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Major grant to assist on-line distance education

(Aug. 26, 1999)   —   East Carolina University was among 29 campuses funded for U.S. Department of Education "Learning Anytime, Anywhere Partnerships", it was announced this week.

The funding will support the School of Industry and Technology's On-line Wireless Learning Internet Solutions (OWLS) project. OWLS is a $4.6 million project aimed at development of innovative strategies and technologies to support distance education. Ericsson Wireless Internet Solutions, based in the Research Triangle Park, is providing major funding and technology support for the project. The Department of Education grant will provide $924,437 over the next three years.

"OWLS aims to turn the traditional campus environments into a global classroom that can be accessed by learners anywhere and anyplace," said Dr. Barry DuVall, an industry and technology professor and the OWLS co-director at ECU. He said much of the technology involves the use of "wireless" communication.

Over the next three years, OWLS distance learners will be able to choose from a curriculum of over 40 courses presented by faculty from nine universities. The courses, developed by ECU and other university partners, will be offered at the undergraduate, master's and doctoral levels, and will be suitable for people who can work at home with their desktop systems or on-the-go with tiny portables and no access to telephone lines.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Education and announced by Vice President Al Gore, came about after School of Industry and Technology officials approached Ericsson earlier this year and proposed that the two organizations jointly apply. Ericsson agreed to be a partner in the grant effort and will contribute to the operational and developmental expenses.

Dr. Darryl Davis, dean of the School of Industry and Technology, said his school's partnership with Ericsson is recognition of ECU's expertise and track record in the distance education field. "We are a national leader," said Davis. "We have people in five continents participating in our programs...and have as much experience in delivering Internet-based programs as any accredited university in the world." He noted that a 1996 study by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors identified 870,000 potential students in North Carolina as wanting to continue their education if time and location were not an issue.

He said the project will target that group, as well as hundreds of mobile professionals -- corporate executives, business travelers, technical specialists, and geographically displaced learners -- who have limited opportunities to connect with the wired Internet. He said the new Science and Technology Building, when completed, will serve as a hub for global classroom and distance education projects. Other universities that will be participating in the initial phase of the OWLS project include: Eastern Michigan University, Central Missouri State University, Indiana State University, and the University of Wisconsin/Stout.

Four additional schools are expected aboard next year: Texas Southern University, Bowling Green University, Central Connecticut University and North Carolina A & T State University.

"We are delighted to be contributing our understanding, knowledge and experience in wireless (technology) to help advance this very worthwhile endeavor," said Hans Davidsson, vice president and general manager, Ericsson Wireless Internet Solutions (EWIS).

The wireless data technologies being developed at EWIS are designed to increase both the speed and security of dial-up connections to corporate networks, and include the latest advances in protocol reduction, data compression and encryption. The end result is faster, easier and more secure access for mobile professionals when handling e-mail, accessing and transferring


Contact: ECU News Bureau | 252-328-6481