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.

No comments: