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Vision-Net installed in LCC labs

| July 7, 2004 12:00 AM

By Paul Boring, Western News Reporter

With the completion of a pair of high tech distance learning labs, Lincoln County Campus has officially propelled itself into the 21st century.

VisionNet equipment was installed at the college at the end of May, giving staff ample time to familiarize themselves with the new toys before students descend on the campus for fall semester.

³This is more than technology,² said LCC Director Pat Pezzelle. ³This means that Lincoln County Campus is moving into the 21st century. We¹re starting to catch up really quickly.²

Bringing the equipment to Libby has been in the works for two years, predating the beginning of Pezzelle¹s tenure. Making the distance learning labs a reality began with the extensive remodeling project financed by community members.

³There are a lot of people that deserve a lot of credit,² Pezzelle said. ³These people really stuck with it. And without the community support for the renovation, we wouldn¹t have had the space for the labs.²

The advanced distance learning apparatus was financed through a Rural Utilities Grant. Recipients of the grant included Flathead Valley Community College and the St. Regis, Lustre, and Libby public schools.

³The consortium applied for and received the grant that allowed Libby High School to have a VisionNet lab at the college,² Pezzelle said.

The LCC director was undaunted by the new technology, having worked with similar equipment at a community college in Arizona. A cursory training session was recently held for college staff, giving instructors a taste of the college¹s future.

³You just plug it in and dial it up,² Pezzelle said. ³It¹s very user friendly.²

Each lab is equipped with two large televisions and VisionNet equipment, which includes a variety of cameras all operated by remote control.

³Once up and running, it¹s all remote control,² Pezzelle said. ³You can do everything. You can watch the instructor, focus on a specific student, see the whole classroom. It¹s fantastic.²

The college currently has one T1 line, allowing four sites to be patched into the system at any given time. Until broadband technology arrives in Libby, Pezzelle said the college staff will become adept at maximizing the system¹s use with a limited number of sites involved.

³The magic number for both our labs is four, no matter how you break that down,² he said. ³I can go in this room and send a class to St. Regis, Lustre and Eureka. That¹s my four, including the lab here.²

Instead of an overhead, VisionNet provides a visualizer capable of flawlessly displaying documents and even three-dimensional objects. While teaching, instructors can toggle between the Internet, cameras, visualizer, and DVD and videocassettes.

³This system is amazing,² Pezzelle said. ³Everything is in real time. When lips are moving, you¹re hearing the words at exactly the same split second.²

VisionNet will drastically reduce the size of the world for students in Libby and Eureka. Installation of the equipment has tripled the course offerings for the latter campus.

³It¹s still not enough to make me happy, but we¹re on that road and heading in the right direction,² Pezzelle said.

In the future, the college will make the labs available to local agencies and organizations interested in teleconferencing.

³We want to help the community as much as we can,² Pezzelle said. ³That¹s what we¹re here for.²

Although students will not use the equipment until the fall, Pezzelle has already experienced firsthand the benefits of the technology.

³I usually have five to seven meetings a month in Kalispell,² He said. ³In June I made one trip. I lost zero workdays and I was available here on campus. That¹s a huge deal.²