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Effective Practices

Tuning in to the Vision Athena Network : Integrating Distance Learning into the School Curriculum

Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization

Effective Practice:

Using a videoconferencing network to implement distance-learning projects involving school children, transportation agencies, and community leaders.



The Indianapolis MPO, in coordination with the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC), has participated in distance-learning projects with Indiana's public schools. The CILC is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to encourage distance-learning technologies to enhance educational opportunities for students. Distance learning is delivered to Indiana classrooms through the 'Vision Athena' videoconferencing network.

The Vision Athena Network gives students the means to communicate with peers at other schools, collect data, and collaborate with government officials, local community leaders, industry experts, planners, engineers, and environmental scientists to study real-life problems. Project issues are integrated into the curriculum for classes in social studies, science, mathematics, art and the environment. Students formulate recommendations and share their findings in presentations with city and community leaders. Upon completion of their project, students are also given an opportunity to exhibit their models and findings in local museums and community centers.

Transportation-related studies are well-suited to distance-learning methods:


For the Agencies:

Brings increased attention and interest to agencies' projects.

Generates participation of new segments of the population in the transportation planning process overseen by the Indianapolis MPO.

Invites new perspectives and innovative 'out-of-the-box' thinking.

For the Community:

Challenges Ahead

The distance-learning education model can effectively bring communities and stakeholders into partnerships with transportation agencies in the planning and project development stages of decision-making. The Indiana Department of Transportation is committed to this model for the I-69 project between Indianapolis and Evansville. Four central and southern Indiana middle and high schools will explore alternatives and assess environmental, community, and economic impacts of the project. This is the first long-term, multi-year project involving the state transportation agency as well as schools outside of Indianapolis / Marion County.

Proponents of the distance-learning model advocate its use on other community-oriented projects. Community organizations can use distance-learning to heighten interest and increase public participation levels as part of a strategy to build consensus and recommend locally preferred solutions. CILC suggests that eligible community projects meet the following criteria to be suitable for distance-learning methods:


Mike Dearing, Principal Planner
Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Organization
Phone: 317-327-5139

Website address for Vision Athena:

photo: seven people standing near a white car looking at plans
Updated: 5/4/2016
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