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Julie Wernert
Communications and Planning Office

Last modified: Wednesday, August 30, 2006

IU-Jackson State University report:

Technology promises bright future for minority- and rural-serving institutions

August 30, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Researchers from the Community Grids Lab, part of Pervasive Technology Labs at Indiana University, along with partners at Jackson State University have released a report showing the positive results of a multi-year collaborative project using Collaboration Grid Technologies to deliver distance-education courses to JSU undergraduate and graduate students. JSU student surveys indicate the classes were highly successful and helped to expose students to professors and topics to which they may not have otherwise had access.

Geoffrey Fox, director of the Community Grids Lab, who served as both a researcher and a course instructor on the project, says the report should encourage minority-serving institutions, as well as schools serving rural populations, to consider distance education as a cost-effective option in expanding and enhancing curricula. Fox attributes the program's success to uncomplicated technology that is easy for teachers and students to use.

Fox believes bringing minority-serving institutions, along with small colleges and universities, into the cyberinfrastructure can help to level the academic playing field.

"We can bring some of the best researchers and educators from around the world into these students' classrooms," explained Fox. "With today's technology, a leading academic institution can exist anywhere; a school doesn't need to be located in Boston or New York in order to lead in research or to provide students with access to the top scholars in a discipline."

Loretta Moore, chair of the JSU Computer Science Department said, "The program has allowed us to offer advanced courses in areas where we may not yet have faculty expertise. This has led to a long-term interest for some students who have gone on to complete master's theses and have begun Ph.D. programs in those areas."

Using the Access Grid -- a set of resources that facilitate virtual meetings and collaborative work between groups of people in separate locations -- Jackson State University began offering its current generation of distance-education classes in the fall of 2003. The project built on earlier classes started by Fox and JSU in 1997.

Students received instruction in topics such as e-science and e-business in a format similar to that of a traditional classroom. Instructors delivered lectures, and students asked questions and received instructor feedback using an audio link. The collaborative system used to deliver the courses also allowed teachers to navigate through curriculum pages with the students while highlighting important concepts. It also offered additional tools such as text chat and a virtual white board.

JSU also benefited from the program in the form of faculty professional development. Designated JSU faculty members assisted as local professors for the Access Grid courses, allowing those individuals to teach the courses on the JSU campus in following semesters.

The distance education project was funded at Indiana University and JSU by the United States Department of Defense High Performance Computing Modernization Program via a sub-award from Mississippi State University. The goal of the HPCMP is to allow the High Performance Computing community to help the Department of Defense make the best use of HPC technologies.

The project report, "An Experience on a Distance Education Course over the Access Grid Nodes," was authored by Hyunju Kim, Loretta A. Moore, Geoffrey Fox and Robert W. Whalin. It was presented at the 2006 International Conference on Education and Information Systems, Technologies and Applications held in July 2006 in Orlando, Fla. The full report is available at

About Pervasive Technology Labs at Indiana University

Pervasive Technology Labs at Indiana University ( was established in 1999 by a grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. It performs leading-edge research based on the ubiquity of information technology in today's world, creating new inventions, devices and software that extend the capabilities of information technology in advanced research and everyday life. Fundamental to its mission are efforts to attract, encourage, educate and retain Indiana's workforce of tomorrow and to accelerate economic growth in the state through the commercialization of new inventions and by forming and supporting new start-up companies. In carrying out its mission, Pervasive Technology Labs is helping Indiana University maintain its position of international leadership in information technology research, and as a result is helping to enhance the prosperity of the entire state of Indiana.

Jackson State University

Founded in 1877 Jackson State University is a comprehensive university located in Mississippi's largest metropolitan area. The state's fourth largest institution of higher learning and the only four-year public institution in central Mississippi, JSU provides approximately 8,500 students with opportunities to develop knowledge and skills that empower them to succeed in an increasingly complex world. Designated as Mississippi's "Urban University," JSU is one of the top educators in the nation of African Americans with graduate and doctoral degrees.