Article originally published on E-Learn Magazine on Aug 31, 2017 – Click here for the Spanish version
As technology evolves and smartphones have more power today than any supercomputer did 30 years ago, important shifts in society take place. For developing economies like Thailand’s, technology is an immense resource. Many working adults who were not able to receive a proper education due to family responsibilities or education simply not being an option for them, now have the opportunity to access education to obtain better opportunities for themselves, without having to compromise their current job security or family well-being.
In less than one generation, Thailand has moved from being a largely agrarian, low-income society, to an upper middle-income nation and a key contributor to the economic growth of the Southeast Asia region. Education has played a key role in this transformation. Since 1999, the government has made several reforms to its educational system in order to improve the quality of their teaching professionals, as well as to implement different curriculums and assessment systems to improve students’ attainment of skills and knowledge. Basic education has been free of charge since 2009, and only up to a few years back, the government has also recognized the importance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the exchange of knowledge worldwide. Thus, they have made ICT competencies a major component of the country’s education curriculum1.
Thailand’s government is keen on delivering personalized education for all citizens, as well as teaching about the importance of lifelong learning. These are the statistics:
Stamford International University has decided to seize this opportunity and deliver educational options for everyone in the country. Stamford has around 4,200 students learning how to use technology as an educational tool, with the goal of teaching students theory and practice that will be invaluable to them long after they graduate.
Apitep Saekow, president of Academic Services at Stamford International University, says that e-learning in Thailand has increased in the last five years, but that it still has a long way to go if we compare it with countries like the United States. However, the perception towards e-learning has improved greatly, even though there are many who still think the face-to-face approach is better. According to Apitep, Stamford aims to give students the best of both worlds, so they have embraced the blended learning approach.
Stamford has the following objectives: to give its students the very best education, an alternative educational option to what is currently offered in Thailand, and to understand their needs. To achieve this, the university works under four core principles.
Stamford International University has the word international in its name. This is because they understand that Thailand is a country with international influence, abundant international tourism, and that overall, that the Thai people appreciate an international component in their daily lives. Hence, it is important for the university to give its students a taste of what it means to be international and the opportunity to interact with different cultures, so they may succeed in any part of the world by becoming global professionals. The university currently has students from 110 countries around the world and 70% of its teaching staff come from abroad. As a result, Thai students are constantly interacting with peers and staff from different cultures. Additionally, Stamford has partnered with universities around the world to provide students with foreign exchange programs with the option of graduating with double degrees. This is thanks to Stamford being a member of Laureate International Universities since 2012, the largest education network in the world, serving more than 1 million students globally, and over 70 partner universities in 25 different countries.
2. Industry linkage
All Stamford International programs are designed along with CEOs, managers, and other high-profile industry players so that students come out with the skill set employers look for when hiring and have an employability edge. Additionally, they invite important guest speakers so that students can project themselves into their future – see what is possible and understand the work and knowledge needed to reach a similar position in the future.
The university aims to use the very best in education technology and tools to achieve student engagement. Stamford International uses Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate to offer students flexibility in their learning. Since most adult learners also have full time jobs and some live-in rural areas, Blackboard Collaborate facilitates ease to join classes anytime, anywhere, so students don’t have to compromise other aspects of their lives. The university embraces both synchronous and asynchronous learning environments, each with its advantages. Synchronous learning takes place via Blackboard Collaborate 30% of the time, and the remainder is asynchronous learning. In short, technology and innovation grant easy access to education, enabling all types of students to login from anywhere in the world.
Stamford International believes that a successful professional must have integrity. Since they aim to train entrepreneurs, they have made it their mission to teach students about morals and ethics and how to effectively negotiate and compromise. In Apitep’s words, a person “who takes, takes and takes, cannot be a successful professional.” They need to know when to give back and when to work with and for the community in order to become successful.
Stamford International University won the Blackboard Catalyst Award in 2014 for innovative blended learning in its Signature MBA Program. According to Apitep, they received the award thanks to the way they utilize and implement Blackboard to improve flexibility and accessibility, along with high quality teaching and learning methods for working adults. Their three most popular programs are: International Business Management, International Hotel Management, and their MBA program.
Even though 70% of Stamford students are young adults completing their undergraduate degrees, nearly 30% of working adults are also students that have been given the chance to reinvent themselves, grow, and most importantly, become lifelong learners.
Thailand is a great example of how much technology can positively impact education. The country is setting an example for developing economies all around the world, and governments could look to them as an example to replicate, for an educated population makes a strong and civilized country.
1 Reviews of National Policies for Education. Education in Thailand. An OECD-UNESCO Perspective. Secretary-General of the OECD and UNESCO. 2016. OECD Publishing, Paris.
Photos by: AFP – Borja Sanchez-Trillo