The social and technical infrastructure for the virtual university in rural areas.
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AbstractRural Broadnet is funded by the HEFCE under a widening provision programme which is designed to increase access to higher education for groups within society who traditionally suffer from poor access. The project’s brief is to widen HE participation in rural areas utilising, where possible and necessary, an information technology infrastructure. The project’s programme is needs led and characterised by community level partnerships; it does not aim for high specification hardware, software or communications technology. Its focus is to facilitate delivery of education, training, information and advice to local rural communities using technology which is accessible to, and affordable by, those communities. Particular target groups are the unemployed, women returners, older people, the 16+ age group and those on low or negative income. Local businesses, mainly agriculture-related sole traders, with low skill levels and a poor tradition of training, are also seen as a target group. This project differs from many others in that it has focused on communities, has identified local needs and attempted to meet those needs, rather than simply imposing the established University ‘learner’ model. A number of locally based and managed IT centres have been established, and these support a diverse range of course delivery and learning materials, from basic word processor use to Internet access and web site development. The Rural Broadnet team have become facilitators of a negotiated, student-centred learning experience which is supported at the local level by collaborative partnerships involving community groups, voluntary sector organisations, training providers and other agencies.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
Series/Report no.Working paper