Technological Campus of
Today Knows No Boundaries
by Gary Jahrig
When George Dennison looks out the window of his Main Hall office these days, his view
of the University extends much farther than the traditional campus boundaries. What
Dennison, UMs president since 1990, sees is an endless stream of outreach
opportunities with the potential to deliver UMs services to a global community.
From almost the day I arrived, Ive been saying the walls of the University
ought to be the boundaries of the state and beyond, Dennison says. We need to
take our educational programs to people, wherever they are located. In the past, we
havent had the kind of technology to overcome some barriers. We do now.
Dennisons vision for outreach, defined as the ability to extend services to
those not usually accommodated by an organization, is shared by many others at UM.
Its one of our fundamental principles reaching out to students and
providing access to education ... is clearly a part of our mission, says Sharon
Alexander, UMs dean of Continuing
Education. In fact, Alexander believes that a major role of Continuing
Education is to develop and provide access to UMs courses and programs.
Our primary focus, she says, is moving more and more toward online
delivery. Weve been involved in distance learning for years, from correspondence
courses to interactive video. But now we can do much more with online learning.
Alexander says that was one of the main reasons John Kuglin recently was named
UMs associate dean of Continuing Education. Kuglin, a former Missoula grade-school
teacher who has become one of the nations leading authorities in technology in
education, has been charged with bringing UM up to speed in the increasingly competitive
world of online academics.
Weve got an awful lot of people in Montana and other places who cant
come to campus for traditional learning, Alexander says. And its not
always good enough for people just to take an ad-hoc course here or there. Thats not
to say it will ever replace traditional learning, she says. It will not.
Its just for people who cant get here for regular programs.
Kuglin, a Montana native who also has served since 1998 as the director of UMs Earth Observing System Education Project,
is quick to point out that UM was in the outreach business long before the arrival of
The UM School of Business
has offered a long-distance masters degree program in business administration for
several years with satellite classes in other Montana cities. And for the past three
years, UMs School of Pharmacy
and Allied Health Sciences has provided practicing pharmacists with the opportunity to
earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree online, from the comfort of their own homes.
Research grants, a coveted treasure for academicians of all disciplines, also now are
becoming more associated with outreach programs at UM and other institutions of higher
learning, Kuglin says.
Most every grant connected with the University community ... has some type of
outreach effort associated with it, he says. The classic outreach research example
at UM is the EOS Education Project that Kuglin directs. One project, funded by NASA, is an
offshoot of the satellite imagery program pioneered by UM forestry Professor Steve Running
and his team of researchers on the Missoula campus. The education arm of EOS is designed
to help teachers and other interested citizens understand the earth science imagery and
apply it to classroom and real-world studies.
To illustrate the usefulness of the satellite data, UM announced last spring that it
would be the home of the National Lewis and Clark Education Center. The center, funded by
grant money, gives UMs EOS researchers a prominent showcase for their satellite
technology, which is used to retrace and analyze the famed exploration of the West on the
eve of its bicentennial.
In the past, NASA didnt worry about outreach. But a few years ago, (the
agency) began to have more trouble getting funding, Kuglin says. There had
been a change among people in Washington who began saying, What are we getting for
Such questions of practicality raised by politicians and other power brokers resulted
in new efforts by scientists to show how their research could be applied in regular life,
Kuglin adds. Universities and colleges, such as UM, became the proving grounds for applied
Even just showing that the long-term benefits for science and technology in
education can benefit most peoples children in school takes an outreach
effort, Kuglin says.
While the boom of practical science has helped outreach efforts at UM, it is the
Internet that really puts a charge into outreach specialists like Kuglin.
Some people call the Internet disruptive technology because it takes
the status quo, comfortable feeling of business as usual and turns it upside down,
But Kuglin and UM administrators like Dennison and first-year Provost Lois Muir view
the Internet more along the lines of productive technology.
We need to take advantage of the Internet because times have changed,
Kuglin says. Things used to be somewhat territorial among universities, where you
could attract students from your geographic proximity. But now other universities are
expanding their outreach efforts by using the Internet. The traditional student base we
have enjoyed for years and years is beginning to erode. Montana students can easily access
other universities through the Internet.
UM in cyberspace
Thats why Kuglin has been given the task of developing a program called Umtonline. The program, still in
the developmental stages, will eventually allow prospective students to access any UM
course offering through the Internet.
Were trying to put together a plan that develops a very robust outreach
component that attracts all elements of the UM population, Kuglin says. We
want to be so good at what we do that everybody wants to join us.
Kuglin realizes that not only is it important to convince prospective students of the
value of online classes, but its also essential to persuade UM faculty and
administrators that quality will not be compromised through the long-distance learning
We have to stress to our faculty that they will have the major role in
determining class content and delivery, Kuglin says.
To personalize the Internet outreach program on the Missoula campus, UM recently
contracted with Blackboard Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based online company that designs
Internet sites for K-12 schools, colleges and universities throughout the world.
Blackboard works with some 3,300 schools in 50 states and more than 70 countries. It
specializes in customizing Web sites for individual students to the point where they can
register for classes, pay fees, consult advisers and access their lessons, all on the
Their software allows us to dump our content into their bucket, Kuglin
says. Then they customize it to The University of Montana.
This spring, UM has five online courses, all of which are designed and taught by campus
faculty. The initial offerings on the UM online site include foreign language, liberal
studies and communications classes.
Alexander says the time is ripe for UM to jump headlong into the growing Internet
education market. She also says the Internet is exactly the technological tool UM needs to
bolster its outreach efforts in the state and throughout the world.
We are committed to outreach, and we are committed to meeting the needs of
students wherever they are, she says. Were just scratching the surface
For more information about online learning at UM, contact Continuing Education at