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Distance-Learning Network Launched

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Four leading providers of distance-learning programming by satellite planned late last week to announce the launch of an interactive television and computer network that will provide instructional and staff-development programs to 2,000 schools nationwide.

The founding of the satellite-based Interactive Distance Education Alliance Network, or IDEANET, was slated to be announced at a press conference in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Association of School Administrators.

The network will serve schools in 33 states and the District of Columbia when it begins broadcasting in the fall.

"This network will serve as the schools' on-ramp to the 'information superhighway,''' said Ed Groenhout, the vice president of Northern Arizona State University, a partner in the venture.

The other founding members of the network are the Missouri School Boards Association, Oklahoma State University, and Washington State's Educational Service District 101, each of which has been a pioneer in satellite-delivered interactive programming.

The IDEANET alliance also includes R.X.L. Pulitzer, a private distance-education company, and the Network for Instructional TV, a national nonprofit educational broadcaster with affiliates in 12 cities.

"IDEA is an acronym,'' noted Smith Holt, the dean of arts and sciences at Oklahoma State University. "But what it really stands for is a whole new concept about how to provide students and educators access to some of the nation's best distance-learning programs taught by outstanding teachers.''

Single Satellite Touted

A major advantage of IDEANET, spokesmen said, is that its services will be available from a single satellite, which will make it much easier for schools to obtain the programming they need.

The goal of "co-location'' is a long-standing objective of the Washington-based National Education Telecommunications Organization.

But Shelly Weinstein, NETO's president, said that IDEANET does not hamper her organization's effort to launch a satellite dedicated to educational use.

"It certainly doesn't take the place of NETO,'' she said.

IDEANET will provide five channels of live, interactive courses in a wide variety of subjects, as well as on-line data services for students.

A separate channel will be set aside for staff-development programs as a first step toward creation of a national "electronic teaching academy.''

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