Quality Design and Global Networking: The Convergent Crisscross of Common Needs and Efforts

Aleta May

Initial Blog Post Week 9

EDTE674 with Dr. Lee Graham


Quality Design and Global Networking:  The Convergent Crisscross of Common Needs and Efforts

Essential Question:  What lessons can we take from Global Distance Learning Efforts?

A really great quote to start out with regarding quality in distance education, in this case in reference to Professor Manuel Moreno at the University de Guadalajara’s Sistema de Universidad Virtual or the Virtual University System (VUS) is as follows:  “it is within these educational processes that the quality resides which we seek to preserve, not so much the circumstances in which they take place” (Becerra, Almendra, and Flores, 2012, p. 209).  In other words, it is not modality that determines quality, rather “living educational processes” (Becerra & Almendra, p. 209) the academic staff brings.  With a network of 15 university centers, developing innovative ways to create, share and apply knowledge, with a constructivist learning perspective, VUS has found ways to strengthen their distance programs while reaching communities that had been underserved by college opportunities.  This reminds me of the way the Open University of China (OUC) is structured.  The headquarters is in Beijing, Provincial Open Universities meet local needs and at the community level municipalities set up surpervision at learning centers (Moore, M. & Kearsley, G., 2011). 

With Professor Moreno at the helm, the VUS has grown.  Moreno is a leader in educational innovation in both Mexico and Latin America.  His fundamental belief is that he sees the importance of being both a teacher and a learner.  Another emphasis that Moreno makes is through Project Portfolio.  In this program, students may take a practicum or complete their internship through real world learning environment connections; such as, “business, community or government settings” (Becerra & Almendra, p. 207). 

Brazil has “a highly sophisticated technology and economic underdevelopment” (Moore, M. & Kearsley, G., p. 250).  Much of the country Brazil wants to make education and training available to is primitive both economically and communication wise.  PROFORMACAO provided training for rural teachers of elementary schools.  Meanwhile in Iowa, a private online company began to expand its network of online tutors.  As I think about Brazil, I think about how a company like Tutor Universe can be interlaced in to support rural learners, and in my case I would be teaching teachers.

To ensure quality in coursework design, the nonprofit Concord Consortium developed the eLearning Model.  Included are:  asynchoronous collaboration, explicit schedules, expert facilitation, inquiry pedagogy, community building, limited enrollment, high-quality materials, purposeful virtual spaces, and ongoing assessment” (Becerra & Almendra, p. 207).  Every online course I have taken throughout my Master’s of Arts program through University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) has included each of these.  I have had the opportunity to watch 3 other people take online courses (watching a few of their sessions), and found that these qualities were not all there; particularly community building, and facilitation that embraces the learning philosophy of student-centered learning.  I watched as students walked around the room as the professor went on and on the entire session (about 1 ½ hours) of “lecturing” with a PowerPoint.  According to Meaza Stewart (2014), “. . . the online tutoring environment must be focused on the learner, be flexible, be dynamic, promote interaction, and allow students to be able to share knowledge with the peer or tutor.”  Students were to come up with expected answers, not create answers through discussion groups.  One of these programs was preparation of principals!  Much of what I have learned about how to teach taking a student-centered approach is from participating in high quality on line classes (Stewart, M., 2014).  What the tutoring organization provides is an excellent platform from which students and tutors can effectively meet through a variety of online tools.  This creates an opportunity for real distance learning pedagogies to take place.  Usually colleges do not have the budget to provide as extensive of a learning platform as would a group of private organizations coming together.  

Thus far, I have learned an enormous amount through this class about two separate course design strategies.  These “themes were identified:  overall design process strategy and instructional strategy for the design relevant to digital environments” (Ashbaugh, 2013, p. 104).  Leaders need to be “competent in developing strategic, proactive plans for the future . . . collaborate for best possible solutions to current and unforeseen problems and challenges” (Ashbaugh, p. 105).  Our American Literature course design group has definitely proactively solved many potential issues.  We have people in our group who have already taught online before.  I have learned so much from them, as they each have reached out to a variety of learner types.  Also, I have contributed to consideration as to how to reach learners who may be limited English proficient, and/or have problems comprehending text. 

            Components involved in structural design cycle down from objectives, assessments, strategy, and activities.  Components of an online course instructional strategy that is well-designed are:  Theory- and values-based, authentic tasks that include interaction for problem-solving, thereby centering the learner(s) as in control of tasks (Ashbaugh, 2013).  This is where our group members are in the design process of our course.  As I design instructional strategies for the narrative unit, I bring a unique vision.  However, I completely expect to learn from others and hopefully receive feedback from this course at a later date, what will or did work and how the module can be updated and kept alive as far as relevance to high school students goes.  These course design competencies are universally critical in every nation as our efforts intersect to build a stronger and stronger web of educational opportunities across the globe.




Ashbaugh, M. L. (2013).  Expert instructional designer voices:  Leadership competencies critical to global practice and quality online learning designs.  The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 14(2), pp. 97-118.

Becerra, B. L. G.,  Almedra, M. P. R. and Flores, J. D. C. (2012).   Postsecondary distance education in mexico and worldwide:  Issues and considerations.  The Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 13(4), pp. 205-212.

Stewart, Meaza (2014).  Distance learning with tutor universe.  Distance Learning 10(4), pp. 23-29.

Moore, M. G. and Kearsley, G. (2011).  Distance education:  A systems view of online learning.  


Images retrieved from Google internet images on 3-13-14: 




5 thoughts on “Quality Design and Global Networking: The Convergent Crisscross of Common Needs and Efforts

  1. jcrocker2

    I think that our group’s greatest strength (apart from our variety of experience) is our desire to be learner-centered. I don’t think anyone has made a suggestion yet that was for the sake of making the teacher’s job easier. Even when I suggested using a unit I created a couple of years ago, it was not for the sake of making the course design easier, but because I thought that the reading would be particularly engaging for our potential students. It seems like all of us are constantly thinking of ways to engage any potential student, ways to make the course go easily and enjoyably for them. As long as we can keep that in mind, I think we’ll be successful in our design. Having time to revise and modify based on feedback (both before the course is taught and after) will make sure that our work endures. That’s something we seem to have in common with the best of the efforts we read about this week. You nailed it.

    1. aletakmay Post author

      Thank you, Jon! I think we have all had our students’ best interests at heart, as we can each visualize those whom we have reached out to in the past, even through young adults. Revising and modifying based on feedback is so important.

  2. Dan May

    Yes, in distance learning it is the educational process that only an academic staff member can provide, thus the name The Teacher. We have 3 parts to the University of Alaska. They are UAA (Anchorage) UAF (Fairbanks) and UAS (Southeast). These 3 parts together create the University system of Alaska. Our class is designing the first online course offerings by the University built for high school students.
    Our ‘system’ (the UAA online courses for school age learners, yet to be developed) will need some of the designs that have proven to be successful. Currently we are building courses (Algebra and Language Arts) that high school students will be able to take for credit. There is no reason that they will not want to put together other courses designed for adults (GED, distance trainings in business, community, etc.). They could not doubt focus courses used to support rural village learners as other countries (like you mentioned in your writing).
    The UAA system needs to develop the setting where rural learners (both young and old) are supported 24/7. They already provide high quality instruction to college and university level learners, possibly around the world. They need to provide flexible tutoring, instructive and supportive counselors, knowledgeable teachers, and superlative professors that can give face-to-face instruction at times as well a structured lessons (able to scaffold information into modules that build step by step) that provide student-centered interactive learning. While it is true that most colleges and universities do not have the budget to provide an extensive learning platform or environment, with government support, business and private grants, it is possible to build a World Class learning system.
    Many of the seeming hurtles we have run in to while designing these courses are not roadblocks. They are milestones that we accomplish as we find ways to achieve success in spite of them. The classes are prototypes of newer, better-built and supported courses that are still futuristic at this time. Others before us have built and designed online courses. They have designed models, rules, and formats that we can benefit from when creating our ‘next’ course (bigger, better, more successful:). Winner!!!

  3. Pingback: Reflections on Global Distance Education Considerations | aleta57

  4. tvanwyhe66

    Hi, Aleta…

    Your comments about Brazil and for-profit education companies reminded me of a fascinating story I heard on NPR last fall…and, thanks to a quick Google search, I found it! The story (“Do For-Profit Schools Give Poor Kenyans a Real Choice?”) was about the use of digital curriculum pre-loaded onto digital devices for use in very poor schools in Kenya. Bridge International Academies, the organization behind the efforts, is a for-profit group attempting to bring quality education to a very poor place via technology. They argue that the quality curriculum available via the tech device can overcome barriers like teachers with little experience or qualifications, poverty, etc. Pretty interesting stuff…especially because I immediately saw (heard) so many parallels between this story and rural Alaskan schools that may be “resource rich” but content-knowledge poor, that may have annual turnover of the majority of their teachers, and where teachers with very little experience or skill in challenging classroom settings cycle in and out on an annual basis with little opportunity to really impact student achievement.

    I sincerely believe that providing rural Alaskan teachers (who may be responsible for teaching all content areas for many, many grade levels) with digital curriculum would be a powerful first step in leveling the playing field for rural Alaskan kids. When districts ask rural teachers to plan QUALITY lessons for four, six, or even thirteen grade levels AND for multiple content areas at all of those grade levels, it is humanly impossible to achieve that request/directive/job description! Providing them with the content that it is already mapped out, appropriate to grade level, interesting, interactive, engaging, differentiated, etc., through a digital platform would go so incredibly far in giving the teachers more hope for success and sanity, and it would give the students FAR more grade-level appropriate content to keep them engaged and learning throughout a school year. In my district, we have seen firsthand this year how powerful digital curriculum can be in a K-12, one-teacher school setting. There is NO comparison for the teacher or the students!

    Anyway…I thought about the NPR story when I was reading last week and wanted to mention it, but forgot. Your post reminded me again, so here’s the story, FYI. 🙂 http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2013/11/12/243730652/do-for-profit-schools-give-poor-kenyans-a-real-choice

    Beaubien, J. (2013). Do for-profit schools give poor Kenyans a real choice? NPR Parallels. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2013/11/12/243730652/do-for-profit-schools-give-poor-kenyans-a-real-choice


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