MTC Communications Boosts Agriculture Education at WIU

Learning capabilities at Western Illinois University’s School of Agriculture has received a major boost thanks to MTC Communications.

Through the Illinois Broadband Innovation Fund, the Colchester-based telecommunications outfit was awarded $35,000 toward the new fiber optic network.

WIU’s School of Agriculture is located approximately one-and-a-half miles north of the main campus.

“Up until last year, they had basically a dial-up service for their internet,” said Bill Buchanan, president of MTC Communications. “So anything that had to happen in their classroom had to be done on (main) campus. The labs and things done on the farm couldn’t be done in a broadband aspect.”

The main campus was already home to an extensive fiber network. MTC simply extended a line from that network to the agriculture facilities. 

The new connection gives agriculture students at WIU the opportunity for distance learning and much more.

For example, the school regularly partners with swine management group Carthage Veterinary Service for educational opportunities.

Having large groups visit the facility is out of the question because of health concerns for the hogs, as well as overall safety.

“This gives the university the opportunity to send a professor or a vet to a swine management facility and teach over a live video stream through a distance learning platform,” Buchanan said.

Bill Bailey, director of the WIU School of Agriculture, said the network is an important tool in attracting potential students.

“If we can have them understand some of the things we’re doing here, they’ll understand this is an exciting, very contemporary, fun place to get their education,” he said.”

The network was tested for the first time earlier this year during a bull sale held at the facility. The auction was broadcast live over an IPTV system, available over the school’s website.

“We had a group of 4-H kids watching to not only learn how a bull sale works, but learn how an auction works and how livestock is judged,” Buchanan said. “It’s really a fun application from the school of agriculture sense.”

Tags: education, Illinois Broadband Innovations Fund, Macomb, MTC Communications, Western Illinois University

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