Expanding learning

Mississippi adults will

get many new choices

An e-Town Meeting Oct. 23 will unveil an unprecedented and progressive step by Mississippi's eight universities and the statewide community college system to bring adult learners back into the classroom from the computer terminals of their homes and offices.

The academic/technological architects of Mississippi e-University (the name of the undertaking) at the state College Board and on the cooperating campuses want to dramatically expand adult enrollment above the 10,000 students enrolled this year in some form of extension learning.

The anchor event Oct. 23 begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Mississippi Trade Mart complex in Jackson. It will be broadcast live on the Mississippi Interactive Video Network, on all eight university campuses, and at the University of Mississippi Advanced Education Center in Tupelo.

Pam Smith, an assistant commissioner for higher education and chief spokesperson for the College Board, said all the universities and community colleges hold high expectations for an evolving, expanding impact of Mississippi e-University. University/community college coordination, she said, can prevent curriculum errors and ensure a smooth flow of credits between the institutions.

Smith said the e-university would continue offering traditional correspondence courses as needed, but the emphasis will be on video interactive distance classrooms and Internet learning.

Moving university educations into students' homes and offices should encourage growth of Internet access statewide and move many adults to master more computer skills.

Internet learning isn't new to Mississippi, but other states with more people, students and financial resources already are deeply involved. The University of California system, a bellwether in nationwide higher education, enrolls more than 500,000 students annually, offers 21,000 courses and has on-line, on-site and travel/study credit opportunities.

Smith said Mississippi e-University will target degreed adults and those seeking completion of a bachelor's degree, or those who want courses to enhance job skills and career advancement.

The courses won't be free, but the costs will be significantly less than giving up a career to resume college as a full-time student.

Mississippi obviously has much to gain in a better educated workforce and in the earnings potential of people who gain helpful knowledge and skills from the e-university.

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