I’m sitting in the Rio airport one leg down and three to go on my way home from the Canadian-Brazil International Seminar on Distance Education, just concluded in Goianas. The seminar featured presentations and lots of questions from about 200 Brazilian delegates and Canadian DEers Heather Kanuka, Griff Richards, Elizabeth Murphy and myself. I did two presentations, the first titled Distance Education: Past, Present and Future and a shorter panel presentation on quality in distance education.
Elizabeth was the star of the show, with her panel presentation in Portuguese. She also had her video camera out and captured a few minutes of my concluding comments on Web 2.0 implications for quality DE programming. The camera angle reveals my midriff bulge that increased significantly after five days of fine Brazilian food and beer. She uploaded the video to YouTube, demonstrating the ease with which video can be captured and shared with minimal editing.
Brazil is well on its way to developing a vibrant online distance education community with a consortium (Brazilian Open University consortium) supporting course development and learning centre support for a number of Universities. I have a lingering fear that the 30 person max cohort model of asynchronous online courses, may fall short of meeting the large demand for postsecondary education. But as pointed out by Brazilian colleagues, Brazilian culture is one of conversation and communication and perhaps the more cost effective “industrial model” used by most of the Open Universities in developing countries, is not a good match. I was always surprised how few students were carrying laptops (or at least have ready access to desktop machines) , which seems to be a prerequisite for the type of online distance education predominately practiced in Canada. This reinforces my interest in self paced courses that allow options for cooperation and collaboration using social software and promise more scalable models than the 30 student, teacher led cohort.