Comanche to Lead DOL Distance Learning Pilot

May 15th, 2006 | By | Category: 17-4: Reforming Our Schools, Native Style, Tribal College News

The U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration recently awarded a pilot program grant to five tribes to facilitate job training through technology-based delivery. The tribal nations are the Comanche Nation in Oklahoma, Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, Navajo in Arizona, and Washoe in Nevada.

The Comanche Nation College (CNC, Lawton, OK) will coordinate the project with Earth Walk Communications, Inc. of Manassas, VA. The grant will provide $1.8 million of laptop computers and client servers (new advanced “Smart Carts”) to facilitate training in and outside the classroom.

Earth Walk Communications has developed a totally new line of “education” laptop computers with advanced program software, according to Dr. Kim Winkelman (Oglala Lakota/Abnaki), president of CNC.

With academic platforms to build online course sites, students who have Internet access will be able to access their courses 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The grant covers license fees and special software. The Earth Walk software is easier for faculty to use than most Learning Management Systems (LMS) and is included in these laptop computers. The leading LMS software (such as Blackboard, WebCT, and eCollege) requires thousands of dollars in annual software fees.

The project is designed to stimulate relevant employment training for economic development. Each tribe designed its proposal for local priorities, but all plans include increasing their students’ job skills. At the Comanche college, for example, the grant will support modernizing the nursing program, the security program, and ultimately the growing gaming management program, according to Winkelman. This will make it possible for the college to deliver existing curriculum at remote sites.

The project, the first of its kind for the Department of Labor, is designed as an 18-month pilot. If successful, the Department of Labor would like to expand the program.

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