Key administration conditions for the successful establishment of an international distance learning partnership

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Levey, Stephen

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America's economy and workforce continue to become increasingly high-tech, knowledge-based, and globalized. As this occurs, community colleges continue to seek ways to educate their growing diverse student populations through international programs. One way is through distance education. But simply offering an international online program does not ensure success. Administrative support, justifications, rationales, and design issues combined with quality instructional development, course delivery, and special pedagogical considerations are musts. Many administrative issues have not been fully identified in the literature, particularly in regard to community colleges. Therefore, the need for distinguishing these essential conditions is especially important. As increasing numbers of distance learning courses and online degree programs are offered by community colleges, one of the more significant and growing opportunities for expansion is the international market. Spawned by the widespread growth and increasing capabilities of the Internet, workforce globalization, increasing diversity, shrinking budgets, and the need for increased revenue, online programs have the capability of producing rich and varied opportunities for colleges and students on both sides of international borders. But international boundaries are not easily leaped through technology. Community college administrators should only pursue international online partnerships when they have a clear understanding and definition of the appropriate environment, student and institutional needs, capabilities required, or goals for such a program - not before. The study asks the question, “What are the key administrative considerations and/or conditions that need to be in place for a community college to establish an international distance learning program in a partnership with a foreign higher education institution?” To clarify, the study confines itself to administrative aspects as they pertain to the creation of such a program, not ongoing operation and/or maintenance. Practical action research is used as the methodology for the study. This methodology asserts that educational investigators can be personally involved in the research of their areas of specialization. Being the administrator at Houston Community College responsible for working with TecMilenio (a division of Monterrey Tec, Monterrey, Mexico) to establish a distance learning partnership, the author occupies an appropriate position to conduct this study.