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Some South Dakota farmers are unhappy with industrial ag getting conservation funds; Texas judge allows abortion in Cox case; Native tribes express concern over Nevada's clean energy projects.

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The Colorado Supreme Court weighs barring Trump from office, Georgia Republicans may be defying a federal judge with a Congressional map splitting a Black majority district and fake electors in Wisconsin finally agree Biden won there in 2020.

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Texas welcomes more visitors near Big Bend but locals worry the water won't last, those dependent on Colorado's Dolores River fear the same but have found common ground solutions, and a new film highlights historical healthcare challenges in rural Appalachia.

Virtual Learning Shrinks Distances for MT's Rural Students

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Tuesday, September 6, 2022   

Montana's big landscapes and sparse populations present a challenge to colleges and universities. But the internet is shrinking distances for the state's rural students.

Joe Thiel is the director of academic policy and research for the Montana University System. He said long distances to college can act as a bigger deterrent to enrollment than the cost of higher education.

However, Thiel noted that the state can't have a college in every small community. And he said there are even challenges for small communities that do have one of the state's 16 university system campuses.

"So, even if you have a college in your community in a rural area," said Thiel, "you might not have access to the courses or programs that you want for your career interests for your pathways to help you succeed."

Thiel said it's an especially hard time to attract students, which is why using the virtual space creatively can be an asset for high education.

He said the amount of online coursework grew rapidly during the pandemic, when in-person classes weren't feasible.

Thiel said one innovative partnership Montana's colleges and universities have is with the technology company Quottly. It allows schools to share courses across campuses and provide remote workforce training.

Thiel said the university system is working on ways to expand this service.

"We can take advantage of the fact that we have 16 campuses," said Thiel, "all with their own unique specialties, all with their own capable faculty - and find new ways that we can share those courses and share those programs more sustainably across the entire state."

Thiel said bringing higher education to more places is not only good for the students it serves, but also for their communities.

"The communities that need trained teachers, trained health professionals, trained business leaders," said Thiel, "they can develop those locally rather than having to rely on their attempts to recruit them out of state, which too often have failed."

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.




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