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Distance Learning

Network Information

About the Network

The rural communities in northwest Wisconsin were in need of a way to bring educational opportunities to their high schools and adult populations. Delivering courses over an instructional television network was an answer to this problem. If a few students in several different communities were interested in the same course, the total enrollment numbers would be high enough to allow this course to be delivered via the ITV network. Students could stay in their own high school or community to receive this instruction instead of traveling many miles to a technical college, university, or another high school.

Technology assists our rural students with their distance learning courses. Students and instructors talk to each other using microphones and see each other using cameras and tv monitors. A document camera takes the place of a chalkboard and a fax machine and email attachments allow course materials to be sent between sites.

The Northern Lights Network utilizes digital fiber IP technology, which provides for full motion video and audio transmission. Service to Northern Lights Network is provided by a number of local telephone companies whose efforts are managed and integrated by Wisconsin BadgerNet Access Alliance(WBAA) which consists of AT & T, Verizon, Access WI, CenturyTel, and Windstream.



The Northern Lights Network began with the merger of 2 distance learning networks (WestWING and IDEAL) each consisting of 13 members. The WestWING Network began in November 1994, the IDEAL Network began in August 1997, and the merger took place in October, 1998 with CESA 11 providing management and fiscal support. The WestWING sites upgraded their systems in continuous view during the summer of 2000.


Instructors and students see and hear one another in real time using interactive video conferencing.  Course programming for participating  K-12 school districts and higher education partners is a collaborative effort.  Each fall, members come together to design the upcoming academic year’s course offerings.  K-12 courses shared between members are at no cost.

Tuition based courses add to the diversity of offerings in two ways:

  • providing college courses to high school students

  • filling gaps in courses needed with the consortium hiring additional K12 teachers

Average Annual Enrollment Statistics

Daytime Courses for HS Students --  87
Number of Students enrolled --   1069


Interactive video conferencing courses are not limited to K-12 students.  Evening courses for community members are available:

  • Continuing education, such as Electrical Code, Real Estate and Insurance are common.

  • Enrichment courses, provided by local community education offices have included a wide range of interests over the years.

  • Undergraduate & graduate courses are offered by some University’s and Technical Colleges.  It’s best to check with the institution you are attending to see if this option is available.



  • Expanded K-12 Curriculum

  • Access to statewide course offerings

  • Community Education

  • Worldwide Connectivity



  • Special Events

  • Authors

  • Field Experts

  • Live Surgeries

  • Museums

  • National & State Parks

  • Science & Industry

  • Space Centers

  • Zoos

  • Teacher or student created events

  • Staff Development Meetings

Future Ready Resources

CESA #11 Distance Education Member School Districts

Birchwood  • Clayton • Clear Lake • Grantsburg • Luck • Northwood • Pepin • Prairie Farm • Prescott • Shell Lake • Siren • Spring Valley • Turtle Lake • Unity • Webster • Westfield

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