MADISON, Wis. — September 21, 2009 — This harvest season, viticulture students from VESTA, an alliance of Midwest colleges and winemaking businesses, are learning the process of turning grapes into wine via online courses. The program uses Mediasite by Sonic Foundry, Inc. (NASDAQ: SOFO), to deliver instruction to students from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
VESTA, the Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance, (www.vesta-usa.org) is funded by the National Science Foundation and is a partnership between eight Mid-American colleges and universities which allocate courses and resources among state agriculture agencies, vineyards and wineries who share a forward-thinking vision for education in grape growing and winemaking. The VESTA schools include Missouri State University in West Plaines, Mo., Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, Rend Lake College in Ina, Ill., Redlands Community College in Okla., Arkansas Tech University in Ozark, Ark., Highland Community College in Wamego, Kan., Central Lakes College in Brainerd, Minn. and Michigan State University’s Institute for Agricultural Technology, East Lansing, Mich.
“Mid-American states were experiencing 400 to 800 percent growth in the wine and grape industry, but had no way to develop a knowledgeable workforce to support that growth,” said Michelle Norgren, director of VESTA’s regional center. “Mediasite has made us a premier online program for grape and wine education, enabling us to serve the needs of aspiring small business owners.”
VESTA attracts non-traditional students, many of whom are on their way to opening their own wineries or vineyards. Blending online courses with hands-on fieldwork, this unique program partners with vineyards and wineries across the country. Students get complete access to the highest quality grape and wine instruction in their own backyard, whether rural or urban. According to Norgren, just a few years ago those same students would have had to move to the East or West coast to pursue their winemaking career.
VESTA instructors live all over the U.S. and many are not educators by profession. Zoran Ljepovic teaches Enology through VESTA while living in California as a quality control consultant for Constellation Wines U.S. “I’m pleasantly surprised to see how much winemaking is developing in the Midwest. Using Mediasite for lectures means students can get the best education from wine experts wherever they live,” said Ljepovic. “Winemaking is hard work, but in the end you have the pleasure of enjoying a glass of good wine. People are passionate about it.”
“VESTA’s leadership in the growth of this economic sector illustrates the power of online learning via Mediasite,” said Rimas Buinevicius, chairman and CEO of Sonic Foundry. “It is especially rewarding for us at Sonic Foundry to see how our technology is giving clients like VESTA a competitive advantage, helping them not only reach new audiences, but also having such a positive impact on their organizational success.”