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.

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