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Fouad El-Harazin puts it bluntly: in Gaza, education is at a standstill. University students in the occupied territory often cant even reach their campuses. Literally thousands of students are crying out for the help that would enable them to continue their study, says El-Harazin, a physics professor and president of the Gaza International Foundation for Peace on Earth. We want to create a flexible infrastructure that will make e-learning available to all Palestinians.

The MIT auditorium, filled with an international audience of educators, falls silent. Then several Israeli educators stand up and express a willingness to help.

Some in the audience had tears in their eyes, recalls Richard Larson 65, EE 67, SM 67, PhD 69, founder and director of MITs Learning International Networks Consortium (LINC), which attracted educators from about two dozen countries to its spring symposium on distance learning. Larson took four Israeli and seven Arab educators to dinner that night. They all signed a piece of paper that they would get together and do some electronic learning to cut across the boundaries, he says. Two Gaza International Foundation officials who also attended the symposium said they would try to secure grant money to fund the endeavor.

This is just one example of the potential influence of LINC, a startup consortium of individuals and institutions, managed at MIT and dedicated to bringing educators together to share their ideas, resources, and experiences with distance learning. Delivering lessons via the Internet, television, videotape, CDs, or radio has gained popularity in the U.S. in recent years, but in many developing countries, especially those with large populations of college-age students and acute shortages of teachers, the idea is just taking root. LINC intends to help educators in those countries make college-level education available to the greatest number of people possible by providing them an international forum where they can meet and brainstorm with experts who are already having success with distance learning.

Larson is an MIT professor of civil and environmental engineering and a longtime proponent of distance learning. He came up with the idea for LINC after realizing that in a single year of giving presentations on MITs distance-learning initiatives, he had met with people from about 50 countries, all eager to find answers to their questions and share their own ideas. The first annual LINC symposium, held in 2003, drew more than 60 enthusiastic attendees. Last springs meeting brought together a larger group of educators who shared their experiences in organized sessions followed by question-and-answer periods and in informal gatherings.

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