"/> State grant improves distance learning at Bethel | Bethel College, KS
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State grant improves distance learning at Bethel

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – A grant of nearly $15,000 from Kan-ed, a statewide information network administered by the Kansas Board of Regents, has enabled Bethel College to improve its ability to offer distance learning.

Earlier this school year, Kan-ed named 94 organizations, including Bethel, as recipients of Equipment and Technology Grants for 2008. Kan-ed members are K-12 public schools, higher education institutions, libraries and hospitals.

Bethel used a significant part of its grant to upgrade and improve the interactive TV (ITV) capabilities of the distance-learning classroom in Krehbiel Science Center, replacing the standard definition TV with a high-definition one.

According to Karl Friesen, Bethel assistant professor of computer science, “standard definition allows students remotely to see the professor and what he or she is writing on the whiteboard but not to read what’s on a computer screen,” used to show PowerPoint® slides, scanned documents and so on. In addition, a high-def ITV system “gets the whole board, whereas the old one would get only half of it,” Friesen said.

The math and computer science departments of Bethel and Tabor College in Hillsboro have been working together since 2007 to provide classes each would have trouble doing alone because of small numbers. Distance learning is easier on the students who would need to commute, given higher fuel prices and the amount of time they would spend driving relative to time in class.

Currently, Bethel and Tabor are sharing four classes. Lisa Thimm, assistant professor of mathematics at Bethel, teaches a math class and Friesen teaches two computer science classes. Glen Diener, Tabor associate professor of computer science, is also teaching a class in that discipline.

Friesen noted that there are actually more Tabor students than Bethel students in Thimm’s modern algebra class. “There are exciting possibilities for collaboration here,” he said.

Jeff Roberson, director of Information and Media Services at Bethel, wrote the grant to Kan-ed, which was awarded in the amount of $14,872.40. It purchased the piece of equipment that transmits the video feed from the originating classroom to the other side, along with two cameras, a plasma TV and supplementary equipment.

“The grant awards provide Kan-ed members with a tremendous opportunity to obtain the latest technology and equipment available in order to enhance video conferencing services,” said Kan-ed Executive Director Brad Williams. “Advanced video conferencing technology enables organizations to better serve their communities. The ability to identify critical member needs and offer opportunities to enhance access through technology contributes to the continued growth of Kan-ed.”

Kan-ed created the Equipment and Technology Grant Program in 2004, and in 2008 distributed $2.1 million through the program to its members for upgrades or enhancement of video conference equipment. Any connected Kan-ed member, or member that agreed to connect to the network, was eligible to apply. Currently, Kan-ed has 834 members, with 288 of them connected to the network for high-speed access to resources and programs. This program is funded by state appropriations, revenue generated through the E-rate program, and federal sources.

Kan-ed reviewed 139 proposals submitted and granted awards to 94 organizations. Priority consideration went to proposals that focused on meeting infrastructure development goals and objectives for the Kan-ed network and members. In Harvey County, in addition to Bethel College, Burrton USD 369 received a grant of about $14,500.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the only Kansas private college to be ranked in Forbes.com’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at www.bethelks.edu.

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