Juniors and seniors at 11 remote high schools in southwestern Oklahoma will now be able to watch university lectures and ask professors real-time questions.

Through a recent grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) is funding its distance learning project, allowing the university to broadcast its classes to high school students. The average class size in these high schools is 25 students.

USDA announced $4.7 million for its Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) program, which will support 18 projects across 16 states, on Sept. 19. Marci Grant, director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at SWOSU, applied for funding to support distance learning from the USDA in 2015 and was denied. In February, she applied for funding for the same project and received $485,498.

SWOSU, located 60 miles west of Oklahoma City, has a student body of 4,500. Grant said the funding enables administrators to replace the dated interactive teleconferencing equipment at the Weatherford and Sayre campuses, as well as at the 11 high schools.

“The time to drive to class is long, especially in Western Oklahoma,” Grant said. “This will make that easier.”

Ministry Health Care, which has offices throughout Wisconsin, also received funding from USDA. Ministry received $432,258, and is one of seven health care projects funded in this grant cycle.

Tom Weaver, manager of public and community relations for Ascension Wisconsin, said the project will connect 13 rural clinics and two hospitals to Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston, Wis., which serves as the central hub. Ascension is the health care system that includes Ministry Health Care. Weaver said this project has the potential to provide more than 100,000 telemedicine visits over the next three years.

“The program is aimed at addressing the physician shortage in Wisconsin by allowing clinicians in rural areas to communicate with primary and specialty care clinicians for consult and direction,” Weaver said. “Use of this technology will allow for care of more complex patients without leaving their home community.”


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