HETS Promotes Growth and Quality of Online Learning through Series of Events

Monday 14th of February 2005
HETS Promotes Growth and Quality of Online Learning through Series of Events
The Hispanic Educational Telecommunication System (HETS) has been actively involved in creating and delivering a series of conferences and workshops to encourage the growth and quality of online learning and online student support among higher education institutions from both US and Puerto Rico. During the past two months, two conferences on Quality Indicators in the Production of Virtual Courses and Working with Student Diversity in Online Instruction, both delivered in Spanish, have benefited faculty, administrators, and student support staff from institutions in Puerto Rico.
“These conferences are a very important part of the Consortium’s newest efforts to impact its member institutions, help improve online learning practices, and get closer to higher education institutions in Puerto Rico, where HETS is currently headquartered”, said Dr. Nitza Hernández, HETS Executive Director.
Last January, concurrently with the meeting of its Board of Directors, HETS sponsored a conference on quality indicators in the production of virtual courses (Diseño e Indicadores de Calidad en la Producción de Cursos Virtuales), focused particularly on a Latin American model for Distance Learning. This conference was delivered by Dr. Maritza Rondón, Director of UNAB Virtual, the virtual college of Universidad Autónoma de Bucaramanga, in Colombia (UNAB). This university, which is at the vanguard of e-learning in Latin America, is the first international member of HETS.
Through her conference, Dr. Rondón explained the processes structured and followed by UNAB Virtual to design and deliver online courses, maintaining the quality of the instructional design and the basic pedagogical principles, as well as ensuring the best learning experience for the student. UNAB Virtual has a rich catalog of online programs, at undergraduate and graduate levels, and online professional certificates in areas such as Education, Public Administration, Law, Education with New Technologies, and Computer Sciences, among others. Besides its virtual offerings, UNAB holds collaborative agreements with other organizations to train faculty in online teaching.
“HETS is strongly committed to being an advocate for quality issues in online learning, and the best way to start is by bringing the information and resources to its members”, added Dr. Hernández.
On January 27, HETS convened its Puerto Rico members, as well as other higher education institutions in the Island, to a conference-dialogue with Dr. Henry Ingle on student diversity in online instruction. Dr. Ingle is an online professor for the University of Texas, El Paso and offers online courses in areas related to new information technologies, diversity and multiculturalism, and global and international communications, among others. Ingle has served in varied administrative and academic leadership roles, which include Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, Assistant Vice President for Technology Planning, and Director of the Office of Technology Planning and Distance Learning,
Ingle’s presentation, “One Size Does Not Fit All: Working with Student Diversity in Online Instruction” , covered the contrasting concerns about education when dealing with student diversity, as well as strategies for designing instruction with a conscious commitment to the changing diversity of the student population. As stated by Ingle, coping with student diversity in online instruction implies understanding and targeting different learning styles, as well as unique backgrounds. It also requires the acceptance of language and communication differences, and being able to deal with various comfort levels for learning at a distance. Above all, online instruction makes it critical to comprehend the convergence and divergence in the roles of the teacher and the learner. Moreover, Dr. Ingle’s presentation, characterized by an active discussion between the speaker and the audience, pointed out the impact of online instruction in the teaching workforce.
HETS conferences and workshops to support, not only online teaching, but also online support services, will continue through the rest of the year with the collaboration of other colleagues, member institutions, and partner organizations. The Consortium is currently inviting all of its members, non-members, and other interested individuals and organizations to a two-day workshop on Best Practices in Online Student Support Services, which will take place on March 17 and 18, 2005 in San Juan, PR. As a main facilitator, HETS has invited Pat Shea, Assistant Director of the Western Cooperative for Educational Telecommunications (WCET), a leading consortium in the US representing the most innovative thinkers in the use of educational technologies. Pat Shea also heads WCET’s research efforts in online student services, and recently directed a FIPSE-funded project to design Web-based student services.
Other major events being planned for this year include the First Bilingual Virtual Congress on Blending Technology, Cultural Diversity, and Distance Learning in Hispanic Higher Education, from October 19 to October 30, 2005, in partnership with Universia.pr and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).
For more information on these events and other HETS projects, contact 787-766-1912, extension 2221, or ymontalv@inter.edu
By Wilmarie Latorre

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