Building Partnerships: Rural Development and Internet Education
The Internet provides a unique opportunity for citizens to use new technologies
in community and economic development. The Internet offers new opportunities
for citizens in rural communities to access information technology; thereby
increasing prospects for meaningful information exchange related to issues
such as educational programming, health care delivery, business and commerce
and organizational development. Rural communities still do not have
equal access to information technology; yet rural citizens are striving
to adopt this new communication paradigm to minimize their isolation.
The community network can be used to re- engage local citizens in their
communities (especially in rural areas), allowing citizens and their "connectedness"
to stimulate a new sense of "community" that strengthens local economies
and social systems.
The Building Partnerships project engages local stakeholders and promotes
their collaboration with Community College staff from six Illinois institutions
— Illinois Eastern, John Wood, Rend Lake, Sauk Valley, Shawnee and Southeastern;
the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service (CES); and the
University of Illinois Laboratory for Community and Economic Development
(LCED). The project brings new opportunities to share information
and ideas while using technology to pursue community and economic development
goals. Community Colleges have traditionally used information technology
as an administrative tool; however, today information technology can change
the way educational programs are delivered in rural areas. Information
technology can promote hands-on learning, the ability to experience new
and different environments, allow information to be accessed on demand
without being subject to restraints on time, and allow educational programs
to be delivered to geographically remote locations. This project
focuses on human networks and the revolution in human communication that
is changing how we create and share knowledge. To rural communities,
the value of this revolution depends upon how well community stakeholders
are engaged in the process.
The project team will continue to partner with local stakeholders as
they pursue their own organizational goals — those focused on meeting community
educational needs. These two strong organizations (the Community
Colleges and the U of I) must continue to take leadership in promoting
the collaboration among the local stakeholders. The team can take
the first steps toward providing training opportunities and services to
help fill the gap where access does not meet standards. As
a follow-up activity to the training citizens and the project team will
invest in building local organizational leadership capacity to help citizens
in the planning process to strengthen their connectiveness and involvement
in community development. Communities might choose as a goal the
development of a strategic plan to help them use the Internet more effectively.
In the rush to become part of the Internet, many communities use the Internet
in ways that do not address local needs, and are not used by citizens.
Research and practice have shown that communities that don't have a comprehensive
community presence are most likely to fail in bringing and sustaining the
Internet to their community.
The project provides an opportunity for Community Colleges, the U of
I and CES to provide leadership in bringing Internet technologies to rural
communities. Via the Internet, the economic development staff and
computer technology instructors from Community Colleges will bring new
development tools to the communities they serve. LCED staff have
made a substantial investment in developing Internet-based community capacity
building development tools. CES can help build organizational capacity
as CES Educators deliver educational programs tied to the community action
leadership program. A partnership of Community Colleges and the U
of I can create a comprehensive institutional commitment to bring information
technology to the forefront of community and economic development in rural
The project will foster a collaboration with Community College economic
development staff and CES to help rural citizens create and implement community-driven
web pages; and deliver, using information technologies, research-based
Creation of meaningful community networks;
Enhanced partnerships between Community College staff, CES staff, and others
at the U of I; and thereby increased communication, cooperation and collaboration
on future projects;
Introduce new stakeholders to the Community College educational programs
and to CES resources for adult learners;
Improved "usefulness" of Internet tools locally, as Internet resources
are used more effectively and more efficiently than ever before; and
The creation of a new framework for the delivery of educational programs
via new technologies.
This project will be organized into five major activities:
For More Information: Contact Julie Fesenmaier, Laboratory for Community
and Economic Development, University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign,
(217) 244-0433. Visit our web site at: http://www.ag.uiuc.edu/~lced.
Community Building, during which Community College, CES, and LCED staff
will help communities establish a community-based technology committee
and develop a framework for collaboration to achieve their goals;
Understanding the Role of Information and Information Technology.
Focus groups and key informant surveys will determine the value of information
and information technology for community and economic development;
Training Local Entrepreneurs, where community members will attend training
at one of six community college campuses, where they will explore the Internet
and begin to learn how this new and emerging technology will help their
Creating Virtual Communities, during which Community College, CES and LCED
staff help communities build an effective presence on the Internet that
will enhance education opportunities, and community and economic development;
Delivering Internet-Based Educational Programs, where communities will
implement Internet technologies to deliver user-specific educational programs
not bound by time or location.
Funded by the Illinois Board of Higher Education -- Higher
Education Cooperation Act, and the Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service-USDA,
Agricultural Telecommunications Program.