Diversified Information and Assistance NEtwork

Project DIANE has recently been cited in a US report as a "national information highway success story". This recognition for its collaborative community development efforts came from the President’s U.S. Advisory Council on the National Information Infrastructure 1996 annual report "Kickstart" amongst the recommendations for effective ways to develop the nation’s information highway.

Since 1992, Project DIANE has recruited and trained teachers, scientists, librarians, community workers and other service professionals in the usage of emerging information technologies and has helped to electronically connect schoolchildren, college students, families, handicapped individuals, senior citizens, small businesses, and others to a variety of beneficial online learning resources, information and professional expertise. DIANE’s current online membership consists of a diverse group of universities, schools, museums, libraries, neighbourhood community centres, and business assistance organisations.

The DIANE Project is an all-digital, dial-up, wide area virtual community network. At present, most users connect locally to DIANE via local public telephone company Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) circuits and to DIANE sites in other cities via long distance carrier virtual private network services. Users can engage in high quality voice communication, have a full screen 2-way video teleconference, electronically mark up a document or image, draw diagrams and type messages to one another, or even collaborate with each other in real time by remotely sharing the same computer program. Learning software, word processing, and spreadsheet analysis are common shared applications. Some DIANE communication terminals have been modified with special high speed data adapters so that users can also access and search an online database containing hyperlinked multimedia materials (e.g., text, sounds, photos, maps, even video recordings) on a wide variety of topics. DIANE also maintains an Internet web server which allows its member schools and community groups the option of posting information about themselves and sharing it with others.

"Continuous Community Learning Model"

Project DIANE began in February 1992 as a Tennessee State University (TSU) proposal to the Tennessee Valley Authority in response to TVA’s request to the presidents of several area minority colleges and universities for a joint economic development project to help under-served communities in the TVA service region.

One pilot project lead to another with a number of current initiatives focused around an umbrella program framework titled "Continuous Community Learning (CCL) Model". Based on the culmination of 4 years of Project DIANE program development and experimentation, the CCL Model is an attempt to create an economical, pragmatic, program development framework that spans adolescence through old age. This virtual community service model requires the integrated use and co-ordination of current Internet e-mail and web database functions (packet-switched based) with the real time capabilities of interactive video and multimedia teleconference networks (circuit-switched based).

Project DIANE is currently supported through ongoing internal fund raising efforts of its members as well as financial assistance and in-kind donations from such sponsors as BellSouth, IBM, PictureTel, NationsBank, Hospital Corporation of America, and Oracle Corporation.

DIANE is first and foremost a "people net", one in which individuals work together in support of co-operative programs and activities for the betterment of schools, local economies and the community in general. A sample of DIANE based programs and applications includes distance learning and tutoring, K-12 interactive remote field trips, distance mentoring, library reference services, children’s story hour, senior citizen health workshops, small business counselling and training, science & nature lectures, business and medical library assistance, expert faculty consultations, computer software training, communication support for speech and hearing impaired people, senior citizen assistance, and other community oriented applications. In addition to regularly scheduled activities, DIANE organisations also conduct various special events on the network, ranging from business workshops to community forums. Because all interactive teleconferences in the project adhere to international standards, DIANE organisations also have opportunities to interconnect and collaborate with other education institutions and community groups in other parts of the country and abroad.

For more information Tel +1 615 963 7171 or Fax +1 615 963 7173 or look at their Web site: http://www.diane.tnstate.edu/index.html.

Issue 10 "Learning in a Global Information Society" 2 September 1996