Beaufort County Community College (BCCC) in North Carolina will use $329,983 in funding to develop more options for distance learning. The grants, which came from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Office, will allow BCCC to expand distance learning in a myriad of ways, including retrofitting additional classrooms with broadcast equipment and working with high schools in rural areas to develop ways to increase college transfer and dual-enrollment options to high school students.
Back in 1998, BCCC received $210,000 from USDA Rural Development to kickstart its distance learning program. Currently, the school has broadcast capabilities at six local high schools. With the new funding, BCCC will add three new schools to its roster and expand capabilities at three existing schools. The free broadcast college classes provide access to high school students who would otherwise face up to a 120-mile roundtrip commute.
In terms of the technology that makes distance learning possible, broadcast classrooms are equipped on both sides of the telework so students can interact with the in-person class and teacher, and vice versa. Classrooms have multiple microphones and cameras to allow for different viewpoints and interactive conversation.
The new grant funding will purchase and install teacher and controller work desks, codecs, and other equipment that will allow the three new high schools to offer dual-enrollment classes directly on their campus, BCCC said.
“We have all had to learn new technologies with our current safety protocols, but our college has been engaged with distance learning for over 20 years. It’s is the best way to bring college within reach of the rural communities we serve,” said Dr. David Loope, BCCC president. “The world is moving fast, and we must ensure that physical distance does not prohibit our students from succeeding academically and economically.”