Students at Pulaski Technical College and other Arkansas public two-year colleges will benefit from a grant awarded to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in partnership with the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges (AATYC).
The grant, which is funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, expands the current Arkansas Research & Education Optical Network (AREON) to the 22 public two-year colleges in the state. The network will improve the colleges' ability to deliver distance learning. Two-year colleges will also have new opportunities to collaborate to expand course and program offerings by sharing curriculum and other resources that benefit students.
To manage fiber construction and connectivity at the two-year colleges, UAMS will grant a sub-award to AREON, the state's only publicly owned fiber optic network currently serving four-year universities. Spending from the grant will include $41.2 million for equipment and construction of fiber optic network routes to serve community colleges. The project is expected to be completed in three years.
"This grant will fund PTC's most significant technological advance since it originally connected to the Internet 20 years ago," said David Durr, dean of information technology for Pulaski Tech. "By connecting to AREON, the college will be able to provide new services to students including media-enhanced distance education courses, teleconferencing and access to many new sources of information."
Improving distance education through high-speed Internet access will provide rural and working Arkansans with new opportunities to pursue higher education and skills training.
Broadband Internet access will improve the ability of two-year colleges to meet the training needs of businesses/industries in their communities, and well as attract new businesses and industries.
"This grant will allow Pulaski Tech to utilize state-of-the art networking technology as we strive to provide the best learning environment for our students," said Pulaski Technical College President Dan F. Bakke. "We are thrilled to participate in this partnership."
Key partners in the project include the Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network, Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Department of Human Services, Baptist Health, Arkansas Hospital Association, Arkansas State Library and Community Health Centers of Arkansas.