Author(s): Steve McCarty
Title: "Meeting a Worldwide Need for Community and Faculty Support for Online Education "


*** As an expatriate in Japan, this writer was in the position of most scholars in the world, with a low budget but high interest in faculty development. The Internet opened the door for mutually enlightening exchanges across great physical and cultural distances. The First Annual Teaching in the Community Colleges Online Conference in April 1996 was eye-opening, and grew to about 1,750 participants in 1997. Then in 1998 the keynote address by this writer proposed what became the World Association for Online Education (WAOE). As post-conference listserve discussions continued for months, including a BBS constitutional convention, the online conference format was turned into a year-round virtual organization. Online education was expanding globally insofar as access and expertise were available. WAOE served the need for faculty development of online educators with a vision of turning the new field into an academic discipline. Widely separated individual practitioners hitherto like masterless samurai found that they could benefit from a base on the Web and a community dedicated to purely educational aims. Thus WAOE quickly grew to around a thousand participants in about 50 countries.

To have a conduit to the so-called real world, WAOE was registered as a non-profit public benefit corporation (NPO) by Jenna Seehafer of California State University in Sacramento. Mihkel Pilv in Estonia set up the Website and various institutions provided infrastructure for the virtual organization, including the affiliated Journal of Online Education edited by Julia Keefer at New York University. Since 2003 WAOE has been hosted by Portland State University in Oregon as an international public service. Even minimal dues were found to discourage non-Western participation, so WAOE officers worked for a Tokyo NPO and dues were permanently abolished in the year 2000.

Unlike most other academic or development organizations, WAOE sought global balance in participation and governance, where Westerners could learn from the wisdom of non-Westerners as well as vice-versa. WAOE worked to be multicultural in outlook while providing organizational information and communication channels in many languages. The resulting participation and contested online elections have shown educators worldwide making the organization their own. Officers in about 12 countries represent a harmony among Moslems, Jews, Hindus, African Christians and others as academic standards and ethical values prevail among educators worldwide.

Collaboration extends beyond WAOE as for example when members from six countries wrote two chapters for the International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments (Kluwer Academic Publishers, forthcoming as of this writing in 2004). Also in 2004, low-cost voice technologies augmenting a learning management system have enabled colleagues in the US and the UK to mentor an intensive graduate course on online education in Japan. This presentation proposes to highlight such organizational experiences with online technologies, along with principles and practices that may be applicable to others networking in the world community of scholars.

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