The Iowa Central Community College board of directors Tuesday approved pursuing a Rural Utilities Services grant.
According to T.J. Martin, dean of distance learning, the grant, provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, would go toward the purchase of a Polycom video-conferencing system.
"Remember the old ICN (Iowa Communication Network) classes?" Martin said. "It's just like that, but instead of old Pac-Man style, we're talking the new gaming style. You can actually recognize students, is the purpose. It's a better learning environment."
The RUS grant is being pursued in cooperation with six area community school districts, Martin said: Webster City, Clarion-Goldfield, Eagle Grove, Prairie Valley, Newell-Fonda and Manson.
"All six of those schools are looking at purchasing a possible Polycom system ... to be able to produce courses to broadcast," he said. "We're looking at going in with the districts on this. I've approached most of them about this."
The cost of the complete Polycom system is $50,000, Martin explained.
"That's everything in the system, meaning even a podium for the instructor," he said. "This would be paying for half of that. It's a 100 percent matching grant. We're looking at paying $25,000 for a $50,000 system, is what it comes down to."
Having such a video-conferencing system would be a benefit to the college, as well, Martin said.
"We are looking at putting in four ourselves," he said. "One here in Fort Dodge, Storm Lake, Webster City. The fourth one for us as a college would be at the Eagle Grove new career academy, so we can produce courses to send there, along with the other six school districts."
Board approval was first needed before Martin could start work on the grant application, which is due July 7.
"It's worth pursuing," Martin said.
The board unanimously gave its approval for Martin to apply for the RUS grant.