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HIGH TECH BRIDGES THE GAP BETWEEN FARAWAY STUDENTS AND THEIR TEACHERS

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A college student raises his hand to ask a question of his professor who is 100 miles away - and gets an immediate answer. It's not a scene from The Jetsons, it's just fall quarter at Weber State College.

Weber State is one of more than 12 locations in Utah participating in the state's EDNET microwave system.Unlike KUED Channel 7 and KULC Channel 9, Utah's educational channels that offer video-taped college courses, EDNET offers live, interactive instruction that allows a student at a rural location to converse with an instructor at another location.

"It's totally interactive," said Bob King, TV and audio manager at WSC. "We've had the instructor teaching from our studio at Weber with a student in Logan asking questions of a guest lecturer in Orem."

Weber offers EDNET courses from its Criminal Justice Department.

The instructor teaches to students in a classroom in the studio but is also filmed and transmitted to other participating EDNET locations. A student asking a question from another site will see the instructor on the monitor, but all other locations will see the student asking the question.

"It's just a little bit slower than raising your hand," King said.

James H. Gaskill, an associate professor of criminal justice at Weber, taught on the EDNET system last spring.

"I was little skeptical going in," he said. "But you have such good interaction. (Students) can ask you a question - anytime."

"It all happens pretty fast," adds King who is also quick to point out that no class has ever been canceled because of "technical difficulties."

Instructors participating in the EDNET program must go through a special daylong workshop to learn to teach on TV.

Gaskill said there are logistics problems in getting tests back and forth from the different sites, but said overall the program "has really good potential."

"I've taught all over the state in Moab, St. George, even Montpelier, Idaho. We wouldn't drive to those locations for four or five students, but with (EDNET) we can reach them."

King said another benefit of the program is that all of the state's universities and colleges will accept the credits, so a student in Logan can receive credit at Utah State for courses taught at Weber without ever leaving USU's campus.

Besides offering college courses, the EDNET system is also used for interinstitutional meetings and statewide in-service seminars for education, government and business.

"Now the Board of Regents can hold meetings while board members are spread all across the state. And everyone can hear and see what everyone else is doing or saying."

Or not.

King said that any location or locations can be locked out from participating during any broadcast.

"We can link classrooms from Logan to Ceder City or just set up a private conversation between two people," he said. "It's pretty impressive."

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(Additional information)

EDNET locations

University of Utah

Southern Utah State College, Cedar City

Weber State College, Ogden

Utah State University, Logan

Salt Lake Community College

Utah Valley Community College, Provo

Snow College, Ephraim

College of Eastern Utah, Price

Uintah Basin Area Vocational Center, Roosevelt

Vernal, state and county building.

Daggett High School, Manila

Sevier Valley Tech and Richfield High School, Richfield

State Office of Education