SVCC receives funding for distance learning equipment
Published 1:10 pm Wednesday, January 2, 2019
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) a grant to fund the purchase and deployment of equipment that will improve access to education for people residing in the rural areas of south-central Virginia. The college received the announcement in early November and is already taking steps to prepare 91 classrooms for distance learning activities at sites in five counties. The sites include the college’s two main campuses and four off-campus centers strategically located to serve students across SVCC’s ten-county region, the largest community college jurisdiction in Virginia.
Chad Wollenberg, Chief Information Officer at SVCC explains, “We are constantly looking at innovative ways to ensure service to every nook of our 4,200-square-mile service area. We are very excited because this grant will allow us to do video streaming from every classroom and be flexible in our delivery methods to our student population.”
The project, Southside Learning Connections, will deploy high-definition cameras and room microphones in almost every classroom at SVCC. According to Wollenberg, “This helps us deliver classes to our other sites, to our partner schools, and potentially to students anywhere in the world. We have already had great success with a pilot project testing this video solution in several classrooms and the demand for this level of interactivity is very apparent.”
Grant funding totaling $168,000 will enable the purchase of equipment for synchronous and asynchronous distance education. Wollenberg notes, “The deployment of this solution will happen over several months by the very talented SVCC Information Technology team. The goal is to deliver the best technology to serve our students and community.”
In a letter of support, Elizabeth Green, State Director of USDA’s Rural Development in Virginia, wrote that Southside Learning Connections aligns with her office’s Strategic Plan for Virginia. She identified the effort as an “important initiative,” and noted her “strong support for this project that will enhance the educational opportunities across areas of Virginia.”
“SVCC is proud to partner with USDA to promote education throughout our service area,” commented Dr. Al Roberts, College President. “Attracting new business to our region and restoring its economic vitality hinges on the ability to enlarge the pipeline for education and job training. This project increases our capacity to offer students flexible distance learning options so that they can embark on meaningful career pathways.”
USDA’s Distance Learning and Telemedicine program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density. Program funding facilitates linking teachers in one area to students in another or medical service providers to their patients. Grants are awarded through a competitive application process.
SVCC is one of 23 community colleges in the Virginia Community College System. It is a two-year institution of higher education that serves one small city and spans ten rural counties. The college offers 23 degrees at the associate level, a host of shorter-term academic and workforce development programs, opportunities for dually enrolled high school students, adult basic education, and other transitional services for non-traditional students.