Funding, Grants & Awards

Web-Based Learning in Rural Areas Gets Federal Financial Lift

A United States Department of Agriculture grant program will fund 45 projects intended to connect rural communities in 32 states with educational experts via videoconferencing. The same funding stream is also being applied to healthcare projects for connecting patients with medical professionals.

On the education side, in Alaska Copper River School District, for example, will use nearly $500,000 to provide distance learning to five primary schools in extremely remote Alaskan villages. The schools will share curriculum and professional development. Three of the sites are on Native Alaskan trust lands.

Across the country in West Virginia the Roane County Schools will use its $500,000 grant to place videoconferencing equipment in 19 schools. The benefits there, according to the district, will be to "increase academic achievement; ensure college/career readiness; address professional development; aid special needs children; and improve students' social, emotional and physical health."

Several of the initiatives will help area colleges and universities connect with high school students to provide college-level courses as well as K-12 teachers for professional development opportunities. For example, Washington's Wenatchee Valley College outreach will encompass 19 rural hub and end user sites for these types of education programs as well as workforce development efforts.

Ohio Christian University is receiving $206,000 to provide a fixed-site distance learning set-up that connects its main campus with four rural Ohio educational facilities in order to provide access to college education offerings.

"Using technology for educational opportunities and medical care can provide services that are often unavailable in rural areas," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a prepared statement.

The USDA Rural Development program has delivered $235 million for 713 projects in rural areas across the country since 2009.

The complete list of grant recipients is on the USDA site.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.