U could develop online access for K-12 schools

Nancy Ngo

Administrators want more interaction with potential students so they’re sharing their technology assets with the Minneapolis Public School system.
University computing representatives are meeting with Minneapolis public education officials in addition to their travels to colleges and universities. While hoping to lure potential customers for computer network projects in development, University technology experts are also proposing to design a version of their online network for the city’s school system.
Minneapolis school negotiators said they are interested in such a system because their students could keep pace with new education technology.
Such a system would allow high school students to take courses and apply to the University online. This link could also mean an increased application pool, if pre-college students take advantage of their improved access to the school, said Michael Handberg, the University’s director of World Wide Web development.
The University’s recently approved contract with IBM calls for the two to collaborate with PeopleSoft Inc. to build a more efficient human resources and student services network and market it to other higher education institutions.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Handberg said. “There’s been an enormous amount of interest.” But an expansion of the product could cater to K-12 systems, he said.
Naomi Wilsey, communications manager for the IBM education group, said the company wants to work with the University to build a system that outside communities could also use. Besides K-12 schools, she cited hospitals and libraries as possible expansion areas for the product.
Throughout the next few weeks, University representatives will meet with Minneapolis public school officials — including superintendent Carol Johnson — to sketch out how such a system would work.
Negotiators expect to know by the end of February if such a relationship is feasible.
Kay Sack, assistant superintendent for district support services of Minneapolis Public Schools, said she’s so far impressed with the University’s network model.
Such a system would also serve as an advising link to tell potential enrollees what they need in order to prepare. Registering for courses, including post-secondary offerings, would be a likely option. Students could also estimate their financial aid online.
“Students can start to plan what they’re going to take. If they’re going to the University, they are more fully prepared,” Handberg said.
There’s no estimate yet for how much such a project would cost, but that’s not detracting from the public school system’s interest.
“We want to purchase it. We hope we can find some funding,” Sack said. “We would certainly like to be the (test) site for it.”
Sack said IBM would be a likely resource that the school would ask for funding. The state is another option.
IBM’s Wilsey said the company’s involvement in such a deal is possible because a pre-college and higher education link could be in demand as a market product.
But the University could be the big winner by introducing itself to students earlier.
“The sooner you can get (students) hooked up to a system, they’re more inclined to apply to your school,” Wilsey said.