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Sep 9, 2008

NWC Talks Partnership With Koreans

CODY - A partnership between Northwest College and a South Korean online university may help spur the growth of a local startup company specializing in distance learning for English language students.

Representatives from Seoul Digital University, including President Paek J. Cho, are visiting the Bighorn Basin this week, and met Monday and Tuesday with administrators and faculty members from Northwest College.

A four-year school offering courses including accounting and psychology, SDU has 12,000 students in 28 countries, said Nickie Proffitt, a spokeswoman for Northwest College.

"They have a lot of Korean-speaking students who live in the U.S., so it's important for them to be able to transfer course credit to American schools," Proffitt said.

The two schools are exploring a possible agreement that would allow SDU students studying English to earn course credit through an accredited program developed with Northwest College, she said.

"They're planning on starting small, with beginning and advanced-level English courses and a third class in public speaking," Proffitt said.

Sher Hruska, vice president for academic affairs, said a key part of the partnership would be technology and services provided by Eleutian, a Ten Sleep company that uses online videoconferencing for distance learning.

Company founder Kent Holiday has said he hopes to employ as many as 250 Wyoming teachers by the end of the year to offer online instruction to SDU, focusing on conversational English.

Eleutian recently completed a pilot program and launched regular service this month, employing teachers in Ten Sleep and Powell on a flexible, part-time schedule, paying $15 per hour.

"Eleutian has the interactive online technology to facilitate students' learning of languages, and Northwest College would collaborate with them on a curriculum for courses that could meet transfer requirements," Hruska said.

"I think it's going to take us a while just to take care of meeting the first priority of providing English proficiency, but the goal eventually would be to articulate a number of courses and collaborate on digital education more broadly," she said.

In South Korea, where ultra-high-speed Internet connections are commonplace, even in homes, online universities are popular, with many traditional universities setting up companion programs online.

"SDU is government-sanctioned and the premier South Korean online university, in terms of number of students and assessed quality of the education," Hruska said.

"Their students are traditional aged but also include working professionals who may work for an English-speaking company or who may be sent to the U.S. to obtain an advanced degree," she said.

"The partnership could be very productive for all three organizations and for students who want to be able to document that they can speak and listen effectively in English," Hruska said.