Forsee gift to help bring distance learning closer

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 | 2:07 p.m. CDT; updated 9:28 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 30, 2008

COLUMBIA — The UM System is taking a giant step forward in distance learning.

After a $1 million gift from UM System President Gary Forsee and his wife, Sherry, and another $1 million from Cisco Systems and AT&T, UM System campuses will soon be installing Cisco TelePresence systems. These videoconferencing rooms include large, high-resolution screens that show conferencing participants life-sized, as if they were sitting at the other end of the table.

"Participants will feel as though they are sitting in the same room, though they may be hundreds of miles apart," Forsee said. The system will benefit both traditional classrooms, and improve online-only distance learning instruction, according to a system news release.

In addition to the equipment, the companies are also contributing to the installation, maintenance, design, technical assistance and networking of the system, the release said.

"Cisco TelePresence allows the University of Missouri campuses to take their
research agenda to an entirely new level and supports the evolution of their
expanded distance learning programs," said Bruce Klein, senior vice president of Cisco's Public Sector Segment.

Recently, the UM System has been working to identify how distance education will be evolving for students and faculty in the future. Distance education is already a multi-billion-dollar market that is expected to reach "explosive" growth rate by 2012, Forsee said in a news release.

"This initiative — called Missouri Global — is in its early planning stages,"
he said. "I believe the new Cisco TelePresence and AT&T network will help
advance this effort."

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