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Grant Enhances Learning at Iowa Lakes

By Staff | Jun 28, 2012

Iowa Lakes Community College has installed new video screens and improved telecommunications at its five campuses thanks to a USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant. --Lori Hall photo

On June 20, Iowa Lakes Community College debuted the college’s new television system, which is funded in part by a USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant.

In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Iowa Lakes had received the $498,695 grant. USDA grants are for funds to improve educational services in rural areas or improve access to health care through the USDA Distance Learning and Telemedicine program.

The college used the grant as part of $1.1 million project to improve distance learning at all five campuses-Emmetsburg, Estherville, Algona, Spencer, and Spirit Lake.

Tom Brotherton, Executive Dean of the Emmetsburg Campus, explained, “The new system will allow us to split channels and offer a wider variety of classes for those wishing to pursue an evening associate in arts degree.”

Beginning in the fall, arts and science courses-like statistics, composition I, trigonometry, and U.S. history–will be available at some campuses.

Two rooms at each of the college campuses feature two 80-inch video screens hanging on the wall. Microphones are “always on” and provide seamless communications with several locations simultaneously. Previously, students had to push a button to speak to their instructor. Now, this is no longer the case.

“In the past, distance learning suffered from the problem of engagement,” said Brotherton.

He added that the new technology also allows for instructor movement unlike in the past when instructors were confined to a desk.

“This is a huge step in partnering with some of our interested local school districts,” added College President Valerie Newhouse.

Palo Alto County high schools benefitting from this new “leading edge” technology include Emmetsburg, Graettinger-Terril, Ruthven-Ayrshire, and West Bend-Mallard High Schools.