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Israel Visit and E-learning in the Open University of Israel
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
My has it been nearly 2 months since my last update? Hard to believe. Well in late February and early March I spent time in Israel. Yoram Eshet from the Open University of Israel hosted me. He showed me around his home city of Jerusalem (lives there despite distance to the Open University which is an hour or so from there north of Tel Aviv in Ranana). Yoram does research on digital literacy and has many interesting insights.

I also had a chance to visit with Rafi Nachmias, Judith Ram, and David Mioduser from the University of Tel Aviv who have a chapter in my recent Handbook of Blended Learning. They showed me around their lovely university and also parts of Tel Aviv such as the old part called Jafa. Wonderful people.

I was joined by my doctoral student, Robert Fischler, who after 14 years of studying at Indiana University defended his successfully dissertation yesterday. Robert helped me out while in Israel. We also had a beer or 2 at Mike's Place across from the beaches of Tel Aviv which we found out later was blown up by a terrorist 2 years earlier. The Green Bay Packer signs and such did not make it seem like it would be a dangerous place. Of course, our bags were thoroughly checked on the way in. I also had dinners at a couple of other friend's places during the visit (Sherm and Melodie Rosenfeld, for instance) and Miri and Yossi Shonfeld's). Elaine Hoter ad Asmaa Ganaye joined us at Miri's for dinner. They are working on a project to get their teacher education to work together and share ideas. They are team teaching across private and public Israeli and Arab schools. Interesting.

Robert and I also visited former IU student Dr. Ronen Hammer who lives in Haifa. Ronen was a great host. He showed us the Baha'i headquarters. Baha'i is is a religion which promotes peace in the world. Gorgeous views of the Med Sea from his house and many places in town. See pics I will post later on in Flickr.

Ok, in terms of e-learning and blended learning, there is much interest in Israel. The Open University hosted one conference when I was there (where I did a keynote) and it was well attended. The seem to want to be the hub for online learning innovation and research in that country. They have built their own course management system. They are doing research on technology integration and online learning in education and have funding for such. The number of courses using the web in instruction there is exploding from 1 percent in 1998 to 19 percent in 1999 to 99 percent today. These numbers were provided by Dr. Yoram Eshet and Dr. Yoav Yair.

They have grown from 24,200 students in 1995 to 40,200 in 2005. Very fast growth! Not as fast as the Open University of Malaysia which has gone from a few hundred in 2001 to over 30,000 today. What does this say about education and online learning and open learning? I think it is clear--there any millions (if not billions) of people looking to obtain a college education. The typical hoops and hurdles to get in that the Harvards, Stanfords, and Indianas place on students are too stringent. Online is chiefly about access to learning and ideas. Open Universities facilitate such access. Sure we can deal with high level students and I love to as well, but more important is opening access to everyone. It will be important to monitor the growth of the Open University of Israel (and Malaysia and other places).

Will the Open U of Isreal become the hub of e-learning for the country? Will it's influence extend beyond it to the rest of the Middle East or over to the US or up to Europe? Hard to say. Dr. Yair is pushing their thinking ahead on where things are going. One niche for them is that they publish more books than anyone in Tel Aviv (at least 1 book for each class they teach). They also own the rights to them. Could they perhaps make podcasts of the authors explaining the ideas in each book or perhaps create audio books of each one? What might they do to repurpose each one electronically? Many things are possible here with the web. Will this build their reputation if they do so? It will be interesting to find out. Stay tuned.
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 8:35 AM  
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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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