By Tierney Gallagher
Clemson University and the South Carolina Army National Guard recently celebrated over a decade of partnership in education. Twelve years ago, the two shared a vision which led to the coordination of distributive training to reduce the duplication of resources and efforts in South Carolina.
Out of this partnership, the Army National Guard Distributed Learning Program (DLP) and the Distributed Learning Center (DLC) were established, benefitting the Guard, the University and the South Carolina region.
Partnership program & facilities
The DLP is a partnership between the South Carolina Army National Guard and Clemson, particularly the College of Health, Education, and Human Development, that aims to teach and train soldiers via video conferencing.
The goal of the DLP is to improve soldier readiness by providing flexible access to training and education. The DLP makes training locally available and feasible in a shorter amount of time, generating more training opportunities, reducing the time a soldier is away from home and eliminating excess travel and costs.
In order to implement the DLP, the partnership established the DLC at Clemson, which consists of both a computer assisted classroom and video teletraining classroom. The classrooms feature computer workstations, two-way interactive video conferencing capabilities and other equipment provided by the US National Guard valued at nearly $500,000. The Guard’s computer network also provides access to a database of more than 2000 educational programs in the DLC.
The benefits of shared use
While the DLP and facilities of the DLC offer great opportunities for the Guard, they also provide a variety of benefits for Clemson as well. The shared use element of the program allows non-military use of the DLP equipment. Because the facilities cannot always be utilized by the Guard for training, the partnership allows the University to take advantage of them for the purposes of programs and classes.
According to Lt. Col Steve Thomas, this use by non-military personnel was the motivation behind the partnership with Clemson and several other South Carolina institutions for education.
Out of all of the other campus projects, Thomas says that the Clemson University partnership has been one of the most successful. “Clemson and the Guard seem to have a mutually beneficial arrangement in the operation of the distributed learning classroom,” says Thomas. “The Guard is interested in getting its message to the young men and women of this state and this provides an opportunity for that. Clemson sees a means to expand its distance and distributed learning programs without the normal outlay for facilities.”
Thomas says that those individuals who take advantage of the technology in the classroom tend to produce students who have the skills necessary to better function in today’s workplace.
Because of this unique partnership, Clemson can take advantage of the technologies provided by these facilities toward different educational initiatives.
The DLC provides a learning environment incomparable to traditional distributed-learning settings. The technology is built for the classroom and can accommodate more individuals, allowing for enhanced interaction among students and the instructor. Since the DLP deals with military communication, the DLC runs on a more secure network and is less vulnerable to viruses. The Guard also performs regular maintenance on the system so it always runs on the most current hardware and software.
Additionally, because the Guard funds the majority of communication charges, all monies generated to be used for the support and advancement of the Center.
University and community-wide utilization
The DLC is used by the University on a weekly basis for various purposes. Some of these include conducting classes between the Greenville and main campuses, aiding interaction between Clemson and USC students preparing for study abroad programs, and allowing the packaging science program to participate in an annual competition via video conference with schools throughout the nation.
One of the most successful programs that has emanated from the DLP is the Reading Recovery program. The program seeks to educate elementary school teachers so they can become Reading Recovery instructors and improve children’s literacy skills. By utilizing the DLC, nearly 200 teachers can be trained at eight different locations in the state and over 3500 teachers have participated in the project to date.
The far-reaching effects of partnership
The partnership between Clemson and the South Carolina Army National Guard has served as a model for other states, particularly states with National Guard Bureau Distributive Training Technology Project facilities. It has enhanced relationships in higher education and secondary schools, expanded distance and distributed learning initiatives, and continues the development of collaborative community efforts and the acquisition of resources within communities for these purposes.
For more information about the Clemson University College of Health, Education, and Human Development please visit the college website.