U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (TX-15) announced a $193,786 grant was awarded to the Coastal Bend College through the United States Department of Agriculture. The grant money will be used for the Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program.
“Keeping our rural communities updated with the latest technology is important to the health and education of the residents. This grant will ensure that rural citizens have access to a full range of educational opportunities and access to quality medical care,” said Hinojosa.
The Rural Development funds will be used to link nine rural schools with two campuses of Coastal Bend College via videoconferencing. The focus of this project is on providing health-related training to address the shortage of health care providers.
Hinojosa added, “We are committed to the future of rural communities and I will continue to support the expansion of telecommunications, educational resources and computer networks throughout our rural communities.”
At Coastal Bend College, the grant will be used to upgrade distance learning facilities. “The distance classrooms are a vital part of the strategies used by the college to ensure that quality educational programs are available throughout our nine-county service area,” said Elizabeth Simonson, a CBC instructor and member of the grant team. Simonson, Jeanene Jones, Gary Gilett, Elden Price, Donna Atkins and Ann Richmond worked with the congressman’s office on applying for the grant and mapping a plan for use.
Often times, finding faculty with appropriate credentials to teach is an issue for small, rural campuses, according to Simonson. Distance learning allows all of CBC’s campuses to benefit from specialized classes using remote access. By ensuring that courses are available in a predictable course sequence, CBC provides students opportunities to graduate on time.
Distance learning is preferable to some students over internet courses because of the face-to-face contact with instructors and other students. Most instructors travel to their distance sites during the semester. This connection helps students feel more involved in the class.
“The primary goal is to make sure that the equipment is the same regardless of location so that instructors and students use identical tools regardless of where they are physically located,” Jones said. The team found that the success rates for distance learners is the same as for face-to-face students, provided the technology supports the class environment.