Fort Lewis College plans to use grant to improve distance learning

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DURANGO, C.O. — Some rural areas like Shiprock on the Navajo Nation still lack internet and cellphone service. With most classes still going virtual, connectivity is essential. That’s where Fort Lewis College in Durango comes in.

“Last year we submitted a grant to USDA. It’s a distance-learning and telemedicine grant. Of course we were looking for the distance-learning side of things” said FLC assistant professor Benjamin Waddell, lead investigator on the project.

The college received a nearly $1 million grant that they hope to use to help open rural connectivity centers.

“We’ll bring these connectivity centers, which will include internet, projectors, and access to computers through Shiprock, Window Rock, Ignacio and Antonito, Colorado. The hope is to create more connectivity within some of the rural places we serve," Waddell said.

College officials hope to improve access for more than 3,000 students in the area. These centers will also allow students to better keep in touch with their professors, and engage with services like the student health center, tutoring and library services.

“This grant will build on the work that we’re already doing on campus, but it will deeply improve our ability to provide distance-learning into the future," Waddell added.

College officials also hope that the centers will not only help students, but community members as well. Each center will look different.