The Mississippi State University Extension Service will soon be installing updated teleconferencing equipment at 93 of its facilities across the state thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA announced Wednesday that the university would receive $488,315 to update video conferencing and cloud-based equipment at 93 facilities across the state. The award is part of a larger $1.9 million grant backing several projects expanding through its Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program.

“We’ve got 93 sites that have these interactive video learning systems in them,” said Extension Center Head of Technology Outreach Randy Loper. “The technology has been terribly outdated, and this grant is going to allow us to go update the technology in those so we can continue to serve extension clientele all around the state."

The sites will be located in all 82 county extension offices, plus the Bost Extension Center on campus and the four Research and Extension Centers. Some sites will have more than one connection.

Loper said the systems would primarily be used for the extension’s non-formal education mission. However, he said the systems could be used for other purposes, including for academic classes if needed.

“We might be teaching nutrition,” Loper said. “We might be teaching things to 4-H’ers, people having home loan information, whatever the topics that Extension covers under a normal basis.”

“If they want to do interactive videoconferencing with clients anywhere in the state, the clients can go right to the extension office or one of those research and extension centers, we can actually at all 93 sites, teach farming or they can be a recipient,” Loper added.

He said the new technology would likely be in place by early spring, and would replace an outdated system.

“The equipment we’re replacing in most cases, is technology that’s over 10 years old,” Loper said.

The system will also have desktop-to-desktop capability.

“That’s not the most important thing, but that will be a technical possibility,” Loper said.

Loper said assistant extension professor Mariah Morgan spearheaded the application for the grant. He also named USDA Mississippi Director for Rural Development John Rounsaville as a key figure in ensuring some of the grant funds went to MSU.

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