Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of educators, instructors, and academic IT professionals at IBM's Chicago Innovation Center about the use of collaboration and social networking in a learning context.  Here is a great example related to distance learning:

Athabasca University, which pioneered distance education in Canada and bills itself as Canada's open university, takes a less high-tech but more portable approach in its 840-student executive MBA program, which is Canada's largest, according to Marilyn Wangler, director of marketing and communications.

Athabasca uses IBM's Lotus Notes, collaboration software that has been used in business since the 1980s. Students complete the program while holding down full-time jobs, and may travel extensively. Ms. Wangler says. Notes lets them work on their own schedules at home and on the road.

Students work in teams of six to 10 people. Instructors lead discussions and help students through Notes. Athabasca recently added a feature called persistent chat, allowing students to collaborate via text chat and keep a complete online record of their discussions for later reference.

The anywhere, any time access lets Athabasca run a structured program, where students must complete work to deadlines, while still accommodating their hectic schedules, Ms. Wangler says.

Link: GlobeCampus.ca: Keep your job and learn from afar >  (Thanks, Alistair)

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