WNMU-TV at Northern Michigan University has joined the Michigan Learning Channel, a statewide public television partnership offering instructional content to support the education of students and to provide alternative curriculum resources for families and teachers.
Free programming will be broadcast via special on-air channels established by each of the six public television stations in Michigan. It will also be available as a livestream and stored for on-demand viewing on a variety of digital platforms, ensuring accessibility for all students, teachers and families across the state.
When the service launches Jan. 4, it will feature instructional teacher-led content that aligns with Michigan educational standards for Pre-K to 3rd grade students, with lessons delivered in half-hour and hour-long blocks for each grade level throughout the day. Content areas for higher grades will be added in the weeks that follow.
“The effort is being funded by the Michigan legislature with additional support from the Governor's Education Emergency Relief fund,” said Eric Smith, director of broadcast and audio-visual services at NMU. “To prepare for the launch, WNMU-TV will receive a hardware upgrade and increase its channel capacity from three to six, including the Michigan Learning Channel. In the future, we're thinking of dedicating one of those new channels to Native American content.
“We will also create a new position at the university that will be heavily engaged with local school districts, superintendents and teachers. One of the unique and exciting things about the Michigan Learning Channel is that, rather than broadcasters creating content and pushing it out, expecting people to come and get it, this effort actively seeks input from schools to ensure that content aligns with the needs of teachers in the Upper Peninsula and throughout the state.”
Tara Hardy, director of education engagement at Detroit Public Television (DPTV), said the increase in home-based learning fueled by the COVID-19 virus has further emphasized disparities in access to technology among students and their families. The Michigan Learning Channel will help to bridge that divide.
“We know through our work in communities that, even if kids are given laptops, they aren't always turned on because some students don't have anyone in the home who can assist with that,” Hardy said. “And even if people have and use technology, homes where multiple devices are simultaneously using a single internet connection can be a problem. Public media is free and available to those receiving TV programs with an antenna. The Michigan Learning Channel is specifically designed to support kids needing access to information and also assist teachers, who have so much on their plates right now. We've always had goal of collaborating with the other public stations in Michigan. It's great we can work together on this initiative.”
Smith said the Michigan Learning Channel is not intended as a replacement for classroom teaching, but a supplemental resource. Its value extends beyond the pandemic. He said programs will be available 24/7 and can even help continued learning on snow days and forced closures.
For more information, visit MichiganLearning.org.