Bell Atlantic Gives $200,000 to Virginia Tech to Extend Interactive Distance Learning to K-12 Schools

Bell Atlantic Gives $200,000 to Virginia Tech to Extend Interactive Distance Learning to K-12 Schools

Virginia Department of Education to Play Key Role in Implementation

November 4, 1998

Media contact: Paul Miller, 804-772-1460

RICHMOND, Va. -- Bell Atlantic will contribute $200,000 to Virginia Tech to make the latest interactive distance learning technologies available to all elementary and secondary schools in the state. The Virginia Department of Education will share with Tech the responsibility for overseeing the operation of the new technology.

Virginia Tech will use the grant to add a digital bridge to Net.Work.Virginia, the state's new high-speed, broadband telecommunications network. The bridge will enable the state's K-12 schools to conduct video conferencing and interactive distance learning sessions with other schools, community colleges and universities across the state. The digital bridge, which will be located in Virginia Tech's offices in downtown Richmond, should be operational by second semester of this school year.

"Until now Net.Work.Virginia has been primarily used by higher education. We're delighted that these funds can help extend this exciting technology to the state's elementary and secondary students," said Hugh Stallard, president and CEO of Bell Atlantic - Virginia.

Elementary and secondary schools will be able to connect to the bridge by subscribing to Net.Work.Virginia or simply dialing in to the bridge over an ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) line. Using the digital bridge, they can then connect to multiple sites for video conferencing or distance learning among schools or with community colleges and universities, regardless of whether the sites are actually on Net.Work.Virginia.

Net.Work.Virginia uses fiber optics and the latest ATM (asynchronous transfer mode) digital technology to transmit voice, data and video at extremely high speeds over a single data line. Virtually all of Virginia's institutions of higher learning, all 23 of the state's community colleges, and over 85 K-12 sites are linked to Net.Work.Virginia. The system currently serves more than 400 separate sites.

One of the key uses of Net.Work.Virginia is for interactive distance learning programs. A teacher at one school, for example, can instruct students at up to four other sites. The students can interact with the teacher using video monitors and voice-activated microphones.

Net.Work.Virginia participants also use its advanced system for high-speed Internet access, client-server data services and local area network connections for traditional networking needs.

Virginia Tech will be responsible for buying, setting up and operating the bridge for a one-year period. Following that, the commonwealth's Department of Education will have primary responsibility for overseeing the operation and maintenance of the bridge, with support from Virginia Tech.

"This will provide a vital link between K-12 schools and colleges and universities in Virginia," said Erv Blythe, vice president for information systems at Virginia Tech. "Virginia Tech is pleased to have this opportunity to work with the Department of Education on emerging technologies."

The funds for the Bell Atlantic award come from the company's Distance Learning Grants Program. Bell Atlantic - Virginia committed in 1994 to make available $1 million a year for seven years to support the development of interactive distance learning in the state.

Bell Atlantic will announce the winners of its 1998 distance learning grants in December.

Bell Atlantic is at the forefront of the new communications and information industry. With more than 41 million telephone access lines and more than seven million wireless customers worldwide, Bell Atlantic companies are premier providers of advanced wireline voice and data services, market leaders in wireless services and the world's largest publishers of directory information. Bell Atlantic companies are also among the world's largest investors in high-growth global communications markets, with operations and investments in 23 countries.

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