14 December, 2009

Internet Access and Online Courses in Ecuador

Training teachers to give online classes has many challenges.  One of the greatest here in Ecuador is the simple fact that so few people have experience with or even access to the Internet.

The Ecuadorian Census Bureau just published a report indicating that 41% of Ecuadorians have used a computer at some point in their lives and 25% have used the Internet.

Of those who have used the Internet, 40% did so from a public place like a cyber café as they are called here, 20% from their home and 20% from their work.  The rest reported connecting from a variety of other places.

Further, of those who use the Internet, 46% of them do so for educational purposes, while 7% do so to work.

Here in the city of Guayaquil, 48% of all homes have a telephone line, while 9% have access to the Internet.

Lastly, statistics suggest that the number of Internet users is rising due to increasing access by mobile phone, especially among urban youth. 

So, the obvious question is: who will be my student's students? Or, how possible is it to offer a series of online classes for university students under such circumstances?  Many students seem interested, especially those from provincial cities who otherwise do not have access to high-quality education, but it remains to be seen if they will actually register for the programs and how successful they will be.

Another question I have is how possible is it to take an online class using a mobile phone as the main interface with the course?

In any case, online courses are an opportunity to raise educational standards and give more students access to a wider variety of programs, and that is definitely a step in the right direction.

15 comments:

César said...

Using a mobile phone? Wow, now that would be revolutionary! And i think it's not impossible, since you can already post on Twitter using the simplest mobile phone, and I know Blogger also allows you to do the same (still trying to figure out how though). People with home access to internet are still a minority...but the percentage of Ecuadorians who own a mobile phone is among the highest in Latin America. Definitely worth doing some more research.

Irma Illonka said...

Here I go again,
I am trying to post comments in your blog.
I was saying in previous messages: Considering the fact that most ecuadorians do not have access to personal computers due to budget problems, Cybers could be an alternative to start the inmersion of ecuadorian young learners into tech.

HugFab said...

The use the mobile phones for academic purposes or online courses would be a great but difficult opportunity since our culture has a kind of rejection or fear to challenges and big changes. Nevertheless ,the world is pushing and leading us to new trends. So online courses would take power little by little.

Sonja Janousek said...

Given the Ecuadorian context, I think that it might be more effective to introduce classes that are "semi-presencial" instead of completely online in the beginning. And even consider video-conferencing as an alternative to rural areas which not only have difficulty accessing internet but also traveling to bigger cities for classes. We have to be realistic, it will be a long process before the infrastructure and access issues are addressed. So the question to ask is how can we take advantage of the benefits of online learning in our context?

Irma Illonka said...

I agree, we need to take some baby steps. One thing that we could do inmmediatly is to include some lab classes as part of any of the TEFL courses that UCG provides. More with the MEC students.
Based on my own experience last year, they need to be introduced to internet and the fact that they can find materials for their classes.
If we show them that tech is not that hard, and that it will help them reduce in creating worksheets we will be taking the first step into letting teachers discover tech and use it.

César said...

Let's not forget that, at least in the case of MEC students, we are dealing with people who live in rural towns (meaning far from Guayaquil) and work (meaning time limitations). I believe the purpose of online classes is to offer those people a chance to study under such conditions. They need an introduction to the tools they're going to use to study of course; but f2f classes should be kept to a minimum ...otherwise what's the point of online classes at all?

Justin said...

I have learned that taking an online course successfully requires such a big shift in mentality that beginning level courses need to have at least some in-class time. In fact I would say that should account for at least 30% of the course until students gain a better understanding of how to work independently, how to collaborate on line with others and how to manage the online tools properly. These are challenging to learn for anybody, and they take time. Even when students learn these skills well, I think it is still healthy for them to be in class no less than 20% of class time.

I also like the idea of using videos, either to explain something or to have a synchronous conference. I would like to try that out soon.

teach content online said...

Even though a minority of the population has internet access, as Irma said, cybers would be a solution. Still, I think that internet at home is not a luxury now, it´s a necessity. As Irma says, budget problems avoid people from having this tool at home, but time will make people see they need it. As with mobile phones, everyone has one, no matter how they cost!
Olga

teach content online said...

Well, time will say that having internet access at home is a necessity, not a luxury. As Irma says, cybers are a good option. It´s kind of expensive for many people, but how much will you spend at a cyber? If you use cybers for many hours, that will come out to be a monthly fee! See how mobile phones are in almost everyone´s hand, no matter how expensive they are.
Olga

pilarcs said...

My 8-year old grandson loves playing penguin, farmville or any other stuff for entertainment, nobody has taught him but he always manages to discover and play games encouraged by his peers. Why not start learning the way our world demands today, through the "global electronic library" But how can we motivate our students?

Magda said...

Using Cell Phone to learn…. Well every one has a Cell Phone now; for sure teens and Young adults will love the idea. Not so if it will work with Teachers form the ME program.

Irma Illonka said...

A couple of days ago I heard on the radio that there are 3.500 cybers registered for IRS purposes. That made me think again in the great source those cybers are for people with no computers at home. People can surf the net, do research, print their hmks.
Again, we need to train our teachers to start including tech in their lesson plans, or asking students to use it for specific purposes.

Vahid said...

search out "mobile learning", it's not exactly new, though i think that it's still a little premature.

I believe you are right on time to prepare your teachers-students for the inevitable, so that they can make the most out of what education should be: using every resource a teacher can hold in his hands (including smartphones) to facilitate learning and transformation of their students. And right now, nothing beats the internet as the most grandiose resource ever dreamed of.

Nancy Vega said...

Hello Justin I'm a new student at Casagrande taking the TELF to the truth I'm a bit used to moodle or digital platform but like many Ecuadorians I have no internet service at home.Never theless I'm very optimistic and ill do my best to answer my blogs in due dates.as for on line courses give them time people are creatures of customs and traditions and Ecuadorians don't have the benefits of technology that Northern countries have but slowly gradually we as Educators are submerging our youth into all these techinological advancements in Education let's face it we can't continue to be TIC ignorants we must keep up with the Jones's no matter what.

Nancy Vega said...

Hello Justin I'm a new student at Casagrande taking the TELF to the truth I'm a bit used to moodle or digital platform but like many Ecuadorians I have no internet service at home.Never theless I'm very optimistic and ill do my best to answer my blogs in due dates.as for on line courses give them time people are creatures of customs and traditions and Ecuadorians don't have the benefits of technology that Northern countries have but slowly gradually we as Educators are submerging our youth into all these techinological advancements in Education let's face it we can't continue to be TIC ignorants we must keep up with the Jones's no matter what.