International Training Workshop – UCCTW
Shanghai 15 – 18 November 2006
Experiences from a Pilot Project
of Online Training
at the Faculty of Information Technology,
Hanoi Open University
Dr. THAI THANH TUNG
International Training Workshop – UCCTW
Shanghai 15 – 18 November 2006
Experiences from a Pilot Project
of Online Training
at the Faculty of Information Technology,
Hanoi Open University
Dr. THAI THANH TUNG
At present time, Vietnam is still listed among the poor and low developed countries compared to others in the area as well as in all over the world.
However, since early 90s until now, the renovation process of Vietnam – DOI MOI – has brought many major changes in the society and economy. Vietnam is continuing to develop quickly and stably in order to integrate into the regional and international community.
The average growth rate of Vietnam’s GDP during last 20 years 1986 – 2005 was 7.5% – 8.5% annually. It was one of the highest growth rates in all over the world.
Obviously, the above mentioned economic development required an equivalent development in education and training. The current education and training system in Vietnam is facing huge and urgent challenges in terms of the demand of human resources training who are highly skilled, especially in the threshold of the integrating period to the WTO today.
Besides, because of the limitation of the national human and financial resources, Vietnamese Government has recognized the developmental demand such as open learning and distance education in order to complete and support other traditional training forms.
In the last ten years, the Vietnamese Government and the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) have assigned Hanoi Open University (HOU) to responsible in research and national organization development in every form of non-traditional training, especially in Open learning and Distance education – OL & DE – to satisfy the urgent demand in human resources training, which intends to serve the industrialization, modernization processes of the country and builds up an educational society.
In order to carry out this responsibility, research is necessarily to widely develop the use ICT in training technology. It is not only applied in open learning, but also to support traditional colleges and being extremely meaningful in the context of international integration of the Vietnamese education and training system.
In 2004 and 2005, HOU had been assigned to run a pilot project named: “Developing the use of ICT in E-Training” by the MOET. The center for online instructional technology – COIT – at HOU was the management unit of the project.
Major results of the Pilot Project
Developing the use of ICT in E-Training is a long-term theme of the research. The period of 2004 – 2005 was just only a pilot project initially based on the collection of many results, which had been done by many domestic organizations in the last 5 years.
Nevertheless, there were two principal tasks of the project, that are:
§ Design and create an online training environment on the Website.
§ Produce some of trial electronic materials
PART I – Creating an online training environment
The biggest gap of isolated learners (self taught learners, distance education learners, home education learners, etc…) was the educational environment. Learners basically had a solitary mentality, had not been contacted, and communicated with colleges, lecturers, and friends. They had not also involved any activities of colleges and lack of getting information.
Thus, the online training environment must function to create both synchronous and non-synchronous communication for learners in order to replace the interactions between learners and college, learners and lecturers, learners and classmates.
From these issues, COIT had created a Website and named as FITHOU CYBERSCHOOL, placed at:
and linked with the main Website of Faculty of IT, HOU:
The main functions of FITHOU CYBERSCHOOL included:
1.1. Educational orientation and introduction to learners
People could simply access this function to find out information, career training, organizational training, methods of study, and the process of how to register for the courses. Besides the information provided on the Website, people could seek for more needed information through the FAQs system (Frequently Asked Questions System), or through the Contact Us section to contact directly with the Webmaster in order to be supported and explained in details. Hence, people who had expectation and need to apply for training courses in FITHOU CYBERSCHOOL would be instructed all the procedures of the registration.
For the long-term training programmes, test and assessment had been required and training certificate would be awarded.
Currently, the Vietnamese MOET has not permitted to register online so that learners would be instructed to send their files (hard copies) to colleges to be appraised the registration condition. After the appraisal approved, training card, training code and password would be granted to learners in order to access the Website.
1.2. Training information function
Every week, all management units in the Faculty were responsible to post their information onto the Website before Friday in order to announce in time. However, all information about the topic of assignments, examination timetables would be delegated and posted by lecturers who directly monitor these tasks.
Once learners had registered, they would be able to access the training information function to get the fully information about their courses such as course duration; examination timetable of each unit; face-to-face and online tutorials provided by tutors, who actually work with learners about each unit at 26 local centers within the country; online tutorial schedule of discussions with lecturers and classmates, etc.
1.3. Knowledge delivery function
On the Website or on several associated Websites had placed some electronic materials. There were some free electronic materials that had posted right on the Website, so that learners were able to use online or download to their PCs to use offline. These materials were created relying on course materials, what had been stipulated by the Academic Board of FITHOU to use officially in the Faculty. Additionally, these electronic materials were designed fine interface, convenient to use, and some two-way communication such practice questions, mock tests, auto evaluation tests, etc. This function played a role as a virtual lecturer to learners.
1.4. Forums or virtual classrooms function
This was an extremely important function to support effectively in E-Training. In this function, two main forums had been designed that called study- forum and exchange- forum.
The study forum was a free accessing forum, thus, people could access and read available posts. Moreover, this forum had been divided in to sub-forums or by topics, which were related to the subjects, course unit in the training curriculum for learners. Each sub-forum had a moderator who was often a lecturer or a senior student who had been appointed to monitor.
Access to the forum was free, however, if learners wanted to post his or hers articles onto the forum, they would need to register being members and authorized by Webmaster or Web administrator. Members would be allowed to post, modify, and delete their own articles only. Nevertheless, members must have committed to comply with forums’ regulations, and the moderator of that particular forum in completely anti spasm would manage content or topic. Therefore, each article needed to be verified quickly through a content censor system before posted.
After one year of testing operation, today, this forum has more than 3,000 members (2,000 from the Faculty population) with almost 300,000 access times and 60,000 posted articles.
In order to create the virtual learning environment, activities and exchanges forum was also designed beside the learning forum, which included several topics such as: comment; open suggestion; college’s stories and events; news; teams’ activity; English club; music club; many sport club, etc. There were also sub-forums for learners of each region in the country, for example, Quang Binh, Nam Dinh, Thanh Hoa, etc.
This forum had attracted learners to be interested with the common activities of the college. Many distance learners had indicated that they could not be able to come to the main campus in Hanoi in 3, 4 years since registered, however, they go on the forum everyday and do feel that they are living and studying in the campus.
On the other hand, the content of this forum were covered mainly about the internal Faculty activities, within the college. Thus, this forum was not permitted to access freely, and only registered members could be allowed to access and keep articles. Senior executives would access to the forum weekly in order to understand situations and learners’ opinions, and there was also a newsletter utility designed. Every week, all significant news would be summarized and sent directly to email of the Faculty senior executives. This created an effective feedback channel that would be useful in managing and monitoring.
1.5. Online tutorial function
Through the summary of the posted articles on the learning forum, each topic’s moderator could discover problems, what had been mostly concerned by learners. Then, these problems would be proposed to principal lecturer of that particular subject to produce online tutorials. The content of online tutorials would include: explaining in detail about the some of the difficult issues if the subject; introducing more skills in doing assignments, exercises; helping learners to practice some parts of the subject; etc.
The context of those subjects were also discussed in on-line tutorial chat-rooms weekly or brought into face-to-face tutorial classes, which had been organized at local tutorial centers. In consequent, it’s not only on-line learners and full time students of FITHOU, but students from other institutions also interested in these kinds of tutorial that FITHOU CYBERSCHOOL arranged and provided.
1.6. Managing student function
The entire information and results of each individual learner were conducted by this function.
In order to ensure the privacy, individual learners (registered learners) could only access to view their own information by logging in through their accounts (with protected password and several questions related to their personal information). Besides, transcripts, score list, etc. were also being conducted and provided with particular security signs.
However, there is currently not any regulation from Government about CA registration, college’s digital signature, so that FITHOU CYBERSCHOOL can only accept learners’ requirement and provide them hardcopies of certificate instead of providing certificates on-line.
With this function, families and organizations had got learners at FITHOU CYBERSCHOOL, who were authorized to contact admin in order to verify the exact information, results of learners.
This arrangementis very useful for learner in their further study in other institutions or when they apply for job after graduated : These institutions and/or employers can easily verify their study results at FITHOU ( of course with the demand and consentement of learners )
As at the present time online banking is not yet popular, on the other hand, there are no regulation from the MOET and the Ministry of Finance which allow online payment at Colleges and Universities, so in FITHOU CYBERSCHOOL we have not created the accounting function for the collection of tuition fees or other fees from students.
The organization of online examinations are also not yet realized. All examinations are organized at local tutorial centers – LTC – ( in each region ). Students will have to come at scheduled dates and make their tasks under the supervision of examinators of LTCs. The subjects are sent by email directly from the Cyberschool at the main campus, candidates do their tasks in soft copies and send back to the office also by email, or in exam papers (hard copies) collected by examinators and send back by post.
The role of LTCs in these exams is only for checking the identity of candidate and controling examination regulations.
This form of examination organization assure all demands of accurate exams and their big advantage is cutting down fees and time for candidates.
PART II – E-Materials for use of OL & DE learners
E-Materials (coursewares) play a very important role in E-training. E-material is not only a traditional courseware registered in CD or VCD which learner can use electronic equipment to read.
E-materials must be able to replace a printed (traditional) materials. On the other hand, it must also be able to create some man-machine interactions which may substitute a part of the roles of teacher in information delivering as well as in mobilizing and encouraging learners during their self learning process.
E-materials also take care of helping learners in their way of thinking and in practising (especially in practical subjects)
The content of each E-material for some subject include all substances of a traditional courseware for that subject, developed by a teacher-specialist or a group of specialists in this area of specialty, conforming with the general training curriculum supervised and adopted by the institution.
But when we have had already a good printed material, E-material is neither a set of powerpoint slides show, nor a video tape which allow learners to watch to the presentation of the subject only.
An E-material must include these following functions.
2.1. Guide for student about general content and methodology for studying the subject . Selft taught learners always have a big gap : they miss the direct guide and direction of teacher about the goal and meaning in studying every subject, the role and impact of this subject in the total training curriculum, the special methods of study for different subjects.
When producing E-materials, in combining the use of multimedias (text, static picture and graphic, voice and sound, animation and video) we can create a “virtual tutor” who will be an important support for learners at their first steps in the way to make acquaintance with new subjects.
2.2. Subject information delivery. For the principal content of the course we can realize only with text and picture, graphics as in traditional printed materials. In the opening and/or the summing up of each part, it will be better if we could add the use of other appropriate medias: voice (of teacher) and sound, animation and video.That will make the presentation more lifelike and more comprehensive.
Direct links between different part of the course is very useful for learners: they can help them to search easily through the whole material.
In practical subjects it is encouraged to use simulation sofwares for helping student to participate actively in the teaching-learning process.
2.3. Auto-evaluation, self examination and self correcting. As in traditional printed materials, at the end of each part, chapter or at the end of the whole material, the author may create sum up questions and exercises. The important advantage of E-material is that the author can also create a man-machine interactive system for helping learner in evaluation the result of their study. There are many methods for designing the auto-test, auto-evaluation using a data base of questions bank and a system for auto-correction. To animate the learning atmosphere and the mentality of learners, the author of E-material can also use high IT technic to create systems of remarks and notes addressed to learners after they have completed each test/essay.
2.4. Accessory softwares. For more convenient for E-material users in case if their PC did not have already essential accessory softwares, in the introduction part of each E-material we have to install a set of necessary softwares needed for opening the CD or VCD (Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Acrobat Reader…) and also a short guide about the use of these softwares in the E-material.
The evident advantages of E-materials comparing with printed materials and/or video – cassette tapes are :
* The delivery of information can be done through multimedia: text, picture and graphic, voice and sound a, animation and video.
* The existence of man-machine interaction which can substitute a part of the role of teacher and classmates, and which can reduce the isolated psychology for learners.
* Due to their small dimension, E-material can be easily preserved or carried with the users in order to practize their learning process at anytime, anywhere according to their living and working conditions.
* E-materials can be transferred through FTP or attachment in Email. They can be also kept easily in E-libraries.
* Last but not least : Low cost, only about 20-30% in comparison with printed material.
Experiences learnt from the pilot project
Through the two years running time of the Project of FITHOU CYBERSCHOOL at the FITHOU, we have learnt some precious experiences, which may be of use for further development of the application of ICT tools in DE and OL at higher level and larger scale in next coming years.
To develop E-Training in a developing country – the case of Vietnam – we must take into account the three main solutions:
* Technological solution
* Human resource solution
* Systematic Organizational solution.
PART III – Technological solution.
Technology is an important factor in E- Training. Currently in developed country this problem has been solved efficiently based on the recent ICT achievements.
However, as it was mentioned previously in this paper, due to limitations in technology and economic, in the context of developing countries we must select and bring together appropriate technology to create a simple, convenient system for users as well as easily upgrading to integrate with the world technology in next future.
Virtual university and electronic materials are the two main solutions to E-Training and they are built based on computer networking and Internet.
Using many different tools and technologies can develop network applications. The right choices will have great affects on specific application in terms of effectiveness and efficiency.
Presently, there are two major technologies from Microsoft and Sun dominated the networking market. Sun provided a specification on Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition (J2EE) aiming on high-end UNIX computers and mainframes whereas Microsoft has developed a package products and tools on Windows NT platform targeting PCs.
In the context of developing countries, fully package products from Microsoft is suitable and easy to deploy such as Windows 2003 Server (Advanced Server, Data Center Server), SQL Server, Site Server, Exchange Server, Biztalk Server, Application Center, Internet Information Services and Active Server Pages.
Microsoft continuously updates and produces new products and technology, which facilitate the development of E-Training such as Mobile Information Server, .NET framework. This makes use of programmers from wide range of languages.
However, in specific situations of developing countries, another option is to apply similar products from other third vendors. Using other products avoid heavy packages as well as reducing the cost. Programmers must consider applying components from other providers. Before final deployment, they should be test and evaluate to ensure the compatibility with overall general solutions.
Robust networking deployments are not easy to build. Many issues arise such as scalability, maintainability, reliability, security, cost and more. Therefore, successful deployment heavily depends upon technology and people building systems.
Recently the MOET Vietnam has opened an education portal at: http://el.edunet.vn
In co-operating with some wellknown american institutions, in this site are posted number of open coursewares for free use of all learners. The biggest difficulties for learner when approaching these materials are:
* The content of materials are not quite appropriate with Vietnamese training curriculum and the presentation style is a bit different with the traditional presentation in Vietnamese literature.
* Most of the coursewares provided by foreign institutions are in English: for Vietnamese learners it is also an important barrier which will be not be able to overcome easily in a short time.
It would be very useful if we could organize to make adaptations, to produce Vietnamese versions using this rich source of documentation: this is also an urgent task for E-training technicians and experts.
PART IV. Skilled Human Resources.
In general, the levels of technology and economics in developing countries are still low. However, it is not the most challenge factor because with sufficient budget (not too large) new technology equipment will be supplemented and upgraded quickly. The biggest barrier, which cannot be overcome in a short period, is skilled labor.
In order to create a Virtual University/ Cyberschool, there is a need of skillful programmers and administrators who can carry out important tasks as follow:
– Web Site designers: design structure, content, and style
– Webmaster: manage overall functions
– Sub system administrators
– Forum administrators, moderators, online tutors
Constructing electronic materials also can be done neither by a professional teacher nor a programmer. It requires specific skilled workers including:
– Redactor: in charge of contents and information of every single subject
– Scenario designers
– Material Producers
Recently, people involved in E-Training in developing countries are not well professionally and systematically trained. Most of them are working and learning from experiences. Therefore, through this Pilot Project, we acknowledged the urgent need for establishing complete training fields on Electronic Education and Online Instructional to cope with the great demands on human resources.
At the beginning, we can provide courses and/or subjects about theorical and practical aspects of OL & DE, of E-Training for a group of IT students who will be working later as IT specialist in E-Training: web designer, webmaster and E-material programmer. The training curriculum for teachers’ training institutions will have also to be completed with necessary and essential notions about the use of ICT in teaching – learning process. So, the future teacher in each area of specialty should be able co co-operate efficiently with ICT specialist in the production of E-materials.
E Training requires not only the human power in teaching, tutoring, as well as in designing websites and producing E-materials. The result of the E-Training system depends strongly also on personal working in the management of the whole Cyberschool / Virtual institution who require special criteria quite different with those who worked in traditional system of education and training.
In order to cope with this important demand of a new kind of human power we propose to create in some pilot Teachers’ Training institution a new department: Department of ICT Education or of E-Training, in order to provide well trained skilled human power for the development of E-Training in the future.
It is obvious that the realization of these proposals depends totally on the decision at least of the Ministry of Education and Training.
PART V – Systematic organizational solution
Together with the underdeveloped technical infrastructure, there are also other big disadvantages, which obstructed the possibility of developing E-Training in developing countries. First, the problem of low people’s cultural standard: People – Learners – have not enough know – how and the habits of getting in touch and of using ICT equipments and services. Second, the financial problem: The average income of the population is too low compared with the cost for using these equipments and services.
Besides, with the technical solutions mentioned in Part II, in the thesis the author proposed a group of feasible systematic – organizational solutions in order to overcome previously mentioned disadvantages in developing countries.
5.1. Socialization of the dissemination of fundamental knowledge on IT
Presently, in Vietnam, every year on summer holidays, is organizing the movement of student-volunteers contributing to the development progress of the society. Many organizations of youth and students mobilized their members for moving in remote countryside and mountainous regions – some international organizations even send their member-volunteers to other undeveloped countries in order to participate to “campaigns” of teaching to illiterate population or of knowledge dissemination: in general knowledge of hygiene and medicine, of environment protection etc.
Since the last summers of the school year 2003-2004, 2004-2005 answering to the appeal of the Vietnam Student Association and the Vietnamese Youth Federation, many groups of student – volunteers from Technical institutions in all around the country have run a pilot project of teaching general IT knowledge for young people in the remote countryside and mountainous regions in some weeks time.
Based on the good experience of this project, the movement will be certainly developed with larger scale in the next future. To create a “E-learning Learner environment” the Vietnamese government will be able to rely on the contributions of non- governmental organizations: Vietnam Student Association, Vietnamese Youth Federation, Vietnam Woman Association, Vietnam Association of Sciences and Techniques, Vietnam Association of Information Processing etc. These social organizations can motivate their members for running many campaigns of IT knowledge dissemination for people in remote countryside and undeveloped mountainous region. Through these campaigns the population will have opportunity to step by step make acquaintance with ICT equipments and services.
For instance in the condition of Vietnam, if every year some 100-200 groups of volunteers (each group with 2-3 members) can be mobilized, then only in a 2-3 years time the use of ICT equipments and services will be widely popularized in around the country. Having had such elementary knowledge, many people will be not at fault in contact with ICT service and later with E-learning.
5.2. The Local Tutorial Center Network
Formerly (and also presently) in Distance Education, to enhance the interactive between Institutions, Teacher with Learner, Institutions running DE always organized many tutorial centers in different regions. From time to time, every month or every term, institutions send teachers – tutors (or recruiting local tutors from the same region) to the centers. The centers then grouped all learners in the region for attending face-to-face session animated by tutors.
In E-Training, we can supplement necessary equipment to these regional tutorial centers to upgrade into a Local Tutorial Center Network, which will be an effective complement to the Virtual Institution.
The Center will be equipped with some LANs, each with some 20-30 users and a powerful server, linked with Internet by ADSL or high-speed cable. Learners who have no personal computer or who cannot connect to Internet at home will be able to arrange their own timetable coming to work at the Center.
At the user PC, learner can work by online high-speed contact with the Virtual Institution and will have to pay lower fee compared with the use of dial-up connection at home. The Center can also download the sub-systems of Virtual Institution and learner can work offline with the server of the Center. All interactive will be proceeded in the LAN with high speed and high reliability and without Internet fees.
In the server of LAN the Center can also post many E-materials provided from the Institution for the choice for use of Learners (of course, these materials are much richer in contents than those posted on Website). The creation of such Network of Local Tutorial Centers can have many advantages as follow:
– Providing free equipment for poor learners
– Providing Interactive services with low cost for learners
– Providing to Learners opportunity not only contacting with the Virtual Institution but also using easily the rich system of E-materials.
At the present time, in Vietnam there is a system of Centers for Continuing Education (CFCE) located at every province and district in all around the country. The Department of Continuing Education (DOCE) at the MOET supervises this system of CFCE. These CFCEs are assigned by MOET in charge of the management of non-formal training, on-the-job training, and part time training in each and every region.
If the regional authority could provide more equipment to CFCE, supply to their staff with E-Training experts, a CFCE would be able to take in charge of a common Local Tutorial Center for many different Virtual Institutions in a region: The management fees for Virtual Institution will be shared among many institutions and the geographical distance from learner to institution will be considerably shorter.
In some previously published analysis, the author has proposed a system of regulations for the co-operation and the co-ordination between the managers of Institutions, which are running DE, and the Managers of CFCE in ET.
E-Training is an inevitable change in Education and Training in this century, the century of Information Technology. Not only applying for Open Learning and Distance Education, it is increasingly taking place in all Teaching and Learning process with its effectiveness.
Deployment of E-Training requires technical infrastructure and professional trained human resources in terms of management and operation. On the other hand, different from traditional education, learners must understand and frequently use ICT equipments and services. These conditions are the main barriers, which hinder the deployment of E-Training in developing countries.
In this report, author has recommended a system of general solutions, skilled human power formation, technical and systematic organization, in order to overcome the basic obstacles. This contribution, with the purpose, is to facilitate the deployment of E-Training quickly among developing countries, including Vietnam.
After two years trial, practical results of the Pilot project: “Research on applied ICT in Distance Education”, organized by the Ministry of Education and Training of Vietnam was encouraging.
To be able to practice E-Training, the most important factor is to draw attentions from Governments, especially the awareness of Education and Training Management Organizations in term of the role and capability of E-Training. It must be thoroughly consider applying to the country’s system of Education and Training.
In the year 2003 – 2004, UNESCO – PROAP (Asia Pacific Region) has grouped some Universities and Institutions in the region to carry out a pilot project: “Pilot Project of the Virtual University in the Great Mekong sub region” including Hanoi Open University, Vietnam – SukhoThai Thammathirat, Thailand – Yunnan Teacher Training College, China – Radio Television University of Yunnan, China. Attending the project there are also members of Ministries of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar with the participant of UNESCO specialists from Australia and France etc.
Even it was only a pilot project in small scale (training only one certificate in Tourism), however this is an invaluable experience starting the International cooperation in the field of E-Training among developing countries with the support from other part of the world.
Hoping that with the awareness and sufficient concerns of Governments and with the cooperation of experienced educational specialists, scientists around the world, E-Training will be quickly grown contributing to the socio-economic development in developing countries on the way moving toward integration with the world community.
Dr. THAI THANH TUNG
Center of Online Instructional Technology
Faculty of Information Technology
HANOI OPEN UNIVERSITY
Telephone: +84 4 8359 332 Fax: +84 4 8253 591
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