By Martin J. Kidston
Looking to become the premier regional university for Northcentral Montana, MSU-Northern is using the latest technology to access the far corners of the state.
Through the use of an internet television service known as NorthNet, professors at MSU-Northern are able to infiltrate classrooms across the state. The results enable students who cannot otherwise attend college the chance to do so, and in some cases, it may even allow them the opportunity to earn their degree.
The classes cater to place-bound students, said Northerns Extended University Director Janice Brady. Most of these students are working full or part time, and are an average age of 32 or 33...These are students who wouldnt be able to uproot their families.
With over 50 remote learning sites in places like Glasgow, Scobey, Malta and Lewistown, Brady said attendance at has been on the rise.
At MSU-Northerns Lewistown-based regional learning center alone, attendance rose by 220 students between 1997 and 1998, and class offerings were increased from 26 to 58 during the same period.
We think of Lewistown as one of our regional center sites, Brady said. We schedule courses so students there can work toward their degree.
MSU-Northern offers the Lewistown center the basic general educational courses, plus courses towards a master degree in learning development and classes for a bachelor of science in nursing, among others.
As professors teach courses from the Havre-based campus, the sessions are filmed and transmitted live over the NorthNet system into classrooms across the state. Students, who are also being filmed, are then able to ask the professor questions, establishing the next-best-thing to a student-teacher relationship while sitting miles away. Its face to face contact, of the high-tech sort.
MSU-Northern began offering programs in Lewistown after the College of Great Falls pulled out of the central Montana community. Northern, adhering to its goal of becoming Montanas premier regional university, took advantage of the open market and Lewistowns need for higher education. Classes in Lewistown are offered in citys Central Montana Medical Center and Fergus High School.
Thats where our interactive television studios are, Brady said.
She added that internet-television training is gaining focus educationally. But she said I dont think it will ever replace the traditional campus student.