UPDATE: Forsee gift helps bring new technology to UM System

Wednesday, October 29, 2008 | 4:46 p.m. CDT; updated 9:27 a.m. CDT, Thursday, October 30, 2008

COLUMBIA — University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee, former chairman and CEO of Sprint Nextel, wants students and faculty at the UM System to have access to the same advanced videoconferencing technology that major corporations use.

After a $1 million gift from 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.

"It's a technology that, while being relatively new, was a technology I was familiar with," said Forsee, who was appointed president in December 2007.

Forsee is excited about the possibilities the technology presents for connecting researchers from the four campuses in the UM System to one another and to others around the world.

"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.

The first TelePresence room will be built at MU before the end of the year, Forsee said. The location for the room has been identified, but has not yet been announced. Locations at the other UM System campuses will be completed in 2009, Forsee 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,"
Forsee said. "I believe the new Cisco TelePresence and AT&T network will help
advance this effort."

In June, the UM System Board of Curators approved initial performance objectives for Forsee's first year as president, which included a recommendation by the end of the year for a "best in class" distance education system, the Missourian previously reported.

MU's Center for Distance and Independent Learning currently offers more than 150 university courses, and Mizzou Online offers more than 40 online degrees.

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