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Tech Talk

Portland State Offers American Indians Online Classes
PORTLAND, Ore.—The state has linked three American Indian tribes to Portland State University by a high-speed computer network that allows students in a master’s degree program to take classes without leaving the reservation.
The state Department of Administrative Services test program allows instructors in Portland to teach and meet with students by video.
“I can just go upstairs, 100 feet from my office, leave five minutes before class starts, and be in class and learning,” says Chris Leno, director of operations for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.
Leno is one of a handful of American Indians studying tribal governance through a new master’s degree program from the Mark O. Hatfield School of Government at Portland State.
Theresa Julnes Rapida, an associate professor of public administration and member of the Shoalwater Bay Tribe of coastal Washington, developed the program. She says she wanted to bring training opportunities to Northwest tribes at a time when casino gambling profits are fueling record growth of tribal governments.
Rapida has worked with faculty to tailor the examples and projects to resemble those a tribal government might face, such as protecting petroglyphs or public areas the tribes consider sacred. She started the program last fall, connecting Portland State with the Grand Ronde, Siletz and Umatilla reservations.
The Department of Administrative Services has lent equipment to the three tribal sites through next year and is covering transmission costs in exchange for being test sites.
Rapida has applied for a $420,000 grant though the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Technology Opportunities Program, which would help all nine of Oregon’s federally recognized tribes get connected, as well as Evergreen State College in Washington state.
She’s also talking to local American Indian organizations, such as the National Indian Child Welfare Association, about the possibility of using the network to deliver training and workshops.
“I would really like to see a Northwest regional hookup that would include the tribes being able to access any higher ed instruction,” Rapida says.

‘Virtual Degrees’ Available to Complement Online Classes
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota college students have hundreds of online classes to choose from, but they have never been able to package them into one degree.
That will change next January, when the state allows students to receive two-year associate of arts degrees without ever setting foot in the classroom.
The move makes sense because online college courses have become popular in recent years, officials say.
“Students are more likely to say, ‘What took you so long?'” says Bob Larson, director of distance learning for Minot State University.
Packaging online classes into degrees is a complex job of cutting the red tape of registration, grading, transcripts, accreditation and financial aid — systems that are designed for students who get at least some of their education on campus, officials say.
Financial aid is especially troublesome because federal eligibility rules require students be on campus, a move made to ensure the government is not cheated by fly-by-night correspondence schools, says Dr. Mike Hillman, North Dakota State University’s vice chancellor of academic affairs.
In North Dakota, 80 percent of college students need financial aid to go to school.
The state university system is entering a five-year federal demonstration project in which the states and colleges can offer regular financial aid for Internet classes. That enables North Dakota to get the virtual degree up and running sooner.
To get started with the online degree, students must choose one of the state’s two-year schools, and they may have to take 16 to 24 credit hours from the chosen school. Beyond that, students will be able to take online classes from any of the state’s colleges and universities.

Colorado State Grad Returns to Work After Blackmail Accusation
NEWARK, N.J. — A Colorado State University graduate accused of blackmailing an Internet company was back at work in the school’s chemistry department earlier this month.
Nelson Robert Holcomb declined to discuss his case when reached at a laboratory in Fort Collins, Colo.
Holcomb was arrested May 24 and freed two days later when his bail was reduced from $50,000 to $10,000, both with a 10 percent cash option, says Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office here, which is prosecuting the case.
Holcomb, 36, who also lives in Fort Collins, has waived extradition, so his next court date would be in New Jersey to enter a plea should an indictment be returned.
The FBI accuses Holcomb of trying to extort money, a car and free downloads from a company in Wayne, N.J., that sells digital books over the Internet.
The company received 10 threatening e-mail files from Holcomb’s e-mail account in April and May, according to court papers filed in New Jersey by the FBI. The documents did not identify the company.
According to court papers, the e-mail files said the sender had discovered how to download the books for free, but would not publicize the weakness if provided with a sum of money equal to the retail value of the content on the company’s Web site, a 2001 Volvo wagon, two digital audio players and unlimited free downloads of the company’s content.
After the company agreed to provide everything except the money, it got an e-mail the next day from someone who identified himself as Rob Holcomb, court papers say. The sender gave a mailing address and work phone number at Colorado State’s chemistry department in Fort Collins, court papers say.
If convicted on the single charge of using the Internet to send extortion threats, Holcomb faces up to two years in prison and a $100,000 fine.    

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