News > Pan-Armenian News (Education) > Armenian Virtual College celebrates second year
Interview with Dr. Yervant Zorian, Member of Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) Central Board of Directors and President of AGBU Virtual College.
You have been in UAE about one year ago. Then, the preparatory works for the Armenian Virtual College (AVC) were in their last stages. The courses started in March 2009. The launching of the courses received good publicity in the Armenian media. Could you brief us on the activities of the first year?
Since our meeting in Dubia in December 2008, we can say AVC passed through three different phases. The first was in March 2009, when we started the courses with a limited number of participants in order to get initial feedback. This gave us the opportunity to look critically into the teaching methodology and choose the most appropriate one to apply for the coming semesters. This phase lasted until May 2009.
In June 2009, we opened a four day opportunity for registration in the coming semester. 137 students enrolled in different courses (Armenian History, Language, etc.) with different levels and languages (6 languages). We left the students under the care of the teachers, who guided and monitored their study progress. The experimental methodology proved to be successful. The students liked the adopted method.
During this second phase relations were developed between the students and the teachers and amongst the students themselves, something we did not much expect, since we were mostly thinking of AVC as a tool for gaining knowledge, but now we discovered it can have other role. The interactivity was remarkable. Besides the usual study, an interesting atmosphere was developed.
In August 2009, you enrolled a new group of students. Did they all reach the end point?
The majority managed to reach to the end, about 115 out of 137. About 20 did not complete for different reasons, and now we have already completed the third semester (which started September and ended in December 2009).
Those who enter level one can naturally continue to level two, but there are others who can enter at a certain advanced level, thus skipping the earlier levels, according to their level of knowledge. However, there are some subjects that need to be taken in a sequence, such as the language courses.
Once enrolled at a certain level, the sequence should be continued.
Where are the teachers based?
The teachers (mentors) are mainly based in Armenia. They follow the lessons and their main role is to encourage the students to go through the stages. They have bigger role when it comes to homeworks and assignments.
Each group is supervised by one mentor, who uses one of the available languages. A student for example can register for Armenian history in Spanish language. In that course the student and the teacher use Spanish and the material is in that language.
Is it early to notice what other effects can AVC have on non-academic aspects?
There are signs of the non-academic effects. A good example is the creation of relationships in the groups, although the members of one group could belong to different geographical areas. The relations formulated during studies will create the basis for diversified connections amongst members living in different Armenian communities. The participants get closer to each, as they all follow the same curriculum and discuss the same topics, alike the traditional schools in various cities that operate independently, without proper feedback from other schools.
This new method actually demonstrates how developed the distance learning has become, thus replacing the blackboard and chalk with laptop or computer screens. Modern technology has left its marks in many domains including education. Our Armenian schools are very traditional. AVC gives the daily, weekly or other Armenian schools the means to achieve their educational goals. It is an attractive way to keep the student engaged, using modern learning technologies.
With the introduction of the distant learning environment our traditional schools will undergo important changes. At this stage, the individual students gain the benefit from AVC, but schools also can be involved and make the maximum benefit from our programs in the future.
After many years, with further investment in technology, our traditional schools would be developed, networked and their curriculum would be available online.
I am glad that the AVC class in Sharjah has been a pilot project to see how the AVC can work for a weekly school, before implementing it on a wide scale.
Hratch Brunsuzian has been monitoring - with the Board of Trustees of the Ohanessian School-, the AVC lessons in Sharjah and has provided the necessary tools to ensure the further success of this experiment.
Yervant Zorian: The Armenian Virtual College is scheduled to launch in January 2009
Armenian Virtual College prepares for the Fall Term