in "real-place real-time" in an efficient and creative manner. The far-reaching impacts of this project include:

• constructs the southwest portion of the Connect Colorado infrastructure
• creates 35 points of access for Internet and one new interactive video site
• leverages xx in local resources -- $ cash and $ in-kind
• experiments with replicable models to effectively impact learning
• removes the geographic barriers to learners in the most remote corner of Colorado
• gives Colorado presence among the emerging Four Corners distance learning institutions
• enables interactive video access for the extreme southwest corner of the State
• increases the public availability of Internet accessible computers in the libraries by 50%
• enhances collaboration and resource-sharing among schools and public libraries.
• reduces costs of infrastructural development as compared to each partner working alone
• provides experience for the State in distance learning pedagogy to enhance cost-effectiveness
• allows exploration of innovative connections for rural areas (model/replicate)
• creates and supports distance learning opportunities for over 19,000 K-16 students, 1,000 teachers and faculty and potentially 50,000 community members

Evaluation and Assessment

The assessment criteria for each of the outcomes is included in the chart in section 2 above.
Process monitoring is the responsibility of the Advisory Council and the committed team of staff at Fort Lewis College. The Teacher Education Department commits to developing and maintaining a database which tracks the numbers and nature of the activities enabled by the grant funds. Each partner will submit information via a Web page specifically designed for this purpose. Reporting for the partners will occur at each Advisory Council meeting. District specific and regional data will be presented. Because of the local resource commitments, existing accountability mechanisms at the district Board of Education level come into play. In addition, the partnership proposes to contract with an independent evaluator to objectively assess the summative outcomes of the project. Dissemination will occur through the FLC Web site and the partner Web sites, as they are developed. The June of 1997 "Technology in Education" conference planned by the Teacher Education Department at FLC will provide a mechanism for awareness about the project and the opportunities it will bring. Conference and travel resources will be used for reporting about the project. Progress reports to the State will provide detail on processes and outcomes.

VI. Sustainability

SCIL-Net is designed for sustainability, scalability and stability. This will be promoted through:
• partner commitments for funding the on-going telecommunications charges
• partner commitments for active participation including release time
• utilization of grant funds for equipment purchases reducing dependence on leases
• exploration of Internet-based distance learning strategies
• facilitation of resource sharing among school districts and libraries
• piggy-backing on existing connections to provide Cortez with Interactive video capacity
• honoring and responding to the independence and individual needs of each partner
• utilization of natural networks and systems for resource allocation and accountability
• the very real need for expansion of educational opportunities in this isolated corner of Colorado