Using the Global Networks for Continuing Professional Education
The Bangkok Project
Project Number 05 – 1993
PhD Candidate and Network coordinator, Bangkok Project
University of Calgary
1103 Casson Gr. NW
Calgary AB. Canada T3B-2V6
Fax: (403) firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Individuals And Organizations Associated With The Project
International Council for Distance Education
The massive expansion and interconnection of computer networks during the past few years presents an ideal medium for professional development, inservicing and communications for a large number of professional organizations. The media is capable of providing low cost, high speed, text based communications between and amongst members of professional groups in most nations of the world. The Bangkok Project was designed to test this capacity in a real world application.
The Bangkok Project was designed to coincide with the XVI World Conference of the International Council for Distance Education (ICDE) held in November 1992 in Bangkok, Thailand. The project was designed to meet two primary objectives:
- To provide a forum for preliminary and subsequent discussions amongst delegates who attended the face to face conference.
- To provide a forum in which emerging issues could be discussed and professional development supported, for those distance educators who were not able to attend the conference. (for a more detailed description of objectives, operating procedures and results of the project see Anderson and Mason, 1993, American Journal of Distance Education.
The Project was organized around the metaphor of a face to face seminar. Six internationally renowned scholars volunteered to serve as “First Speakers”. The First Speakers started each of the 6 topics by uploading 5-7 screens of information and issues for discussion. A volunteer host, served each topic discussion as facilitator and moderator. The information provided by the First Speakers, as well as subsequent questions, comments and rebuttals were distributed across a group of between 20 and 30 different computer conferencing systems or electronic mail networks. These items were posted to the various networks by volunteer “porters” who screened or filtered information provided by participants for relevancy and coherentness.
The total cost for administration, organization and promotion of the project was less than $100.00, Canadian. In addition most participants accessed the project via local, no cost electronic mail systems or bulletin boards – thus costs to participants were also minimal. Although the infrastructure costs of maintaining the global networks are not insignificant, the project showed that actual incremental use for professional development activities are minimal. Comparing the organizational costs to the number of participants, it becomes very clear that this media provides professional development activities for a fraction of the cost of alternate, global professional development systems – especially those based upon face to face interaction.
A final benefit of professional development delivery using this media is the automatic archiving of all interaction during the sessions. Unlike the face to face model, in which only the presenter’s comments are normally published, the interactions between all users are stored and accessible in machine readable format. The discussions which made up the Bangkok Project have been archived at a number of sites on the networks and are available, at no charge, for retrieval and printing. Thus the interactions can be used to benefit not only active participants but those who wish to study (or revive) the discussions at a later date.
The Bangkok project demonstrated that the international networks can be used for productive and very cost effective professional development applications for a variety of professional and community groups.
The Bangkok Project made extensive use of the Internet as it’s main distribution network, but also incorporated K12 Net, Fidonet, America Online and a variety of stand alone systems. The project thus demonstrated communications connectivity between a variety of networks. The project involved distance educators from over 15 countries and used the network facilities of a variety of commercial, university and government networks. As mentioned above, the project was extremely cost effective. The cost to attend the face to face conference in Bangkok was $450. US per person -excluding transportation and accommodation costs. The entire project was facilitated for much less than the cost of a single registrant thus demonstrating the capacity of the Networks to provide very cost effective professional training. The project was documented and the archives retained – thus providing a visible model for replication and improvement by other organizations.
Over head projector connected to MSDOS machine for display of electronic slides and transcripts from the Bangkok project.