|HETS has just made a breakthrough in the Hispanic online learning industry, bringing to a large audience the opportunity to learn, share, and discuss experiences, best practices, and lessons learned in Hispanic-focused online education through the First Hispanic Virtual Congress. The Hispanic Virtual Congress gave HETS an extraordinary chance of gathering the knowledge and experiences of people from the United States, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil, and Dominican Republic, among others.
“This initiative has opened new doors to the larger community of Latin America, where innovative online learning initiatives are constantly transforming and improving educational perspectives”, said Manuel Fernós, Chairman of the HETS Board of Directors.
As of October 31, 2005, the virtual event’s closing date, nearly 700 people had registered at the Virtual Congress. A total of 30 presentations, most of them in the area of Online Teaching and Learning, where selected among a diversity of presentations submitted. Other outstanding presentations focused on Quality and Assessment, Infrastructure and Emerging Technologies, Support Services for the Distant/Online Learners, and Institutional challenges, Policy Issues, and Collaboration Initiatives.
The two keynote conferences, delivered by Sally Johnston and Jose Silvio, contributed significantly to opening an active discussion on educational resources for college students, and quality and equitable virtual education for Hispanics. As stated in Johnstone’s conference, each day, more and more students expect their post-secondary institutions to make high quality educational materials available to them through the Internet. Open resources allow learners to create their own discoveries navigating through accessible online educational and support materials. To Jose Silvio, it is highly important that quality online education is accessible to all students, no matter their social status or limitations.
The Virtual Congress helped increase awareness about the need to adjust to the current and future trends in virtual education. Leaders at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico gathered to watch José Silvio’s presentation on “Quality, Equity, and Pertinence of Hispanic Virtual Education”, sponsored by HETS, and discussed important related issues for the institution. As informed by Dr. Migdalia Texidor, Chancellor for the Metropolitan Campus of the Inter American University, this particular conference brought up a challenge for institutions serving a student population whose native languages are Spanish and Portuguese. “We have to start looking forward to the goals, roles, and difficulties, and future of virtual education at our institutions”, added Dr. Texidor.
Other significant results of the First Hispanic Virtual Congress were the possibility of networking local, national, and international institutions, and the opportunity to expand collaborations among and beyond HETS member institutions.
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