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USDA Rural Development Invests in Maine Schools through Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants

USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Virginia Manuel made a major announcement to Region II School of Applied Technology, in Houlton, on Friday. The School received the news that it will benefit from three USDA Rural Development Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants.

The grant funds will provide access for adult learners in rural Maine to improve their employability and obtain marketable technical skills. This project has three wings, with each wing of this network introducing a new configuration of rural end-users and content providers who will add value to the education network:

In this wing, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension and United Technologies Center will deliver professional development to educators at Cooperative Extension in 16 local program offices.  These educators are key players in educating adults in their rural communities.  There is an enormous need for basic reading comprehensive and numeracy skills necessary to function in our literate community, especially with a growing immigrant population. Computer tablets installed with video client software will be installed at the extension offices, bringing them into the loop with collaborative-based teacher training.

School of Applied Technology Director Michael Howard and USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel stand next to the distance learning technology that will expand adult learning opportunities thanks to $1.48 million in Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant funds

School of Applied Technology Director Michael Howard and USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel stand next to the distance learning technology that will expand adult learning opportunities thanks to $1.48 million in Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant funds

In the next wing, the consortium adds Eastern Maine Community College with its array of technical and skill-building classes. Another resource is the Maine College Transitions program, a high quality, cost-effective and accessible pathway to post-secondary education.  Up until now it was previously available only to areas with higher populations.  Eighteen more rural adult educational centers are introduced in this wing of the overall project as video end-points.  The York County Jail and Somerset County Jail will also join the network, fitted with video conferencing equipment.  As a solution for training and educating incarcerated persons, distance learning offers increased security all around-for law enforcement, for the public, and for the institutions that are involved in providing that educational venue.

Last but not least, in the final wing, the University of Maine at Orono, serves as the hub, connecting to 21 adult education centers that will be acquiring desktop video conferencing equipment and computer tablets running video client-based software.  The university’s distance learning network-Networkmaine-will acquire a new multi-point bridge and additional server licenses to support new sites with a multitude of classes and programs geared toward job readiness skills.

“I am extremely pleased that the Region II School of Applied Technology has received these grant funds, which will provide educational opportunities that are vital to adult learners,” State Director Virginia Manuel said. “The grants will help provide students with the skills necessary to obtain employment as well as continue to be a successful part of Maine’s dynamic workforce.”

Region II School of Applied Technology Director Michael Howard said, “Adult learners are a diverse group in Maine, and this grant has the potential to bring together expertise from around the state to work toward bettering the life of many citizens.”

Under this recent funding announcement, Maine led the nation with seven organizations receiving nine grants totaling more than $3.4 million in Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants to support distance learning opportunities and expanded access to quality healthcare through telemedicine.

A total of 100 grants were announced last week by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. To see a complete list of the awards click here.

 

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