Information Technology
From Washington

Vice President Al Gore Seeking to Expand Educational Opportunities to Rural, Under- Privileged Americans


Al Gore made his presence felt in the distance learning community last month by recognizing the work of educational institutions and corporations to spread online connectivity to rural and under-privileged areas.

Gore spoke of his interest in connecting all Americans to the Information Superhighway at the "Connecting All Americans for the 2lst Century" conference held at the Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C. The conference featured demonstrations of products by Vice President Gore created by companies such as VTEL and Tektronix, and how those products would be used in rural area networks that are sponsored by companies such as Bell Atlantic. Companies such as these have made generous donations to the cause of establishing rural area networks, including a $1.9 million donation from Bell Atlantic.

"We are very pleased that Vice President Al Gore recognizes the work that VTEL has done to help provide connectivity to all Americans," said VTEL president Jerry Benson. "The Vice President's support of the C/C/T (Community/Communications/Technology) initiative, along with the involvement of the U.S. Department of Commerce, further enhances the progress we are making towards providing access to visual communication networks for rural and low-income America." For more information on the C/C/T initiative visit VTEL's website at www.vtel.com.


Gore said he saw expanding the construction of the Information Superhighway as his role, and compared it to his father's work of building roadways that made transportation possible in the U.S. fifty years ago, said Dave Bonner of the Sage Colleges.

"They (the Administration) are doing the right thing by looking at history and seeing what they did do right and transposing and fixing those ideas on the construction of Information Superhighways," Bonner said.

Bonner said Gore is concerned that all Americans have access to education because it is essential for a democracy, and that he sees online distance learning as the key to delivering that education.

Discussion was made at the conference about the role of online distance learning, especially in terms of its relationship to traditional campus learning. Gore's sentiments were that online distance learning was to be used as a supplement and not a replacement to traditional learning. Online education will be used only to service those who would not have access to advanced level courses any other way.

"At some point you do need human interaction, caution was taken that this not be a replacement no one wants their students to be taught by a machine," Bonner said.