(Since the InfoDev does not fund North American project, this is not in its format.)


128 EPS Building
P.O. Box 173860
Montana State University
Bozeman, Montana 59717-3860
Telephone: (406) 994-6550
FAX: (406) 994-7856
Email: btc@montana.edu

Proposed Projects for the Global University System

The digital revolution and the emergence of global electronic commerce are taking us into a new era. We are moving towards a global knowledge society where information, skills and competencies become the driving forces of social and economic development. It is this confluence of social, economic, and technological forces that create both opportunities and challenges for society as a whole. The challenges associated with this transformation can no longer be solved by traditional means. The Internet, with its extending and improving infrastructure, will be the main telecommunication media of tomorrow. It has been extended to most countries, albeit with slow-to-medium speed. The advancement of videoconferencing, telephony, broadband Internet, World Wide Web, and other communication and information technologies is rapidly creating new opportunities for establishing international distance learning and global healthcare/telemedicine programs that will allow us to foster global citizenship and achieve "education for all."

Broadband Internet Access:

Research and deployment of a broadband Internet backbone is expanding high-speed Internet access to higher education and healthcare institutions throughout the United States and beyond. This technology provides increased band-width to University researchers requiring the ability to manipulate large quantities of data and graphic images, as well as simultaneous audio, video, and data transmission for high-quality tele medicine applications. In addition, this technology holds great promise for improving multimedia distance learning capacity, especially in rural and isolated areas that are not well served by commercial network providers. The enhanced distance learning capabilities of broadband Internet are only beginning to be explored and offer an immediate benefit to the populations served by these networks.

The Montana Test-Bed:

Montana's large geographic distances and diverse terrain, sparse population distribution, poor economic climate, and lack of broadband Internet and telecommunications infrastructure makes it an ideal test bed for establishing technical and education program models that can be replicated globally in developing countries and remote and geographically isolated areas. Current network infrastructure in Montana is fragmented and uncoordinated. Many rural areas have inadequate phone service, and even more limited Internet access. Distance learning and telehealth efforts in Montana are far from economical, and are limited in their ability to establish accessible, affordable, engaging, and reliable resources. In addition, there are few economic incentives that would indicate that corporate investment in infrastructure will be forthcoming in the near future.

In spite of the barriers, the demand for distance learning and telehealth capabilities is great. People recognize that access to education and resources through telecommunications will allow them to maintain communities that are competitive and economically viable. Although these distance learning challenges are not unique to Montana, it is a valuable laboratory for exploring alternative solutions that might enable us to better serve Montana citizens and simultaneously establish quality distance learning programs that can be utilized by the Global University System.

Tribal College Access:

Montana is home to seven Native American reservations and tribal colleges (more than any other state), with most located in rural and isolated geographic areas of the state. Native American's are the largest minority population in the state, and although the reservations are often geographically attractive, the prospects for education, employment, and personal and professional development for those living on the reservations are bleak. Average unemployment on the reservations is over 60% and more than 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. Over 50% of the pre-college students never complete high-school.

Although numerous government agencies have programs dedicated to improving technology access to traditionally underserved communities, Montana reservation communities continue to fall further behind in their ability to access and use new information and communication technologies. In a recent report by the Benton Foundation, the Crow Reservation in Montana reported that over 50% of the homes on the reservation were without telephone service. Access to T1 lines on the reservations is almost non-existent. Lack of training in the use of new technologies is also prevalent.

This pilot project will pilot and utilize the capabilities of broadband Internet access to extend high-end multimedia distance learning and telehealth programs throughout Montana, especially to tribal colleges and to the many Montana citizens that live in areas surrounding the reservation communities. The program will increase connectivity for Montana Tribal Colleges, and create high-speed imaging capability for hospital and emergency medical services in these rural areas. In addition the project will make connections and extend programs and resources to other western states and to Hawaii, the South Pacific Islands, and Asia, establishing a prototype for international distance learning and telehealth connections that can be replicated worldwide.


In addition to establishing pilot projects for the technical deployment of broadband internet connectivity, the Burns Telecommunications Center will expand several existing high-quality distance learning programs to insure target audiences with access to meaningful resources. These target programs are designed to meet the unique needs of rural and underserved populations and include content that is applicable to both Montana populations, tribal communities, and people living in the Pacific/Asia regions of the Global University System.

• Nursing: Montana State University offers a graduate Family Nurse Practitioner program with an emphasis in rural nursing. This program is currently offered using a distance delivery format that includes a partnership with the Salish Tribal College in western Montana. We propose to expand the distance delivery portion of the program and to collaborate with other tribal colleges as well as the Philippines Open University program.

• Emergency Medical Services: Meeting the needs of emergency medical service providers is a tremendous challenge in rural and remote areas. The Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC) program is a highly successful training program that includes specialized care techniques and equipment for children and is in high demand among developing nations as well as U.S. states and territories. Training in EMSC can lead to academic credit, as well as meet continuing education and licensure/certification requirements. We propose to expand the deployment of the EMSC program by adapting training to a distance delivery format that serves tribal populations throughout the west, as well as expands these services in the Pacific basin region.

• Science Education: MSU is the home of the NSF funded National Teachers Enhancement Network, recognized as a model distance learning professional development program by NSF. This program provides graduate education in the sciences for secondary science teachers both nationally and internationally. Improving the quality of science education, particularly for underserved and minority populations is a priority for the NSF Teacher Enhancement initiative. We propose to expand this program to reach teachers at tribal colleges and reservation schools, as well as increase access to quality graduate education in the sciences for teachers worldwide.

• Technology Education: Recent reports regarding access and deployment of information and communication resources all point to a lack of training available that will enable people to effectively use these new technologies in their personal and professional lives. We propose to expand the BTC Technology Leadership program (originally funded by AT&T) which provides a variety of technology training for education and business leaders living in rural areas. With an emphasis on rural access, applications, and economics, this program provides customized training that can be offered in a multimedia distance learning format.

(Click here for more detailed diagram.)

For More Information:


Kim Obbink, Director
Burns Telecommunications Center
128 EPS
Montana State University- Bozeman
Bozeman, Montana 59717
Phone: (406) 994-6550
Fax: (406) 994-7856
Email: kobbink@montana.edu

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