Term Paper: Distance Education Man

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[. . .] In addition, they are also less flexible and responsive to the needs of the new market. Many of the government universities in India are teaching curricula that are outdated and not applicable to the present workplace demands.

Research Issues and aims of the project

The object of this study is to find ways to make online education more accessible for the general public in the countries of India, Pakistan, China and Iran. The relative wealth of these countries when compared top the rest of the more developed nations of the world is substantially low. In addition, low literacy rates and the often outdated educational systems of these countries cannot keep pace with the new demands for education in courses that have traditionally not been given importance. Many of the more industrialized countries in the world are also increasingly outsourcing their needs to these countries. Developing a strong educational and continuous learning culture in these regions could help the western countries gain better productivity numbers and performance measures. The local population can also benefit from this education by gaining higher-level jobs within the region.

Consumers are also the driving force behind any organization. People (consumers) have a positive outlooks and self-image. They like to be treated with respect. (Festinger, 1957) In order to get the maximum benefit from any market, effective strategic marketing management principles have to be employed. (Ayers, 2001)

Students (and those that pay the students' fees) are customers of the university. They have to be happy with the quality of the education provided by the university -- online or otherwise. The general codes of marketing identified in the section above make it clear that if any university has to succeed in these new markets it has to prepare itself for the changes in the market as well. Many of these markets are also changing from socialistic/dictatorial to more of a capitalistic model. When an economy undergoes a drastic change (socialist to capitalist), the human element often has to acquire new skill-sets. Knowledge has to be updated to keep pace with the changes. Education and training are the basic tools that can help a country through a major change like this. In such an environment (in flux), offering the population and the business in the region access to education can help companies define and create smart strategies. In turn, these can help the citizens prosper and enjoy improved lifestyles.

The actual outcome of this study will result in an online course more appropriate to the region and the needs of the industry in the region. The distribution systems used -- the mode of delivering the education should also be dependent on the infrastructure. To combat the issues of poor IT infrastructure and slower connection, instructors and students can create web chats at periods more suited to low Internet usages in the country having the Internet-connection problem. Selection of instructors is also paramount for the online courses in the region. Instructors should have some basic information of the needs of the region beyond the focus of the course being taught. Examples and case studies that the instructor might provide have to be more appropriate to the region. Discussing issues of WorldCom in China or India might not be as effective as discussing companies that are local and have sufficient press coverage. This strategy requires that the instructor go one step beyond the traditional preparation and ensure that they are well versed with the topics, industrial strategies and culture of these foreign regions.

Research methods and methodology

Data for this study will be of a secondary nature. The information that will be reviewed for this study will pertain to a wide variety of situations that exist within the countries identified. Secondary research is defined as research that will be collected from reviewing journal article, books, magazine, periodicals, newspapers and the Internet. It is normally assumed that personal opinions and viewpoints are an integral part of any printed and published opinions from any of the secondary research sources. Sufficient collaborative information will be verified for any given point-of-view prior to introducing the concept or idea in the study. The variables discussed in this study are not exhaustive, neither are they comprehensive.

Within the limits of time and the scope of the topic however, these features will be discussed and evaluated. There are various other factors such as the economic and stability of the region that also plays an important role in the data analyzed. There are factors such as the political influences in the country and the level of openness of the governments of the countries that might affect the entry of foreign universities. For example Iran and the U.S. do not enjoy friendly political relationships and entry of online courses from U.S. universities might more difficult than entry of universities from other European countries in the region.

There is an advantage to conducting secondary research as compared to primary research. Secondary research methods are cheaper and the time element is not as critical as primary research methods. There are however, some limitations in using secondary data. Correlation factors established in the material reviewed, biases and faulty assumptions made by authors and researchers of articles reviewed can impact the new study. It is critical that all information be cross-referenced and validated from more than one source prior to concluding any opinion. Primary data collection (surveys) on the other hand can reveal facts and features of any one market more clearly and comprehensively. (Hutt and Speh, 1985) Primary research is expensive and also dependent on the quality of the information gathered. The integrity and the quality of the data can become questionably if the population from which the data has been collected is not adequately diversified and independent.

Secondary data that is evaluated here is ideal. Data collection from universities that are currently offering online courses in the region and individuals open to the idea of getting trained online is difficult. The major constraints would also be time and money to collect surveys over long distances. Any long-term collection of data would be daunting. As such, the secondary methods would be the best suited as the metric by which the different markets could be evaluated based on published (and validated) material that is obtained from reputable sources. It would also be practically impossible to suggest a universal solution for all four markets and regional variances will have to be understood prior to providing any recommendation.

The task to be undertaken

As this study was a secondary in nature, it identified the needs of the regions and the various variables that had the potential to impact the setup of online courses in the countries of India, Pakistan, Iran and China.

Changing the communication medium from face-to-face to distance learning creates challenges for faculty and students, as well as compatibility issues with the course content." (Granitz and Greene, 2003) This is one of the major problems when the course transcends geographical boundaries and cultures. For example, the format of communication in American and British universities is much different from that of India and Pakistan. "Buzz words" that might be common in the U.S. And U.K. might not be well know in the developing countries.

English might not be the lingua franca of the students in all the locations; and, while their skill at the language may be adequate for the course work there may be "catch-phrases" and slang that may not be as well understood. It was observed however that, "televised distance instruction can create subtle shifts in the behavior of the instructor, the teaching decisions that the instructor makes, or both." (Rovai and Lucking, 2003) There is also a lower level of interaction between the groups undertaking this form of training. The role of the online teacher/instructor can help define either a good online training program or a poor online training program. But there are limitations: use body language, facial expressions, gestures, and words to communicate often are not as plentiful as compared to classroom settings. (Halio, 2004) Understanding that the needs differ significantly from a class or physical group-based training program is also important. (Carter, 2001)

The level of IT support and computer infrastructure needed for online education is high. Many of the connection requirements are standardized in the more developed countries of the world. Access to state of the art computers at affordable rates and Internet connections such as broadband and cable are easy for an individual in these countries. This is however, not the same for the students in countries like India, China, Pakistan and Iran. For example the average GDP is these four countries listed above and the U.S., Canada, U.K. And Australia are provided below (this information was obtained from the CIA country fact site:

Country

GDP-per capita (2003)

Currency when compared to the U.S. dollar

U.S.A.

U.K.

British pounds per U.S. dollar - 0.61 (2003)

Canada

Canadian dollars per U.S. dollar -… [END OF PREVIEW]

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