Library testing public interest in using high speed internet for online distance learning

From August-December 2008, Copiah-Jefferson Regional Library (CJRL) and the Copiah County Board of Supervisors will be co-sponsoring a pilot program to test the public’s interest in using the library’s high speed internet and technical equipment for online distance learning.  The pilot program will be offered to any area resident participating in a college level or equivalent online course.  Participants will be allowed to utilize library equipment at the George W. Covington Memorial Library in Hazlehurst from 6:00p-8:30p Mon-Fri.  Participants must preregister with the library and seating is limited.

Katrina Castilaw, CJRL director, approached the board to request a funding commitment for the program as a backup measure while additional funding sources were pursued.

“We needed an early funding commitment for the program so that participants would feel comfortable registering for online courses scheduled for the fall semester.  If we had waited too long, students may have missed the course registration dates or been required to pay late registration fees,” says Castilaw.  “The Board of Supervisors agreed with this assessment as well as the appropriateness of the program as a public service.”

Like all CJRL branches, the Covington facility is equipped with high-speed T1 internet access supplemented with wireless access.  Computer equipment is available for the pilot program by way of two portable training labs.  Facility temperatures are kept at a constant level.  Castilaw continues,

“Because facility temperature are kept at a constant level, there will only be a nominal increase in electricity costs.  The most relevant funding expense for this program is for a proctor to secure the facilities.  Because of certain grant guidelines regarding library equipment usage, CJRL felt it was best not to enter any ‘gray areas’ in terms of the program’s funding and decided to pursue external funding source(s).  If the program proves successful, having organizations other than the library involved in the program will also provide leverage for additional grant funding, both for the library and the other organizations involved.”

No other library services will be offered during the program’s 6:00p-8:30p timeframe.  The program does not include any assistance in helping participants with their actual coursework.  There is no fee for participating in the program.  Standard library fees will be applied for printing services; however, participants will be allowed to use flash drives and other portable devices.  Library admittance will be granted for the participants only (no friends, children, etc.). 

“We are limiting the pilot program to college level or equivalent so that we can provide the proper level of support during the trial period.  However, I anticipate that home schoolers and other distance learners will be interested in the program.  It is important that the public lets the library director and county supervisors know about any personal interest that they have in the program so that we can properly assess public demand for this service,” Castilaw concludes.

Anyone interested in sponsoring or participating in this program should contact Katrina Castilaw, 601-894-5873, or e-mail [email protected]

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