Friday, March 30, 2007

D2L User Conference eCard

Desire2Learn sent out an eCard today about the D2L User Conference to be held in Duluth this summer. I like the way they've done this. I can't embed it here but you can follow this link to see and listen to the eCard.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Recent News Bytes

A few tidbits from the online press and blogosphere:

  • Expect a longer post soon about the D2L connection with Respondus LockDown Browser for increased test security.
  • For a while now there has been an ongoing discussion about the preference for a PLE (personal learning environment) over a LMS (CMS/IMS/whatever). Here's a brief explanation of this distinction and a couple of embedded links to other useful sources.
  • A question and answer post about Personal Learning Environments.
  • "Whether elearning shifts toward the open source LMS option, or to some looser confederation of social web tools, sites, and services, the days of elearning-as-licensed-software are clearly numbered." Read this story at Edugator.
  • I thought this was rather humorous, not that a strike by union faculty is pending or ongoing, but that there must have been doubt in some minds about whether a strike would include online classes.
  • Desire2Duplicate your acronym. "The Graphics Lifecycle Management system (GLM) from D2L and Kodak provides an easy to use end to end digital workflow solution that improves speed, visibility and efficiency across an enterprise." However, this has nothing to do with Desire2Learn. Kodak has started using "D2L" to describe it's new Design2Launch service.

Sick CyberSociety

When we were choosing keynote speakers for the upcoming Desire2Learn Users Conference I had two top choices of my own. Will was one and he will be in Duluth this summer for one of the keynotes, and Kathy Sierra was the other. She won’t be in Duluth this summer, not because she has just cancelled all her speaking engagements, just because we never fully connected on the possibility of her delivering a keynote.

Her blog is called Creating Passionate Users, which to me seemed to be a natural for us to hear her perspective at a conference that is all about the “Community of Users,” D2L users, that is. If you aren’t familiar with her blog, then you might need a little context. Her blog is (was) very widely read, and generally highly regarded. As with all women who make themselves highly visible in our world, she has her detractors and many people (mostly males, go figure) have taken their pot shots at her over the past couple of years.

But her most recent (and possibly final) post has created quite a hubbub in the blogosphere. Death threats that she is taking to be very credible have changed her life. This is a sick world in which we live.

If you are not familiar with her, then you should first check out a couple of samples of her previous work, such as Two Kinds of Learning and the Physics of Passion. Here is also a sample of the books she authors, Head First Java.

Then, after you see what kind of writer she is, check out this disturbing post.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Collaborating with ITC

March2007 Vietnam 546

I spent the better part of Monday, March 12 visiting with the fine people at the Ho Chi Minh Information Technology College (ITC). By the afternoon we were ready to sign an MOU stating that we have a desire to work together and will continue to plan to attempt to offer programs in Business Administration, Accounting, and possible Nanotechnology to Vietnamese students who want a degree from a U.S. school.

The MOU really is just a first step in deciding whether weMarch2007 Vietnam 544 can find ways to collaborate with these programs. ITC wants to offer one year of English training to the students, followed by two years of completing our associate degree program in either business or accounting. During those two years of study, students would take LSC online courses for part of their studies and study abroad in Minnesota for the other two years. The exact makeup of those two years is yet to be determined, and might be decided on a student-by-student, at least regarding the mixture of online and onground coursework.

We still need to have a significant number of further communications about this project before we will know for sure whether anything can come of it. They are very eager to make this happen, but we will need to make sure that we all the difficult questions answered before we proceed. Also, LSC does not currently have any plans for a nanotechnology program, so I will be asking other schools in the system about their interest in a possible collaboration with ITC in this endeavor.

In the evening I had a pleasant dinner with my friends from SEAMEO, including Dr. Thinh (Director, seated at far right), Mr. Minh, and Ms. Duong. We went to a Chinese restaurant near my hotel where I had the pleasure, or at least the experience of eating sea cucumber for the first time ever. Everything else was very pleasant and we had a nice conversation about our future efforts to partner on different projects. Tomorrow is my last full day in Vietnam before I leave for home early Wednesday monring.

Friday, March 09, 2007

MnOnline and Vietnam MOU

On Friday, March 9, 2007 at 2:00 PM Vietnam time, Minnesota Online and the Vietnam Association of Community Colleges signed a memorandum of understanding related to the delivery of online educational opportunities in Vietnam.

In addition, I accepted on the behalf of Minnesota online, a framed certificate of associate membership in the Vietnam Association of Community Colleges. Minnesota Online is the first and so far only associate member of the newly-formed VACC. As the preamble of the MOU states: “Building on the cooperation between the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and the Vietnam Association of Community Colleges (VACC), Minnesota Online and VACC will promote further cooperation within the framework of self-funded partnerships with the aim of improving the learning environments at our respective institutions.”

The MOU lists seven areas of future cooperation:

  1. Online and Distance Training Delivery
  2. Customization of Minnesota Online Programs for the Vietnamese Context
  3. International Students (study abroad in Minnesota)
  4. In-class Delivery of Programs of the Colleges and Universities of MnSCU in Vietnam
  5. Development of 2+2 Programs and other Programs and Courses
  6. Enhancing College Administration and Professional Development especially in Online and Distance Education
  7. Other Cooperation
As is the tradition in the countries of Southeast Asia, the ceremony was marked by a fair amount of formality, with a bit of pomp and circumstance thrown in for good measure. President Khanh spoke for a few minutes about our collaborative efforts and then I spoke for about 8 minutes with the able translation of Mr. Hoang Le Huy, assistant to the Rector Board and Dean of Economics. I brought greeetings from Chancellor McCormick, Senior Vice Chancellor Baer, Minnesota Online COO Gary Langer, and from LSC President Kathleen Nelson. I told the group of about 25 guests about Minnesota Online and MnSCU. And I finished with an expression of my sincere gratitude for the kind hosts that they have been during my stay in Tra Vinh.

Next I was presented with the certificate of membership in the VACC and then we signed the MOUs. We exchanged gifts, we toasted our agreement with sparkling grape juice, and we took lots of pictures. It was all great fun and an honor to be a part of.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Thursday in Tra Vinh

I had three different meetings Thursday at Tra Vinh University. The first meeting was with the TVU Rector Board, which would be similar to their President’s Cabinet. The second meeting was with their Computer Services LAN Manager and the Department Head of Academic I.T. (computer programs instruction). The third meeting was with the Director of H.R., the Program Development Unit Head, and the campus Registrar.

A great deal of ground was covered during the day. At one point or another, we discussed the following:

  • We talked in generalities about e-learning in Minnesota Online and the state of e-learning in Vietnam (almost non-existent).
  • I explained to them our concept of interactive e-learning, not electronic independent study.
  • They explained to me that TVU was a community college (TVCC) until just during the past year when they were"upsized?" to a university. Still, they consider themselves to be a "community university" with much the same mission as they had as a CC, but with the ability to grant higher degrees. Apparently this is the first such effort in Vietnam, and they are still getting approval for various things because they are working outside the conventional box of higher education in Vietnam.
  • We talked about evidence that we have gathered related to the achievement of learning by online students, as well as the results of satisfaction surveys.
  • I explained to them our (LSC) use of online student mentors which could be a way of ensuring success for Vietnamese learners in American courses.
  • I explained our concept of curriculum development and our varied concepts of the development of electronic course content and intellectual property considerations.
  • They explained to me their need to get approval from the People’s Committee (Vietnam government) and the MOET (Ministry of Education and Training) before any of this can move forward.
  • On-campus bandwidth is not really an issue as they have several lines with 2 MB/sec and 4 MB/sec available. However, the concern is for off-campus access, which is improving throughout Vietnam very rapidly, but there is still a major digital divide.
  • Mr. Hung says that after you pay for equipment and installation, an ADSL line in a home only costs about $2 US per month, although there can be additional charges for high use (download) of the bandwidth.
  • Moodle is being rolled-out in many places throughout Vietnam for use as the LMS of choice. Main driving factor is the lack of licensing fees since it is open source. I think it is safe to say that personnel costs in Vietnam are not that high so it is best for them to avoid high licensing fees from commercial vendors and pay the people to manage the LMS installation.
  • The three largest barriers to American online education (in their opinions, in order) are:
    1. Language issues (lack of English skills)
    2. Financial issues
    3. Access to Internet
  • Much like in the U.S., they fear that many students do not have the computer skills needed to be successful online students. Game playing and IM on computers does not develop the skill set needed for learning.
  • They have not yet developed any significant e-services for their students. Everything is done in person: application, registration, payment, etc.
  • We talked about team teaching models where an American professor and a Vietnamese professor might teach together in a course.
  • We talked about our plan to bring a small team of e-learning experts for workshops in Vietnam for e-learning basic training. They are very interested in these workshops.
  • The list goes on and on, but that’s a good taste of it.

Welcoming at TVU

Not much time to post right now. Let's just say that I was royally welcomed at Tra Vinh University by the Rector Board. We had a very pleasant formal discussion and then I was given a tour of the campus. This afternoon it is back to the campus for more focused discussions about e-learning in Vietnam and possible collaboration between Minnesota Online and the VACC and TVU.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

E-Learning in Vietnam

I had a great meeting today at SEAMEO RETRAC with Mr. Than Trong Minh and Ms. Phan Thi Ngoc Mai. I had the pleasure of first meeting both of them back in October when I first visited Saigon with the AACC delegation. SEAMEO RETRAC is an acronym for Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Training Center. Mai is the Program Director for the Overseas Study Department and Minh is the Assistant Director of International & Academic Affairs as well as the Dean of English Language Training, Teacher Development, and Technology. Yes, we did talk a little bit about wearing many hats. Unfortunately, the Center Director Dr. Do Huy Thinh, was unable to join us today. He is an extremely engaging and energetic gentleman who I very much enjoyed meeting last October. The only significance of the photo above is that this was one of the thousands of pedicabs that I did not take as I walked back to my hotel. He is the only one who didn't ask me.

Our conversations today were very promising. SEAMEO can be an excellent resource for Minnesota Online to make inroads into the Saigon education market. We started our meeting talking about the general state of e-learning in Vietnam. Suffice it to say that e-learning has been slow to gain acceptance in the country, but that the barriers are now coming down, although not nearly as quickly as in some other parts of the world, including the U.S. One of the biggest concerns has been the lack of accreditation standards, and the lack of quality (both perceived and real) on the part of some of the e-learning providers. Technology issues are relatively small in the larger urban centers but are still very significant roadblocks in rural Vietnam. Where connectivity is available, the cost of Internet access is quite low, even for broadband access.

As we continue to build a relationship between MnOnline and SEAMEO, it is possible that the SEAMEO facilities and staff in Saigon can be used to our advantage to help recruit students as well as provide facilities and computer access to those who need it. If we continue to build the relationship, we can become a trusted partner who SEAMEO will help promote and support.

Towards that purpose of building the relationship, we discussed at length today the possibility of us bringing a small delegation of e-learning professionals to Saigon for one or more workshops related to best practices in e-learning. This would be a professional development opportunity for Vietnamese higher education teachers and administrators to better understand how to build and deliver interactive e-learning classes and programs. We agreed that a workshop of approximately 1.5 days feels like the best starting place. Surprisingly, the Online Course Design workshop that has been so effectively delivered by LSC faculty happens to be 1.5 days long. Hmmmh? Coincidence? I think not.

There were several other things that we discussed, but those notes will have to wait until another day. I'm tired and need to sleep while the sleepin's good.