March 22, 1996
Nine Post-Secondary Sites Connected
Some 500 persons at nine locations across central and northern Wisconsin were connected "live" on Thursday to celebrate the completion of the state's most expansive distance learning network.
From River Falls to Appleton, five University of Wisconsin System campuses and four vocational system colleges were interconnected to demonstrate the WONDER System. The acronymn stands for Wisconsin Overlay Network for Distance Education Resources.
Developed last fall at a cost of about $2 million, the WONDER Network uses fiber optic technology to connect UW-River Falls, UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Stout at Menomonie with the technical system campuses, including Chippewa Valley Technical College in Eau Claire; Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton; Western Wisconsin Technical College in La Crosse, and the Northcentral Technical College in Wausau.
The network is used to send and receive postsecondary credit courses, distribute professional development courses and workshops, and conduct administrative video and audio teleconferences.
The WONDER network covers the widest range of any fiber optic network in the state, blanketing roughly the northern third of Wisconsin. Fiber optic cable, maintained by local telephone companies, has much greater capacity than conventional phone lines, including the ability to carry video signals. It also delivers a flawless picture.
Barbara Audley, director of UW-RF Continuing Education Extension and president of the WONDER board of directors, said the network satisfies several needs, including:
"WONDER offers an important capability to us as we strive to meet the needs of Wisconsin," Audley told the participants. She noted that UW-RF is also connected to the WestWING network, which includes 11 rural school districts and Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College in New Richmond.
Completed last fall, the post-secondary WONDER network has scheduled more than 1,200 hours of instruction this spring. Some of the classes include an accounting course between UW-RF, UW-EC, and UW-SP; a clinical hematology course between UW-L and UW-SP; an insurance course between UW-RF, UW-EC, UW-L and UW-Stout; and a dental hygience program between the technical campuses of Northcentral in Wausau, Chippewa Valley in Eau Claire, and Fox Valley in Appleton.
UW-RF soon will offer classes from a second fiber optics classroom that will soon be completed in the College of Agriculture.
Funding for the WONDER network comes from members schools, with technical assistance from Access Wisconsin, a contractor with the Wisconsin Department of Administration. Phone companies involved in carrying the network include Ameritech, GET, TDS Telecom, Century Telephone of Wisconsin, Frontier Communications of Wisconsin, and Wittenberg Telephone Co.