Transnational Education
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Thoughts, research, current events, and instructional models -- for accredited degree programs delivered internationally

Monday, November 15, 2004

Back in the Blogosphere

I still think TNE rocks. And that it's integral to any healthy future for the planet.

I started this blog about a year and a half ago. I was directing a degree-granting program delivered internationally, which was and still is somewhat unusual among US universities. I had a lot to say then, about what we were doing and about other TNE information or perspectives I came across.

Then I stopped directing, and I didn't have much to say for a long time. Fortunately Mark jumped in and made some nice contributions. The flame didn't quite burn out.

Now I'm back. In a new position, with a new point of view and a new set of strategies -- and a focus on international delivery that is stronger than ever. I'll fill in specifics as we go.

What we're doing and what can be done is more interesting than job descriptions and institutional affiliations for the moment. What we're doing is implementing a simple but effective teaching and learning model that is realistic and do-able by anyone. It's not sophisticated. Any instructional designer could come up with this model in two minutes.

What's interesting about it is that we're doing it, and doing it internationally.

It has only three basic ingredients:

1) Archived, narrated PPTs, with a variety of visuals (not just bullet text) and the course instructor's spoken lectures, appropriately chunked

2) An active and engaging Discussion Forum

3) A weekly, scheduled one-hour videoconference with substantial two-way interaction

That's it.

Two of the components are time independent, for maximum convenience and learner control. Two of the components feature interaction -- student-to-student and student-to-instructor.

I'm not saying we have perfected even these simple activities, but we're growing slowly and learning fast. This semester, we are experimenting with a course involving students at universities in Taiwan and Korea. We are in southern California. Rosemead. University of the West.

Glad to be back.

Thanks, Mark


posted by Dr. Nickel at 9:59 PM | Link | Comments

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Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Meeting the Higher Education Needs of the World's Third-Culture Kids

Wow, the article When no place feels like home from today's Christian Science Monitor really struck a chord with me. Having lived for at least a year in two different countries, and having worked in an international school like the one mentioned here, I have a real affinity with third-culture kids (TCK's) and how they feel about their identity.

I did not grow up overseas, but rather gained my experiences abroad as part of the transitional period of my life between childhood and adulthood. Does that make me a third-culture adult? I don't know. But I can attest to the anxiety and loneliness felt by these kids and also the resilience they show in "starting over" after each time their family moves. These kids truly become the global nomads that work to bridge cultures, that feel at ease surrounded by people of numerous races and ethnicity. They are in many ways the ideal candidates to lead out in a global society.

These kids are also prime candidates for transnational education and independent study because unlike international students who flock to prestigious Western institutions for the campus life, these students would really rather be somewhere else. They are well educated and competitive at top institutions, but in attending them, they feel more acutely separate than ever. If TCK's had the option of getting degrees from credible universities while living overseas with their families, many of them would stay there. Many may wind up in Europe getting the education they seek while maintaining a lifestyle they know. Good news for European universities. Others could pool in places like Singapore, attending Australian or US universities via distance ed while living with kids from other countries who understand them better.

But while this article is centered on US students and families, the issue really is a global one. Children of Danes, Koreans, Indians, and any other nationality living overseas because of their family's employment are TCKs in their own respect. And these kids have just as difficult a time going "home."

While working in Uzbekistan I became well acquainted with some Korean families associated with the school. They had mapped out their children's future educational journey with great detail because they knew some of those obstacles. One mother claimed that her oldest daughter, though fluent in English and her mother tongue and a good student in the American curriculum-based school, would not pass the rigorous Korean college entrance exams. If she was abroad until her senior year of high school, the Korean schools would administer a different, easier test assuming that she had not been through the challenges of Korean K-12 education. This was her only hope in admittance to a Korean university.

But I'm not so sure she would even feel comfortable there. Though she tried to keep up on Korean pop culture and fashion trends, the first time she mentions Timur, the Silk Road or Uygur people, the first time her "field trips" to Bangladesh and Kyiv come to light, she will be literally a world apart from her Korean peers. She is a great candidate for the US Transnational Education market. She could stick with the life she knows well and get her education from a university in the country where her family is stationed. But if that country's higher ed system is not widely respected, she would be better off pursuing it from a transnational education provider.

Many parents of TCKs don't want their kids forgetting their heritage, culture, and ancestry living abroad. A compromise for parents of such children might be in returning to their homeland so their children can be reintroduced to "their culture" but allowing their kids to study through a TNE provider at universities with students not of their own culture, who may accept them better than their own peers. Would, for example, Korean children raised all over the world be better off living in Korea and getting their education from Australia, the US, or Singapore? Or are they better off staying in a third culture as international students?

posted by Mark at 8:13 AM | Link | Comments

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Friday, November 14, 2003

A World of Change (Part 3): Commodities, Quality, and the Human Element

One technical writer in the recent debate about offshoring, quality, and job transition stated that the change of jobs from being a specialty to a commodity labor was not new. "Commoditization is a fact of business and life. Its the reason DVD players cost $50.00 now instead of $1000 as they did in 1996. Its also the reason why tech writers get $30 now an hour instead of the $65 they got in 1998. Everything, including labor, gets commoditized and becomes less-expensive per unit. "

I think I would agree with that statement in terms of education, with a few exceptions. Here are some:

1 - Textbooks: It seems the cost of texts has only increased over time.
2 - Tuition and Fees: If competition brings down prices, it hasn't done that in higher ed.
3 - Multimedia: Though media duplication has become very inexpensive, the cost of producing and developing education multimedia is still very high. What's the rumored quote that is always tossed around $40,000 for every 1 hour of multimedia training. That has stayed about the same for several years, despite increases in software, hardware, and drops in duplication costs.

One writer was not convinced that commoditization is such a good thing, saying "when you remove the humanity from the product, you get a commodity and the quality goes down."

Other writers argued that commoditizing does not always mean lowering the standard of quality. In some cases, it may improve the standard.

" are about as "commoditized" as you can get--yet their quality in terms of durability and safety is far, far above what it was only a decade or so ago. Good kitchen knives and cookware--which until recently was beyond the reach of those with average income, ditto. Flashlight batteries, computers and computer components...
True, many things suffer from commoditization. We have not yet found a way to "de-humanize" writing (thank God!) or the creation of art..."

And lastly, "I believe that what many folks are truly upset about is not so much the commoditization that has allowed an increase in the standard of living for millions, but the *depersonalization* that so often accompanies it."

Is there a balance in all this? How far should humans be pushed out of education, and where do we cross the line where de-humanizing or depersonalizing something takes away more than it benefits?

posted by Mark at 8:46 AM | Link | Comments

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Thursday, November 13, 2003

A World of Change (Part 2): Education Services as Commodities?

Continuing from the San Jose Mercury Times article Caught in the pull of globalization,

"...many executives, economists and academics say that offshoring jobs ultimately helps American companies compete in a global economy, especially in tight economic times. And companies say that to stay competitive, they have no choice but to hire the low-cost labor available.

'In business, there are only two levers: the cost side and the revenue side. Since the economy is not improving, you redirect your cost. There's no other way,'' said Ajit Gupta, chief executive and co-founder of Santa Clara-based Speedera Networks."

Competing in the education sector, balancing costs and revenues is just as tricky. University administrators all over the US are trimming budgets, cutting costs, and trying to deal with ever decreasing financial support. I imagine that they haven't overlooked distance education, independent study, and replacing faculty with lower paid employees as options for meeting their financial obligations.

"'It has always been the trend that as soon as technology products and services become commodities, then they face competition from overseas producers,' said Steve Cochrane, senior economist at 'The American economy and the global economy have been going through this transformation ever since the 1960s, at least.'"

And what of educational products and services? Can education be reduced to commodities, quantifiable subunits that are exchanged and inserted when and wherever needed. Until the last few decades, most instructional technologists and educators would probably have said no.

posted by Mark at 8:43 PM | Link | Comments

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Tom Nickel
TNE Lead Blogger
Guangzhou, PRC
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