1. Southern Skies Distance Education Academic Exchange

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Southern Skies Distance Education Academic Exchange (Funded by COALAR) ($78,000)

Project lead

Dr Carina Bossu: University of New England

Project team


  • Dr Carina Bossu: University of New England
  • Professor Belinda Tynan: University of New England
  • Associate Professor Peter Albion: University of Southern Queensland
  • Professor Mike Keppell: Charles Sturt University
  • Associate Professor Roberta Harraveld: Central Queensland University
  • Dr Freddy Valenzua, School of Business: University of New England

Latin America:

  • Professor Fredric Litto (Executive Committee IDCE, Formerly University of São Paulo, Brazil);
  • Dr Stavros P. Xanthopoylos (Online-Distance Education Unit at Fundação Getulio Vargas, Brazil);
  • Marta Mena (ICDE Latin America Network and University of Moron, Argentina);
  • Associate Professor Sara Perez (National University of Quilmes, Argentina).

Overview and Scope

The Southern Skies project has been devised to provide a range of environments to facilitate the international sharing of information, technologies, systems and procedures relating to DE practices in the higher education sector. With a view to raising the profile of Australia in Latin America and of Latin America in Australia, an exchange of academics is proposed. This exchange will deliver an important transfer of skills and sharing of experience, showcasing both Australian and Latin American DE expertise. It will enable participating academics to engage with numerous distance educators, as well as gaining first-hand experience of each other’s educational/institutional context to foster deeper mutual understanding. In April 2010, one representative from each of the four participating Latin American institutions will undertake an academic exchange visit to Australia, where they will visit the DEHub partner institutions. One representative from each of four DEHub partners, accompanied by a translator, will make a reciprocal trip to Latin America in September 2010, visiting the University of Mor6n and the National University of Quilmes in Argentina and the University of S~o Paulo and the Online-Distance Education Unit at Fundag~o Getulio Vargas in Brazil. The project team will host a session at the Brazilian Association of Distance Education International Congress (with simultaneous translation of all the plenary sessions), which attracts 1,000-1,200 participants--a good event at which to promote both the Southern Skies project and Australian DE research and expertise more generally.

Phase 1 (3rd to 13th May 2010)

Funded by the Australian Government’s Council on Australia Latin America Relations (COALAR), this project promotes academic exchange between the four Australian universities collaborating as “DEHub” (Distance Education Hub) and four educational institutions in South America. From 3rd to 13th May 2010 representatives from DEHub travelled with visiting scholars from South America, to visit the DEHub consortia partners to discuss issues and opportunities for collaboration in distance education amongst the participating institutions. Their visit also represented the first stage of the Southern Skies Academic Exchange project. In meetings with senior representatives of each university, they learned more about the differences and similarities in approaches to - and technologies employed in - distance education by the participating institutions in Australia, Brazil and Argentina. We closed the first stage of this exchange program with a meeting in Canberra on Thursday, 13th May, at 10:30 am, with the Brazilian Ambassador Fernando de Mello Barreto, the Argentinean Ambassador Pedro Villagra Delgado and Jane Duke, Assistant Secretary of Canada and Latin America Branch (CLB) within the Americas and Africa Division (AAD) of DFAT, representing COALAR. The positive outcomes of this exchange program can already be recognised by the opportunities that have emerged during the visits such as the use and distribution of the DEHub database by ICDE; an invitation to assist ICDE to investigate and gather data related to a national framework and regulations for distance education from around the world; and opportunities for research and development of Open Educational Resources/Content between the participating institutions, amongst other opportunities.

Some snapshots and further information about Southern Skies Academic Exchange Phase 1 can be found above:

Visiting scholars at the University of Southern Queensland

The Central Queensland University experience

DEHub links UNE with South America

Phase 2 (23rd Aug to 4th Sept 2010)

The second stage of the project took place from August to early September, when the partner universities of the DEHub consortium visited the participating universities in Argentina and in Brazil, and attended and presented at the 16th International Congress for Distance Education in Brazil.

The host institution for the visit in Argentina was the National University of Quilmes (UNQ), located in Buenos Aires, where the Australian delegation met with representatives from UNQ and from other Argentinean institutions invited to join the meetings. The universities participating in the activities were:

  • Universidas Argentinas
  • Universidad de Morón
  • Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero
  • Universidad Nacional de Cuyo
  • Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia Austral
  • Universidad Nacional del Centro de la Provincia de Buenos Aires
  • Universidad Nacional del Litoral
  • Universidad Nacional de Cuyo
  • FLACSO Argentina

The first educational institution visited in Brazil was Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), in Rio de Janeiro city. FGV is a non-profit educational organisation established by the Brazilian Government in 1944 to promote the professional development of civil servants and named after a former government minister. FVG Online, the Distance Education unit at FGV, is a growing section within the wider FGV that designs, develops and offers courses at a distance using satellite transmission and online approaches. FGV Online offers a variety programs sourced from the five schools (mostly business oriented) operated by FGV – 60% for individual student enrolments and 40% through arrangements with corporations.

The second Brazilian institution visited was the Centre for Science of Rio de Janeiro State (CECIERJ), a government funded operation that supports a consortium of six public universities, the Centre for Distance Education of Rio de Janeiro State (CEDERJ). CECIERJ does not actually offer courses, but produces resources for use by the universities that are members of CEDERJ. Distance students across the state enrol and study through one of several local access points associated with each of the universities. Access to a local centre effectively determines which university a student enrols in for tutorial and other local support.

From 31st August to 3rd September the Australian delegates attended the 16th International Congress for Distance Education, organised by the Brazilian Association for Distance Education (ABED), in Iguaçu Falls, Paraná State. At the congress, the delegates delivered a two-hour presentation, one each from the DEHub partner institutions. Simultaneous translation was available for audience members who required it. Other activities undertaken by the delegates at the congress included:

  • A keynote speech presented by the DEHub Director Professor Tynan titled: Distance Education in Australia: Lessons and Future Challenges
  • A meeting with the president of ABED, Fredric Litto, and the Executive director of FGV Online, Stavros Xanthopoylos - the two Brazilian representatives who visited Australia in the first phase of the COALAR exchange.

During this meeting participants discussed and de-briefed what had been learned from each side of the exchange program and the possible opportunities for future activities. This meeting closed the second phase of this exchange project. Topics discussed included issues around evaluation of distance education programs, benchmarking potential, and possible exchange of courses with FGV Online.

Some photos of the Southern Skies Academic Exchange Phase 2 can be found above:


The Australian scholars presentations’ times and titles at the 16° CIAED (16th International Congress for Distance Education), themed “Content, learner support and certification: The central ingredients for effective distance education”, from 31st August to 3rd September 2010, held in Iguaçu Falls, Brazil, are available here: http://www.abed.org.br/congresso2010/programa.asp

More about the participation of the Australian delegares at the 16° CIAED - http://ead.folhadirigida.com.br/?p=3272