May 20, 2020
COVID-19 and Online Education in ASEAN (Part II)- Shared Growth through ASEAN-Korea Cooperationin e-Learning and Higher Education -
It’s a whole new ball game in the field of education - digitalized day and night. Learning platforms are changing. ‘E-Learning’ has emerged as the new trend as classes are replaced by online and remote non face-to-face lectures under the coronavirus epidemic. While this transformation, suddenly accelerated by the pandemic, may seem new and even awkward, it has been in the portfolio of ASEAN-Korea cooperation for many years.
Cooperation between ASEAN and Korea in online higher education has been carried out under the ASEAN Cyber University(ACU) initiative which was agreed in 2009 at the first ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit. The project was proposed by the then Secretary-General of the ASEAN Secretariat, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan (2008-2012), who, through the project, hoped to promote cooperation in higher education and invigorate people-to-people exchanges between the two regions.
Ten years into the project, there have been many positive developments as well as limits. This week’s ASEAN Issue will look into the history of e-Learning cooperation between ASEAN and Korea, some of its key achievements as well as challenges and future prospects of online education partnership.
■ Importance of E-learning in ASEAN
For many years, ASEAN Member States have emphasized the importance of higher education and cooperation in higher education among ASEAN countries. The priority areas stated in The ASEAN Work Plan on Education 2016-2020 as agreed by the Ministers at the ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting (ASED) include the following:- Advancing ASEAN Studies Programme and courses at higher education level through online and cross-border mobility;- Expanding and improving human and institutional capacity in educational software development and online instructional design to enhance access to quality education;- Strengthening capacity to access and use digital learning through ICT in the ASEAN Member States; and- Enhancing teachers’ competencies in skills required in the 21st century.
And in support of the above-stated plans, the plus three countries (Korea, China Japan) incorporated plans to support e-learning programs development in ASEAN universities under the ASEAN +3 Plan of Action on Education 2018-2025.
Moreover, the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025 (MPAC 2025), which lays downs 15 core initiatives as part of ASEAN’s integration and community building efforts, identifies the following as the main duties under the “Education and Manpower Training” initiative : - Strengthening the technological development of capital and labor force;- Establishing vocational education training and supporting higher education for a higher employment rate; and- Contributing to the ASEAN economic development.
As such, we can understand from the above that ASEAN’s strategy for economic development is based on the development of human capital through higher education and capacity building. Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) plays a large part in implementing this economic development strategy, and e-learning, as observed in the above cited documents, constitutes a core part of TVET. In fact, the SWOT Analysis of E-Learning Course Operation in Higher Education?research based on case studies in universities in Myanmar?concluded that e-learning played a significant role in driving Myanmar’s economic growth.
■ Key Achievements of ASEAN-Korea E-learning Cooperation (2012-2019)
Against such backdrop and in view of the growing demand for e-learning in ASEAN, Korea, with a wealth of experience in digital education and employing technology in learning, began its cooperation with ASEAN in this area.
When the ACU project was officially launched 2011, priority was given to CLMV countries. The aim was first to strengthen online education capabilities and try out joint courses in these countries and then later expand the project to all 10 countries to ultimately establish the ASEAN Cyber University. The Korean Education and Research Information Service (KERIS), an affiliated organization of the Ministry of Education, took up the role of the ACU Secretariat.
Each of the member universities in the CLMV countries were matched up with partner universities The cooperative universities in Korea was selected through open competition. For the 2016-2019 project, 4 institutions joined: Soongsil Cyber University-Konyang Cyber University(Consortium), Wonkwang Digital University, Busan Digital University-Dongseo University(Consortium), Yeungjin Cyber College-Yeungjin(Consortium) in Korea. The partner schools supported operation of e-learning centers and training of experts for designing online courses. The project also provided assistance in establishing and operating the Learning Management System(LMS) Learning Management System(LMS): software application for e-Learning to administrate learners’ grade, courses, and attendance. and Open Education Resources(OER) Open Education Resource(OER): teaching and learning materials that teachers and learners may freely use and reuse, without charge?softwares needed to manage online learning platforms?to further promote the use of e-learning in the universities. The simultaneous support of both the hardware (e-learning studios and facilities) and software (technical training of online course designers) allowed member universities in these countries to later develop, produce and manage their own online courses.
Over the period of 7 years, from 2012 to 2019, the ACU project ①carried out 65 consulting sessions, ②supported 130 types of contents development, ③conducted 580 courses with the materials that have been designed under the project, and ④instructed over 40,000 students. The member universities are now able to train and teach other schools in their respective countries on how to set up, develop and conduct online education.
Today, the ACU network, which began with four CLMV countries, have expanded its membership to nine ASEAN countries?Thailand joined in 2013, Philippines and Malaysia in 2016, and Indonesia and Brunei in 2017. Taking note of the many achievements, the Joint Declaration of the 4th ASEAN+3 Education Ministers' Meeting (November 2018) highly appreciated the contributions of ASEAN-Korea partnership to vocational training, including developments in e-learning education in ASEAN.
[ 2012-2019 ASEAN Cyber University Network ]
|Country||Individuals using Internet (%)||Household accessing Internet (%)||Mobile Phone Subscription(Per 100 people) (%)|
* Source: ACU Homepage (Meeting materials for ASEAN Advisory Committee meeting for ACU project)
The leaders of ASEAN and Korea also recognized the achievements of ASEAN-Korea partnership in e-learning during last year’s ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit. In fact, the partnership, in addition to strengthening and promoting e-learning in ASEAN, has also contributed to strengthening cooperation in research and expanding people-to-people exchanges. Building on this success, the 1st Mekong-ROK Summit also included capacity-building in higher education and improvement of e-learning resources as one of priority areas of cooperation under the Mekong-Korea framework.
■ Challenges and Limits of the ACU Project
However, in order to continue and further expand cooperation in e-learning and online education, there are also issues that need to be overcome. First, with regard to infrastructure, the ASEAN Higher Education e-Learning Level Diagnosis Study (2017) points out that the digital divide among the 10 ASEAN Member States remains quite extensive and that there was an urgent need for the development of ICT infrastructure in the less-developed countries. Also, institutionalization and harmonization of rules and regulations concerning online education need to take place before any kind of a common online education can be offered in the 10 ASEAN countries. National laws on recognition of credits and degrees from online courses still need to be further developed in countries such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. Moreover, in order for the ACU to develop into a full-fledged degree-awarding university, the countries in the region will have to reach an agreement on mutual recognition of academic degrees and diplomas as well as on the common guidelines of the ACU.vGiven these challenges in infrastructure, institutionalization and furthermore the astronomical amount of money required to physically establish a university, the Korean Government proposed a modification of the ACU project. Instead of building a university in the traditional sense, Korea proposed to set up and operate an online platform based university. For the past year, the ASEAN Advisory Committee meeting for ACU project (AACA), composed of representatives from the relevant ministries of ASEAN and Korea and ACU member universities, have been reviewing this proposal on the modification of the ACU project. The final decision on the establishment of the cyber university and its form is expected to be made at the ASEAN+3 Senior Officials Meeting on Education in August this year.
■ E-learning in the post-COVID-19 Era
As face-to-face exchanges becomes difficult due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus, cooperation in e-learning and online education is becoming an increasingly useful and attractive way to continue working together while remaining socially distant. In fact, cooperation in this field is expected to expand in the future.
Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), in cooperation with a private company, is providing free online Korean language courses to Vietnamese university students whose schools been closed due to COVID-19. In response to the growing demand for Korean language lessons in Vietnam, KOICA is seeking to provide a nationwide e-learning platform for Korean language studies in Vietnam and further connect those students using the platform with Korean companies for future employment. According to a survey conducted in 2018, many Vietnamese youths?aged 18 to 30?were learning Korean as a second foreign language because it was helpful in finding a better job and developing their career. About 94% of respondents said that they were interested in using e-learning platforms to study Korean.
Keeping up with this “online” trend, the ASEAN-Korea Centre organized the ASEAN-Korea Academic Conference with KERIS in 2019 to discuss the “value, impact, and prospects of ASEAN-Korea collaboration in e-learning and higher education.” This year, the Centre plans to strengthen its online contents through the “Staying Connected with AKC” initiative, including this “ASEAN Issue” series and “Online Lecture” series.
Thomas Frey, futurist and founder of the Da Vinci Institute, predicted that half of off-line universities will disappear by 2030. Many countries in the EU and the UK are already operating e-learning systems, including the well-known ERASMUS+. The US is also taking the lead in the globalization of online higher education through the world’s largest MOOC platform, Coursera.
As online courses gradually replace offline lectures in the future, e-learning will increasingly play a greater role in educating and training professionals especially in the age of 4IR. In this regard, e-learning will become one of the main themes of ASEAN-Korea cooperation in the field of higher education. It also has much potential as a driver of shared growth between ASEAN and Korea. Indeed, Korea’s partnership with ASEAN in e-learning supported by its advanced technology in ICT can make meaningful contributions to the unfolding of NSP 2.0 in the post-corona era.
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