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Not Your Ordinary First Day of School

 

April 29, 1999

(DALLAS) Five Central African colleges and universities got their first taste of English composition this morning, with a Texas twist. The LeCroy Center delivered the first of seven interactive sessions on English 1301, A Writer’s Exchange, to students in; Nairobi, Kenya; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Cape Coast, Ghana; Harare, Zimbabwe; and Kumasi, Ghana, from the confines of its Texas telecommunications’ studio — all via the latest in educational telecommunications, distance learning.

The college course includes more than 20 videotaped lessons along with 7 supplemental interactive live broadcasts from Dallas. Students will receive 3 college credit hours from their respective colleges in Africa. The second installment of the international broadcast will be delivered on Friday, April 30, 1999, starting at 6:45 A.M.

The initial requests to provide this English composition telecourse to the colleges and universities of the African Virtual University (AVU) has been less than six months in the making. The project started like many others, with a simple phone call requesting courses be designed and delivered to students — on the other side of the world — with the local faculty consultant never setting foot on a plane. Out of that request grew many questions; delivery methods, teaching methods, satellites, downlinks, phone links, and the like. According to Pamela Quinn Assistant Chancellor for the LeCroy Center, “This was history in the making, and we’re doing more than just talking, we’re making it happen”. World Bank, headquartered in Washington, DC, funded this new and innovative project with the LeCroy Center and AVU.

The 7 live broadcasts are delivered live via satellite from Dallas, with several hops along the way, into the classrooms for the students. Dr. Suzanne Gitonga of North Lake College will provide instructional assistance from Studio C at the LeCroy Center. The English-speaking students and Gitonga will communicate live with a 2-way audio and one-way video system—the students can see and hear her at all times. Gitonga will talk with the students via telephone, computer e-mail and faxes. This new and interactive format requires that Gitonga serve as a faculty consultant or facilitator working along with the on-site instructors in Africa.

“The first class went very smoothly”, according to Gitonga. The class was broadcast Friday morning at 6:45 and delivered to the classrooms in Central Africa about 1:00 in the afternoon. Gitonga, who has studied at the University of Nairobi in Kenya and taught composition classes there, says “I was very supportive of this new enterprise and jumped on the opportunity to be a part of bringing this new technology to what I consider my adopted home”. Gitonga who is married to a Kenyan, lives in the Dallas area and plans to visit Kenya this summer.

The AVU is a first-of-its kind interactive telecommunications network established to serve countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. Their mission is to support programs with the resources of a global “virtual university” by educating and training world-class scientists, technicians, engineers, business managers, health care providers, and other professionals.

The LeCroy Center is an industry leader in producing and delivering distance education, telecourse and internet-based courses, to more than 1500 colleges and universities worldwide. What began as an effort to meet the needs of its changing community has evolved into a high-tech, “virtual” educational training center of the future-making traditional educational training a thing of the past.