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North Dakota to Expand Distance Learning in Rural Areas

North Dakota will use $743,000 in federal grants to boost distance learning opportunities in rural universities and public schools, according to the Associated Press. 

The funding will be used to upgrade technology at 37 public schools, three of which are on American Indian reservations, and will also allow North Dakota University's campuses to purchase video-conferencing equipment.

The grants are funded by the USDA, which awarded a total of $23.4 million in grants this week to expand distance learning and telemedicine projects in rural areas across the country. While many projects will focus on improving technology in rural health clinics, some grants will be used for to better prepare students for the workforce by improving or introducing technology and Internet in schools. In Alaska, the Yukon Koyukuk school district will receive $496,700 to purchase video-conferencing equipment for nine Native schools, while in Kansas, one district will create a distance learning network in three rural communities.

As my colleague Benjamin Herold detailed in a new series about broadband access, rural areas often struggle to get high-speed Internet or acquire the technology needed for students to complete basic assignments and take online exams. Many small rural district also face extravagant costs when trying to improve bandwidth and have few options for Internet providers.

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