The Global Classroom: An Opportunity for Empowerment or Exploitation?

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The BSW Virtual Learning Circle is a new initiative by the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary intended to enhance the accessibility of our undergraduate social work education program to rural, remote and aboriginal students. The Virtual Learning Circle (VLC) offers the core undergraduate social work curriculum online through various internet based technologies. Recently, the VLC has been given the mandate to offer programming on an international stage. While internet based programs truly have no geographical boundaries and may offer tremendous benefits in terms of enhancing access to post-secondary education, such wide horizons also introduce great complexities and implications that are never faced in a traditional classroom bounded by time and space bounded by four walls. Moreover, if delivered without consideration for the contextual and cultural needs of students and their communities, such educational adventures may replicate a sad colonial legacy which marginalizes indigenous knowledge and educational systems.

This workshop is intended to initiate an international dialogue, speaking to the challenges and opportunities posed in international education. Participants will be asked to share their own experiences with distance and international education and to explore various developmental and delivery strategies that serve to build capacity and empower communities of learners, rather than undermine or marginalize local and/or indigenous knowledge and educational programs. Included in this presentation will be a summary of related literature pertaining to international e-learning. It is also hoped that this dialogue will continue beyond the confines of the Learning Conference and will promote further collaborations and partnerships in the development of ethical post-secondary distance education programming.


Keywords: Post-Secondary, Distance Education, Technology, Empowerment
Stream: Adult, Vocational, Tertiary and Professional Learning
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: Global Classroom, The


Dr. William Pelech

Associate Professor, Social Work, University of Calgary
Calgary, Alberta, Canada

William Pelech, BSW (Victoria), MSW (UBC), PhD (Wilfrid Laurier)
was appointed as an Assistant Professor at the University of
Calgary in 1999. He has had extensive teaching experience in
rural, remote, and Aboriginal communities in Canadian provinces of
Alberta and British Columbia. Recently, he has developed and now coordinates the Virtual Learning Circle. The BSW Virtual Learning Circle is a new initiative by the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary intended to enhance the accessibility of our undergraduate social work education program to rural, remote and aboriginal students. The Virtual Learning Circle (VLC) offers the core BSW Learning Circles curriculum through a blended learning approach that integrates the best of distance education technology (including Blackboard and Elluminate) with face-to-face learning opportunities. The VLC is intended for students who are unable to complete course offerings at one of the Faculty campus-based locations.

Ref: L09P0882