Global learning from Shady Grove University of Maryland plan: Cutting-edge center for 'distance learning' would give state big economic advantage.

October 20, 1997

LONG-DISTANCE LEARNING is all the rage on university campuses. The number of colleges offering "cyber" courses has doubled in just two years, to 1,128. Now the University System of Maryland wants to take the lead in this new technology through a global learning center at its Shady Grove campus in Montgomery County.

It could give Maryland a clear advantage in the heated competition for jobs and economic growth over the next decade.

The Maryland Global Learning Connection, the first in this country, would serve a variety of education functions:

As a research and development arm in distance learning -- interactive video, teleconferencing, the Internet -- for all USM campuses. It would launch studies of emerging education technologies and adapt advances to aid USM course offerings.

As a training facility for faculty on how to make distance-learning courses effective and how to use new technologies.

As a worldwide marketer of the university's course offerings.

As a resource for Maryland companies and government agencies on distance-learning curricula and technology-enhanced training.

If such a center succeeds, the University of Maryland could loom large in global education. The potential market is huge. Just in the corporate sector, the estimated market value of technology-enhanced learning is $60 billion a year.

The center would have to be flexible, ready to react rapidly as technology changes. It must serve as a tutor to help UM campuses develop popular and highly effective distance-learning courses that utilize the full array of advances in the field. And the center must act as an economic development engine for Maryland.

Locating the center at Shady Grove serves just such a purpose. High-tech firms along that I-270 corridor -- Maryland's Silicon Valley -- would be big users of this 80,000-square-foot facility. It could quickly become a Mecca for companies seeking global reach, or that do considerable staff training at sites around the world.

The Global Learning Connection could be the future of higher education. It doesn't require huge capital outlays like a traditional campus. Labor costs -- the faculty -- become minuscule when the potential classroom is worldwide. And it provides a seamless connection between education and corporations.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening is sitting on a hefty surplus. He ought to dedicate $25 million to the proposed Global Learning Connection at Shady Grove. Maryland must be on the cutting edge of high-tech education. This is our opportunity to go where no state has gone before.

Pub Date: 10/20/97

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