Johns Hopkins Gazette: January 17, 1995

Hopkins, Bell To Go Distance for Education

By Ken Keatley
     Without bricks and mortar, Johns Hopkins University is about
to embark on an expansion that will enable university lectures,
conferences and special events to reach vastly more people.
     Hopkins has been selected by the Maryland Higher Education
Commission to participate in the Maryland Interactive Distance
Learning Network, which links schools, colleges and other
educational/cultural institutions via interactive television
facilities provided, installed and maintained by Bell Atlantic of
     Theodore O. Poehler, vice provost for research, said that
Hopkins will receive all necessary electronic equipment for three
distance learning classrooms at no cost to the university; users
do pay a monthly access service charge. The sites include the
Homewood campus, the East Baltimore medical campus and the
Montgomery County Center.  
     The university may, at its expense, add additional Maryland
Interactive Distance Learning Network classrooms in the future,
Dr. Poehler added.
     "This may significantly improve our ability to reach markets
we wouldn't otherwise reach," Dr. Poehler said. "There are a lot
of different applications, but the principal function we envision
would be to broadcast some of our part-time courses to a number
of locations simultaneously. It's potentially very practical."
     Robin Radespiel, project manager for the Maryland
Interactive Distance Learning Network, said that Bell Atlantic
has committed to providing classrooms at 270 sites in Maryland,
including all 230 or so public high schools, public community
colleges and public four-year colleges and universities. The
remaining 40 or so sites are chosen at the discretion of the
Maryland Higher Education Commission, which selected Hopkins to
     "Having a major research institution like Johns Hopkins on
board really elevates the program," Radespiel said. "Their
involve-ment should serve to inspire other educational and
cultural institutions to participate in order to improve the
access of their programs, especially in underrepresented areas."
     Bruce Griffin, Bell Atlantic's distance learning project
manager, said the company is committed to spending $30 million
over a four-year period to establish the network. In addition,
Bell Atlantic is donating $13.5 million in classroom equipment
and related services.
     "This was designed with the help of educators, and they and
students have been coming up with all sorts of applications,"
said Griffin. "A lot of the community and four-year colleges are
finding this to be an effective way of reaching additional
     Griffin added that the broadband, two-way interactive video
provided by a fiber optic digital network produces television
pictures and sound that are of broadcast quality. Fully
interactive, the network allows participants at as many as four
sites to be linked during a class, conference or other event.
     For example, a class instructor on the Homewood campus could
lecture, respond to questions by and also observe the actions of
students in that and as many as three other classrooms on the
network simultaneously.
     "The instructor can literally oversee the activities of
students in four sites," Griffin explained. "We have the
capability of linking more sites, but we've found that four is as
many as one instructor can handle at once." 
     Dr. Poehler said that the specific locations for the three
Hopkins classrooms have yet to be determined. 
     "But all three sites are places where several schools within
the university are located, so we want to ensure that the
classrooms are properly placed and managed for everybody's
benefit," Dr. Poehler explained. He mentioned the School of
Continuing Studies and the part-time programs in the School of
Engineering and the School of Hygiene and Public Health as likely
users of the network.
     Dr. Poehler added that a list of possible sites will be
identified and presented to Bell Atlantic within about a month,
and that final selection and installation should occur within
about four months thereafter.    
     To date, 32 sites have been chosen for the Maryland
Interactive Distance Learning Network, and 20 are up and running,
accord-ing to Griffin. Among the on-line sites are five public
high schools in Baltimore County, four in Baltimore City, the
University of Baltimore and Towson State University.

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