What does the U of M's Radio K (KUOM) have in common with online courses? More than you might think! In fact, one even might consider it the original "Digital Campus".
Today, Radio K is known as an award-winning student-run radio station airing an eclectic mix of independent music, new and old. Its roots, though, stretch back a century. Initially, programming featured agricultural and weather reports, along with lectures, concerts, and football games...and in the 1930s, the station began adding distance education to its repertoire--including the historic "Minnesota School of the Air.
When a polio epidemic closed schools (and even the State Fair!) in 1946, KUOM worked with teachers to design the School of the Air, which would go on to serve as a substitute for the closed educational facilities. The School of the Air continued on after the epidemic, offering supplementary programming for in-school listening by elementary students.
Bill Hendrickson was one of the youngsters who tuned in to the program weekly to learn about everything from grammar and music to foreign languages and fairy tales. "I was a fourth-grader (this would have been in 1958) at Holland Elementary School in northeast Minneapolis when my teacher would gather the class around the large, wooden radio (it seemed enormous), and we all listened to programs on Minnesota School of the Air. I particularly remember the fascination we all had about this 'new' technology and how different it was to get information and entertainment in a format so different from our regular classroom learning experiences. I especially remember liking the German language program called 'Gesundheit'."
For the first half of the 20th century, radio was the predominate form of broadcast entertainment for most households, and the University made good use of its airtime not only to deliver the School of the Air for children, but also to provide educational and cultural programming for individuals of all ages. Modern language courses, symphony concerts, famous speakers, and classroom-based special interest lectures educated and informed thousands of Minnesotans each year.
Now, more than 65 years later, we've gone from tuner knobs and dials to touch-screen devices and tablets, but the U of M remains committed to using technology to bring learning opportunities to people not just on campus, but in the far corners of the state, the country, and even around the globe!