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Online Educational Opportunities for Refugees: Creating a Sustainable Policy

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES Abstract Refugees living in camp environments and refugees who eventually resettle to a new country

after life in refugee camps often have difficult accessing higher education opportunities. Lack of identification, citizenship, and the economic means to attain an education kept many potential refugee students out of post-secondary education. Increasing unrest in refugee camps as well as the need for resettled refugees to find employment in order to create a sustainable living demonstrates the need for education for this vulnerable population. Australian Catholic University offers online post secondary education to refugees living in camps along the ThaiBurmese border. The Open University offers online post secondary education to resettled refugees living in the United Kingdom. Both programs provide lessons learned for institutions considering refugee higher education programs in camp settings or upon resettlement. Recommendations are provided.

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES Online Educational Opportunities for Refugees: Creating a Sustainable Policy The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) defines involuntary refugees as those persons who must flee their homes due to political strife, natural disaster, or economic hardship. Globally, there are approximately 11 million refugees and internally displaced persons (UNHCR, 2011a). As people flee natural disasters, wars, and human rights abuses, they often end up in refugee camps, where they will spend an average of 17 years. Yet, the international aid community (including international organizations and nongovernmental organizations [NGOs]) as well as host governments view the refugee status as a temporary one, thus minimizing the importance of long-term needs such as education. Within this human tragedy, there exists a need for refugees to access higher education opportunities that could help them in exiting their transitional status. Higher education can help refugees find out about resettlement opportunities prior to resettling, help refugees become productive citizens when they resettle, and it can help them obtain a job when they are living in a new country. Higher education can also help refugees to rebuild their home countries when they repatriate, and can help shape new governments that may form. Yet, higher education is often bound to the nationstate. Universities are linked to the nations that fund them or accredit them. International donors are reluctant to fund post-secondary education in the refugee camps due to a lack of qualified teachers, educational resources, and the isolation from the outside world (Zeus, 2009). However, technology can expand the opportunities for people in transition. Online education is borderless and can provide possibilities for refugees to learn in the camps and upon resettlement (Purnell, 2008).


Culturally Relevant Online Education Refugees in the camps and upon resettlement need culturally relevant education. This requires the information to be taught in a way that uses culturally relevant terms, references, and concepts (Purnell, 2008). Zeus (2009) concurred, stating that in particular, Burmese refugees who had fled violence in their home country and had been residing in refugee camps in Thailand for decades were beginning to use distance education that at times lacked cultural relativity. Additional problems included refugees lacking an understanding of Western educational processes, theories, and methods of learning. Refugee students also need to have access to consistent face-to-face tutoring support. Purnell (2008) discussed options for refugee learning opportunities. These included education outside of the camps, importing educational opportunities into the camps, and establishing online learning centers in or near the camps. The online learning opportunities can have a positive impact, given that refugees can still seek employment or take care of their children while participating in distance learning. Online education can also allow accredited programs inside the walls of the refugee camps, meaning that learners who eventually leave the camps will have their education recognized. The Australian Catholic University Model The Australian Catholic University (ACU) was an early provider of online education near the refugee camps along the Thai-Burmese border. In 2004, ACU began offering Business and Theological online certificates to refugees living in the camps. In 2008, ACU used stakeholder feedback to create a Diploma program in Liberal Studies. Diploma attainment allows graduates greater opportunities to work with local community based organizations (CBOs) or non


governmental organizations (NGOs) to aid their communities. It also allows them to resettle and continue their education in a western university in the UK, the United States, or Australia (MacLaren, 2010). The courses in the Diploma program currently include Psychology, Leadership Theory, Geography, Third World Politics, Communication Skills, Introduction to Human Rights Law, and Managing Organizations (Purnell, 2008; MacLaren, 2010). Camp and University administrators initially chose a diploma program in Business as the courses were currently online in a certificate format and could be offered easily to refugee students. However, stakeholder feedback demonstrated a need for skill development that would allow graduates to work in areas that would support the refugee community (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). The Open University Model Online education is not limited to refugees in the camps. The UKs largest provider of online higher education, The Open University (OU), hopes to expand online educational opportunities to Black and Ethnic Minority (BEM) students that have resettled to the UK. The Widening Participation (Cannell & Hewitt, n.d., para. 9) model used by OU is designed to reach out to refugees and new migrants in a means of providing language and career skills to enhance their employment opportunities. Collaborating with OU are two Scottish organizations, the Bridges Programmes [sic] and Anniesland College, both in Glasgow. These organizations provide on-the-ground support to refugees taking online courses through OU, supplementing the curriculum with language skill development and vocational courses. OU researchers identified barriers to education, primarily those involving students moving beyond English language learning courses, to academic and vocational courses taught in English. For many refugee

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES students, this jump from learning English to using English academically was a significant one that needed on-ground support from a tutor (Cannell & Hewitt, n.d.). Recommendations Recommendations for online education in refugee camp settings include the need for learners need to have English-language training first, as the online opportunities typically come from western universities. Learners need to have access to electricity, a computer, and the internet on a consistent basis. Learners need to have the support of an on-ground tutor to help them in learning material that is not in their native language and may be culturally foreign to them. A tutor in the camps may also be able to help students who struggle with the format of online education by supplementing what they are learning online with face-to-face lessons. This leads to the necessary professional development of the tutor. Another recommendation for

tertiary education for some refugee communities may be vocational learning. Vocational training could then be partnered with real opportunities for graduates to practice their trade outside the camps in order to earn small incomes to support their families (Brees, 2008). Donors and administrators should not downplay the importance of a well-organized online program (Purnell, 2008). Many stakeholders are involved. Donors want to see the relevance of online tertiary education before making a financial commitment to the proposed programs. The host government needs to understand the impact that graduated learners will have on the community, and have a full understanding of what it will mean for resettlement of refugees (MacLaren, 2010). There is also a concern among donors that ready access to higher education will mean a brain drain of the most educated refugees leaving the camps for new opportunities. This affects the community within the camps that relies on educated refugees to teach in the schools, work in

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES health clinics, etc. Purnell (2008) suggested that one criterion for accepting a particular refugee student to a higher education learning opportunity is to examine the number of linkages that a refugee has to their community. Linkages can be a good indicator of whether the refugee will

stay to give back to the community. Yet, Zeus (2009) argued that ultimately it is the human right of the individual, based on the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (1948) that they have access to higher education and have the self-determination to seize opportunities for resettlement if provided. Regardless, donors will want assurances of the feasibility of online studies with regard to the overall effect on camp operations. Initial results are encouraging, and are explored below (MacLaren, 2010). Providing an online education that is appropriate to the context in which the refugee is living is necessary for their success in the program. Culturally relevant and technologically appropriate education is also important to their ability to help their community once they have completed their studies (MacLaren, 2010). While refugee students need to learn and absorb Western contexts, new online students in a refugee setting need early successes to maintain their motivation. Outcomes of their educational endeavors need to be a recurring theme as this also serves to motivate the students (Purnell, 2008). In researching ACUs successes with refugees living in the camps, MacLaren (2010) examined three areas: tertiary educations effect on students, its effect on the refugee community, and the effect on the common good. The effect on the 18 students who had graduated from the diploma program had been overwhelmingly transformative. Students noted their feelings of confidence and empowerment. Several of the graduates went to work for community based organizations (CBOs) and a few worked for international NGOs that were involved directly with the Burmese refugees. Their training had been critical to their success in

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES their careers, especially with regard to English language development and their ability to speak

with confidence in front of foreign NGO workers and donors. The graduates were able to fill the void where there was a notable lack of refugee perspective among the CBO and NGO staff, and among donors. Their training also expanded their abilities in critical thinking, which in turn helped them understand the reality of the situation that their fellow refugees were living in. They understood the futility of waging counter-insurgency against the Burmese military junta, and yet understood that their training would enable them to make a viable difference in any post-military junta democracy that may one day emerge (IIEP, 2006). The effect of tertiary education on the refugee community was contrary to what many donors had anticipated. Rather than causing a brain drain, those that stayed in the camps after graduation or those that worked in Thailand for international NGOs were able to provide support to the camps at a time when many other refugees were beginning to resettle to the UK and the United States (MacLaren, 2010). Likewise, the effect on the common good was significant. Sixty percent of graduates stayed in Thailand. Half of the graduates went to work for community based organizations and two others worked for NGOs. The work that these graduates did included providing training to young people in the camps, managing an orphanage, repatriating to Burma to document the plight of the people there, translating for resettlement agencies, and working as an IT manager for a human rights group. Those students who did resettle have managed to continue their studies at universities and work for Burmese refugee organizations abroad. Those that resettled stated that they planned to return to the camps to help their people while in the meantime sending remittances back to family members (MacLaren, 2010).


A model of online education partnered with on-ground tutoring appears both in the camps and in resettlement communities in the UK. Such a model may be a sound method for improving online educational opportunities to refugees, can be replicated, and can apply in many different cultural settings. Clearly, the research demonstrates that English language learners fare better in finding employment in the country of resettlement than those who are not literate in English or have trouble translating their limited understanding of English to an academic career taught in English (Rooth & Ekberg, 2006). Students need to be able to reflect on their English language abilities in a vocational setting. Resettled refugees noted that they needed greater preparation in learning the vocational English they would need in order to succeed academically. Greater preparation of refugees in this area seems to be a key finding in existing research. The Open Universitys introductory course titled, Am I Ready to Study in English? provides academic exercises to examine a students readiness for higher education studies in English (The Open University, n.d.) Once the student completes the self-assessment, a best practice could be to match the students level of English proficiency with their need for on-ground language support. Characteristics of an Online Refugee Population Due the 25 years of civil war in Burma and the repressive military junta regime, there are approximately one million refugees of Burma living illegally in Thailand. The UNHCR and the US government estimate that roughly 150,000 live in the nine refugee camps along the ThaiBurmese border (Schwartz, 2010; UNHCR, 2011b). The ethnic Karen refugees are the largest ethnic group inside Burma and significantly repressed by the regime. The border camps consist of the ethnic Karen as well as other ethnic groups seeking shelter from genocide. The refugees have survived a protracted civil war, with 25,000 having lived in the camps five years or longer



(UNHCR, 2011b). The refugees work with CBOs to provide primary and secondary education to the population living in the refugee camps. However, once students complete their secondary education courses, they have no further educational opportunities (MacLaren, 2010a). Young people are left idle in the camps without the opportunity to explore ideas, learn English, or learn a skill that can help them be successful (ACU, 2009). Online technology is creating higher education opportunities in the camps for the first time (Zeus, 2009). Since 2005, however, western nations have heeded the call of the UNHCR and other international organizations to place the refugees in their countries for resettlement (UNHCR, 2011b). While the ideal scenario is for a refugee to want to repatriate to their home country, the refugees living in the camps on the Thai-Burmese border cannot do this. In fact, there remains a consistent influx of refugees from Burma seeking shelter in the camps. Therefore, resettlement to a third country remains one option for refugees who have grown up in the camps in Thailand. Online technology is meeting the needs of resettled refugees as well (The Open University, n.d.). Both online scenarios in the camps and upon resettlement require careful consideration and consistent implementation. Refugees not only give up their homes and livelihoods when they flee their country, they give up the very thing that gives them rights: their citizenship. When they arrive in the camps, they usually lack documentation and thus cannot access education. When they resettle in a new country, they have no record of their education they obtained in their home country (Zeus, 2009). Thus, the idea to provide online education in the refugee camps in Thailand began in 2000 by Michael Smith, head of the Refugee Tertiary Education Committee, based in Australia. In 2004, Australia Catholic University (ACU) began a diploma program in Business, and in 2006, 17

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES refugee students had graduated. All of the students were from the refugee camps and were in their 20s (MacLaren, 2010a). Lessons Learned Since the first cohort graduated in 2006, changes have improved the program and its


offerings. A consortium of Jesuit Universities in the United States started to work with ACU to deliver a multi-modal program to the refugees. It encompasses online delivery with distance learning resources and on-ground tutoring support (ACU, 2009). Visits with stakeholders (typically the local community based organizations) identified a need for courses to include liberal arts education. The ACU consortium now offers a diploma program in Liberal Studies (MacLaren, 2010a). These courses include Psychology, Leadership Theory, Geography, Third World Politics, Communication Skills, Introduction to Human Rights Law, and Managing Organizations. In addition, the program incorporates on-ground teaching for the first course in academic English (Moraes, 2010). The ACU Project Coordinator also began offering orientations for new students in a faceto-face class. This orientation included an overview of the program, an English written and oral exam, academic skills training, time management training, and trust building exercises (Moraes, 2010). The program is expanding. Migrants also from Burma living in Thailand have begun to attend the ACU online classes (Moraes, 2010). In addition to working with schools in the United States, York University in Canada has also joined the effort. The goal is to make this model scalable so that distance education for refugees can expand to other protracted refugee scenarios. Making the program scalable will require consistent donor support. Donors have been reluctant to provide funding for tertiary education because they are concerned that it will encourage mass



migration from countries with unrest. They are also concerned that it will discourage repatriation to a refugees home country (Zeus, 2009). Furthermore, donors view tertiary education as a luxury. The UNs Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) establish goals for countries to achieve universal primary education by 2015, thus donors prioritize funding at primary levels. However, MacLarens (2010b) study on the initial cohort of refugee graduates concluded that not only did the educational opportunity have a transformative effect on the refugees, but also benefitted the community. Most of the refugees remained in Thailand, working for CBOs and NGOs. Some returned to Burma to document the human rights abuses for international publications. Others used their English skills to work as translators and still others used their IT skills to find employment. The three students that did initially resettle were able to transfer their ACU credits to universities in the UK and the United States. The education that the graduates in the ACU program received enabled them to attend universities in the UK and the United States. The significance of this cannot be understated. Refugees have no access to identification or to accredited education without the support of the UNHCR, the ACU, and local and international aid groups. Through asylum, they can obtain citizenship in a new country. Through online education, they can obtain accredited courses that are transferable to universities in the developed world. Because they have transfer credits, they can sidestep entrance requirements and can apply for scholarships (Moraes, 2010). Characteristics of Resettled Refugees as Online Students Since 2005, 65,000 Burmese refugees have resettled to third countries such as the United States, the UK, and Australia. UNHCR anticipates that 10,000 more will resettle in 2011 (UNCHR, 2011b). Education upon arrival is a necessity for many of the resettled refugees. Without English training, they cannot pursue the social services they need, employment, or

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES integration into the community. The Open University (OU) is working to provide education to resettled refugees as well as migrants arriving from Eastern Europe. As greater numbers of refugees resettle in Scotland, the UK government has worked to disperse asylum seekers throughout the country. The largest number in all of the UK now lives in Glasgow. As new Eastern European members join the European Union, the UK also has an increasing number of migrants who need educational support (Canell & Hewitt, n.d.). The Bridges Programmes in Glasgow provides ESOL instruction and collaborates with


The Open University and Central Glasgow College. They offer ESOL courses in vocational areas that include Social Care, Construction, Education, and Customer Service (Bridges Programmes, n.d.). OU established access courses for refugees to take at Bridges, and OU faculty taught at the organization one day per week. These courses were designed to prepare refugees and migrants for the rigors of online, academic work. Likewise, Anniesland College is well immersed into the task of teaching ESOL courses in Scotland and worked with OU to design, test, and evaluate a curriculum of academic English training (Canell & Hewitt, n.d). Recommended Changes as it applies to this Population Designing an online system that is coherent, effective, and yet scalable is challenging. Will the lessons learned in the refugee camps in Thailand work in refugee camps in the West Bank or in Malawi? Will online education for resettled refugees work as well for migrants seeking better economic opportunities in the west? In examining the offerings of ACU and OU, a few recommendations seem critical. Strategic Planning Strategic planning needs to occur that involves community and international stakeholders (Levy, 2003). While local stakeholders were included in both scenarios, these online programs



for refugees need to seek the input of the students themselves. Where are they struggling? How do they perceive their need for on-ground support? Dicum (2008) noted that there was often a disparity between policy formation and the learner experience in refugee education. Policy makers often overlooked the needs of the learner. The curriculum development should involve local stakeholders to ensure it is culturally appropriate and provides psychosocial growth while still maintaining the academic rigor of universities in western countries. Further, resettlement communities who receive refugees who have taken online courses in the camps should be asked to provide input for what they perceive resettled refugees will need for successful integration in their communities. Training and Orientation of Staff When working with vulnerable populations it is critically important that support personnel and faculty receive training in best practices (Moore & Kearsley, 2005). This demographic of students has endured personal and physical hardships, needs ongoing Englishlanguage support, and may experience difficulty in gaining reliable access to online courses. Staff and faculty should be aware of these challenges, know when to refer a student for onground support, and encourage student learning that will be meaningful and relevant. Consistency of Delivery In the camps, the current model of online education provided by ACU in conjunction with the partnering universities in the United States and Canada is disjointed. This system has worked well for the small cohort of students engaged in study through ACUs Refugee Program. Yet, as the program serves as a model for other schools providing education in refugee camps (ACU, 2009), the ad hoc nature of one university teaching one course and one university teaching another with on-ground tutors provided by international NGOs and charities may be too

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES disjointed to be effective. One program coordinator of the program is acceptable for the 38 students who are currently enrolled (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 30, 2011), but not if the program is distributed globally. Administering an online program, according to Moore and Kearsely (2005) often requires specialist administrative units set aside to work solely on online implementation of education. The Open Universitys model for online education for resettled refugees appears more effective in part because it is much larger. The University is the largest provider of distance education in the UK and Europe. It has successfully reached out to community providers and local colleges to aid on-ground English language tutoring of its online refugee and migrant students (Canell & Hewitt, n.d). Both approaches to online education the one in the camps and the one upon resettlement have demonstrated through their graduates successes the importance of their programs. They have both established essential stakeholder support, they both offer English training, and they both offer on-ground tutors to enhance literacy skills and provide needed


motivation. Strategic planning for scalability can enhance the ability of online education to reach greater numbers of vulnerable populations. Teacher Effectiveness and Student Outcomes While the UNHCR coordinates refugee camp operations (including primary and secondary education) between various NGOs and CBOs, they provide minimal funding for higher education. Students who have completed their secondary education schooling have little to do and few skills. Increasing social unrest in the camps (UNHCR, 2011b) combined with an emerging realization that refugees must be afforded the right to higher education has led the UNHCR to explore greater funding of this effort (CCSDPT/UNHCR, 2007). In the meantime,

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES western colleges and universities are filling the gap by offering online, accredited classes to refugees in the camps and refugees who are leaving the camps and resettling in the west,


primarily the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada (MacLaren, 2010; OU, 2010; Zeus, 2009). Assessing the quality of distance learning involves layers of factors that often interconnect. Moore and Kearsley (2005) noted two essential components of effective distance education: (1) evidence of student achievement through appropriate assignments, and (2) frequent monitoring using effective data gathering used in evaluation of the program. Brown (2001) discussed the four factors that affect the quality of education in a refugee setting. The first factor is the tools that are available, such as computers, texts, facilities, or supplies. The second factor is the quality and effectiveness of the actors involved, such as donors, teachers, students, and stakeholders. The third factor is the environment in which the refugee education program exists. Is it in a camp setting or is it among resettled refugees in a new country? The fourth factor is the outcomes (assessment results, literacy ability, employment, etc.) Each of these factors connect with one another thus demonstrating that it is impossible to have a quality program without appropriate funding, effective teaching, needed supplies and equipment, or demonstrated student outcomes. Teaching Refugees in the Camps The courses delivered by ACU are in English and online with on-ground tutoring support supplied by the universities. University faculty members teach courses that are already standard courses at their universities (MacLaren, 2010). Some modifications to the courses include easier English words in the course materials and tutors who work with the students to help them understand the content (Veling, 2007). The Program Coordinator is based out of the Sydney



campus of ACU and travels to Thailand to provide orientations to new students to prepare them for the rigors of college-level work (Moraes, 2010). Learning outcomes match those outcomes of the same courses taught on-site at the partnering universities. High expectations are the norm; students must develop proficiency in academic English to complete the courses and work within the context of their environment (including limited access to computers and the internet) to complete a western program of study (MacLaren, 2010; Purnell, 2008; Veling, 2007). Obstacles in the program remain, however. Diverse factors affect the quality of the education received and the ability of the student to achieve learning outcomes. The students background the trauma they experienced, the horrors they witnessed, their psychosocial development, and their prior education influence their ability to succeed in the program. Onground tutors can help students to work through some of these barriers by aiding them in their understanding of the material and providing motivation when needed (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). The institutional factors are part of their successes as well. The curriculum, the structure of the program, and the teaching practices play a role in student success (Su-Ann & Van Der Stouwe, 2008). The objectives of ACUs Refugee Program are to offer an option for post-secondary students to continue their education. From a practical perspective, they need to learn English to expand their options for employment, to work with the international community to help their local community, and to transfer to western universities. From a broader perspective, ACU views education through the lens of Catholic social thought. The common good is the foundation of this tradition and comes from the belief in promoting the dignity of all people. According to the Second Vatican Councils Gaudium et Spes (as cited in Catechism of the Catholic Church,

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES 1993), promoting the common good means to create the sum total of social conditions which


allow people to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily (section 1906). The mission of ACU is to develop this common good so that people are liberated to serve others through acts of outreach and justice (MacLaren, 2010). Dr. Terry Veling (2007) taught Theology in ACUs online program for twelve students located in the Mae Sot refugee camp along the Thai-Burmese border. Veling is a published theologian and scholar with extensive experience teaching students from vulnerable populations. Veling echoed this sentiment of the common good: There's not a lot one can do in a refugee camp. It's a place of limbo. A wasting away of time. What future is there? The normal dreams of young people are to live, work, create a future, have a home, family, etc. My hope was that through this course, these young displaced people could at least work toward a goal - to study and gain a qualification. For many, this at least offered them some hope that their future was still alive. All the questions you ask, "Will I return to Burma? Leave for another country? Effect changes in the camps?" -- these are only possible in the context of a possible future, and the educational program provided students with this sense of a possible future. (T. Veling, personal communication, March 25, 2011) These are broad goals, and they often conflict with the incorrect perception that international donors hold of refugees as living in a temporary status and quickly repatriating to their home country. Yet those perceptions are beginning to change. In 2007, the UNHCR prioritized higher education opportunities for refugees in order to enhance their skills. There is an emergent view of the perception of refugee status as one that must change to meet the reality of their protracted stays in the camps (CCSDPT/UNHCR, 2007/2008). Refugees are afforded



human rights based on the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UN, 1948) and years or decades spent in refugee camps denies them opportunities to realize those rights. With these changes in perception come changes in approaches to teaching refugees, who have few options for higher education due to their stateless status. Distance education can be provided by accredited universities with teachers who follow the teaching effectiveness practices of their university (Zeus, 2009). Learning outcomes involve successfully completing those eight courses that students can take and earning a diploma in Liberal Studies. Yet there are specific needs that vulnerable populations have in their educational endeavors. These include culturally appropriate learning; additional help on-ground to develop cognitive, literacy, and critical thinking skills; and instructor sensitivity to the issues of trauma and oppression that the students have experienced or are currently experiencing (Purnell, 2008; T. Veling, personal communication, March 25, 2011; Veling, 2007). Issues of student motivation to engage in an online educational format and student support permeate the concerns donors may have about online refugee education (Purnell, 2008). Thus, educator training is important to the overall teaching effectiveness of the program. While Veling (2007) had experience teaching vulnerable populations who arrived as immigrants to the United States, he noted that he had no orientation or training to teach students in a refugee camp. He had to imagine their situation and try to place himself in an educational environment he had never before experienced (T. Veling, personal communication, March 25, 2011). Teaching Resettled Refugees The Open University (OU) works through its Widening Participation Program to provide access to higher education for resettling refugees and migrants who live in the UK. Their goals to improve student outcomes include ensuring access to ongoing financial support, providing

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES academic and literacy support, using community partnerships to provide face-to-face tutoring, and providing courses at the level of the student (The Open University, 2010).


Gorsky and Blau (2009) examined online teaching effectiveness at the Open University. They noted that instructors who (a) fostered greater student participation, (b) demonstrated greater social, teaching, and cognitive presence, and (c) provided rapid feedback to students often demonstrated teaching effectiveness through high evaluation scores. The authors encouraged cooperative and active learning, timely feedback, and respecting diversity of learning styles. Further, the authors noted that communicating high expectations with their students is important to effectiveness. The Open University partners with local organizations and colleges to provide on-ground support to students to help them achieve the learning objectives of the course. Primarily, onground support involves literacy tutoring to develop the students skills in academic English. One local partner, Anniesland College in Glasgow, Scotland worked with OU to design, test, and evaluate a program of academic English training (Cannell & Hewitt, n.d.) According to The Open University (2009/2010), evaluation of those partnerships demonstrates that OU is able to reach students who would otherwise not have enrolled in a university education. Ongoing evaluation of students, classrooms, and the role of local partners enable OU to examine the student outcomes in academic and occupational attainment. Evaluation is published on the university website in hopes of encouraging more local partners and volunteers to work with students from vulnerable populations to continue their academic successes as well as develop their information and communication technologies (ICT) skills. The use of research and evaluation will be used to develop retention initiatives and the development of progress pathways through community and union settings and college study in a coherent way that



continues to position the University as a major contributor to widening participation in Scotland (The Open University, 2009/2010, p. 12). Constructing Meaning Cognitive presence is how students construct meaning from the content through communication with the instructor. Teaching presence is integrated into this, by allowing the instructor to demonstrate their subject matter knowledge. Yet, in online learning, it is important to encourage participation through social presence, which is the ability to project ones self and to establish personal and purposeful relationships (Gorsky & Blau, 2009, p. 3). This confirms the point Dr. Veling makes about projecting himself in the refugee camp environment while thousands of miles away in Australia. He also worked closely with the on-ground tutor, Dr. Michael (a colleague from ACU), to develop a greater understanding of the students. According to Veling, Dr Michael and I developed quite a close relationship in this process. We worked well together as I felt we were on the "same page." We had many conversations both prior to, and after, Dr. Michael's time with the students. He shared photos from the class with me. He filled me in with their backgrounds/stories. He helped me "put a face" to these students. I envied him because he was able to be there, face-to-face, with them. He was a wonderful asset to the program. (T. Veling, personal communication, March 25, 2011). Effective teaching occurs when the instructor can encourage purposeful participation and group interaction that leads to cohesion and greater understanding of the material. Scaffolding a students learning is an effective way to reach out to students and is more important than just simple social engagement. Scaffolding is the purposeful guidance of students by the instructor when introducing new concepts and cognitive skills. As the student progresses through the



content, the instructors scaffolding approach changes to allow the student to take more initiative with the material (Gorsky & Blau, 2009). Both ACU and OU incorporate elements of these practices. Their use of tutoring support and awareness of their students environment and prior education enhances their ability to enable students to meet the learning objectives of the course. Recommendations for Effectiveness Specific strategies to develop online education best practices in a refugee context are recommended. First, there must be consistency. Students will experience changes with each course in their instructor, thus there must be ongoing orientations provided to new instructors to prepare them for working with vulnerable populations and in coordinating with an on-ground tutor. With short-term contracts and remote faculty comes a lack of institutional knowledge about the online program. It is important to make sure that faculty is aware of the lessons learned by their earlier peers (Bollettino & Bruderlein, 2008). Teacher effectiveness must include adaptations to the presentation and delivery of the course to make it understandable and relevant. As Purnell (2008) noted, It is not possible to take a course from a Western institution and expect it to lead to the same outcomes in the camp setting. The norms and values that are conveyed by such course content can be challenging for people removed from that context to appreciate. (p. 36-37) Veling (2007) followed this model and adapted his course for the students. For his course, he developed a study guide using plain academic English to ensure that the core content was understandable. Dr. Michael, Velings colleague, stayed at the camps during the course and supplemented Velings theology course with additional instruction in critical thinking, academic literacy, and content review. Their outcomes were demonstrated through weekly reflection

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES essays and a final paper at the end. According to Veling (2007), the students responded positively to this effective teaching practice.


Student outcomes must be clear, but also must range from the specific to the general. It is not enough to tell donors that students will meet the objectives of the course by demonstrating passing scores on assessments and effective writing skills in their essays. Donors want to know the purpose of the educational program. Will educational opportunities encourage mass migration to the camps from the displaced within Burma? Will educational opportunities just make the students more acceptable for resettlement in the west? These are two outcomes that donors wish to avoid. As Zeus (2009) noted, this may happen. However, it is a persons human right to have an education. Providing for the common good can have a beneficial impact on the camps and encourage graduates both in the camps and resettled to work to alleviate the suffering of their fellow refugees (MacLaren, 2010). Thus, there is a reason that broad outcomes the opportunity to study, engagement in the program, literacy development, and hope for a possible future (T. Veling, personal communication, March 25, 2011) need to be included. Program evaluation is also recommended, as it will provide donors and government officials with needed data and analysis about the efficacy of the program. The results of the program evaluation need to address the programs relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, sustainability, and lessons learned. Program evaluation is both formative and summative. Formative assessments are on going and can include monitoring of the educational experience in the classroom, allowing students to evaluate their course experience, measuring student outcomes in each course, and receiving ongoing feedback from lecturers on the effectiveness of the course materials. Summative assessments occur at the end of a program, and can analyze student completion, outcomes, lecturer feedback, as well as administrative issues of funding,

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES sustainability, and availability of needed resources. Ideally, summative assessments use a systematic, data-driven approach that analyzes the findings as they relate to recent scholarly literature on the subject (Johannessen, 2001). Scaling the Model Scalability of an online tertiary refugee education program presents challenges. Needs assessment, policy development, donor engagement and funding, capacity building, and policy


implementation are all aspects of scaling up any educational offerings. In a refugee setting, needs assessment may reveal that basic requirements such as food, water, shelter, and sanitation are the top priorities. As a refugee situation becomes more protracted, however, educational offerings become increasingly important. Often refugees will informally organize schools themselves. As the refugee crisis lengthens, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community based organizations (CBOs) will work together to establish schools. Education in the Thai Refugee Camps In the case of the Burmese refugee camps on the Thai-Burma border, the refugee crisis that began in 1962, expanded in the 1980s, and continues today means that primary and secondary educational offerings are available in the camps, involve the camp community in their implantation and management, and receive funding through various international donors. With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) established by the United Nations (UN) in 2000, universal primary education became one of eight goals for ending global poverty by 2015 (UN, 2011). Thus, primary and even secondary education has been scaled up to cover different refugee settings, developing countries, and crisis scenarios globally. However, NGOs and other donors in the international community view tertiary education as a luxury (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). MacLaren (2010) provided research to demonstrate to

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES reluctant donors that graduates of ACUs program typically remain in Thailand to support the refugee community. Need for Tertiary Education Yet, there is a need for tertiary educational offerings in the camps. Students need


additional educational stimulation once they complete their secondary education schooling. They need to learn skills that will enable them to advocate for their community, for their people, and for themselves. Learning English as well as leadership and communication skills can enable refugees to work with international organizations, NGOs, and CBOs. Education can also help refugees aid in the rebuilding of their home country should that eventuality happen. Finally, tertiary education is critical to the maintenance of the refugee camp community. In a protracted refugee scenario, very often the most educated refugees resettle first leaving vacancies in crucial positions in the camps. Tertiary education provides graduates that can keep the refugee community going (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011.; Zeus, 2009). ACU Refugee Program The ACU Refugee Program began in 2004 with 15 students studying university courses to obtain a diploma in Business (Veling, 2007). The courses were designed to enable the student to have the necessary skills to work in a variety of settings as well as have accredited university credits that would be transferable to institutions in the West should the refugee resettle. Stakeholder feedback (graduates, NGOs, CBOs, and refugee leaders) resulted in the redevelopment of the curriculum in 2008, with a new Diploma in Liberal Studies. This eightclass program provides students the opportunity to enhance their academic English, communication skills, leadership skills, and political and geographic knowledge. There are currently 38 students enrolled, including refugees and migrants living in the camps as well as



refugees who currently work for CBOs and NGOs. ACU provides the learning platform and the on-site tutors and the lecturers and texts for four of the eight classes. Four U.S. universities joined the effort to form a learning consortium to provide the lecturers and texts for the remaining courses. There is one Program Coordinator, Duncan MacLaren, who has led the program since 2008 and who has 25 years of prior experience in humanitarian and development work (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). Recommendation: Design for Scalability Given the longevity of the program and the successful graduates ACUs Refugee Program has produced, there are questions of scalability and transferability to other refugee settings. Can universities with a social service mission replicate the program for other scenarios to reach out to approximately 11 million refugees currently living in a camp environment? (UNHCR, 2009) Lessons learned from organizations establishing education in emergencies included the need for prior educational planning for effective response to a large-scale humanitarian situation. Before an emergency is the ideal time to establish a policy for creating educational opportunities from primary to tertiary levels (Kirk, 2008; Sinclair, 2002). Involving the refugee community in constructing the educational offerings is an important tool in providing culturally relevant education. This also helps to ensure sustainability of the schools when donor support fluctuates. Aid organizations must be diligent in their efforts and clear in their communications about the necessity for funding for education for all, including tertiary and vocational education (Kirk, 2008). Needs Assessment Once a working educational policy is designed and approved by stakeholders, a plan which identifies group tasks and actions is created with goals developed that reflect the scale of



the project (Bagin, Gallagher, & Moore, 2007). In international development, this can mean one school in one community or it can mean, as is in the case of refugees in a protracted refugee crisis, providing education on a wide scale across age groups. This will include building capacity so that local teachers are hired and trained as well as finding or bringing in supplies for constructing safe schools. For tertiary education, it requires that interested organizations and universities identify the needed personnel both at the university and on ground in the camps. It also includes communicating the implementation process and the need for aid with the international community. Needs assessment is crucial at this stage. The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) created the Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies to provide aid workers and community members the tools to conduct educational needs assessments (INEE, 2004). Achieving the goals for creating education offerings and scaling for size involves a careful review of the data uncovered from the needs assessment with a subsequent modification of the goals to create effective strategies for implementation. Understanding the objectives is important, and varies by state according to the particular crisis. Objectives identify outcomes and the needed resources. They must indicate who must meet the objectives (the students, the community, the aid group). They must be achievable and determine the method of implementation. The organizing agency or network assigns a reasonable amount of time and identifies costs (Bagin, Gallagher, & Moore, 2007). Scaling for Vulnerable Populations MacLaren (personal communication, March 29, 2011) noted that there are three pilot projects through Jesuit Commons, an online web community, which partners with Jesuit Universities in the United States. Their current tertiary refugee education programs provide



online educational opportunities to Iraqi refugees in Syria and refugees living in camps in Kenya and Malawi. MacLaren expressed concern over the size of their piloting efforts, which consist of providing distance education for over 1,000 students. He noted the importance that having a personal touch with a traumatized and vulnerable population can have on the success of not only the students but of the program. Scaling up without appropriate capacity building for suitable on ground logistical support or without finding instructors with the dedication to visit the camps or provide a personal touch can have negative effects on the students. Stevenson and Willcott (2007) reported that while determined, refugees have backgrounds that include conflict, displacement, separation from loved ones, and abuse. Thus, they need a great deal of psychosocial support. Without effective support on-ground and effective teachers online, the students will suffer. Orienting instructors has been straightforward for MacLaren because they were all seasoned university lecturers within institutions such as ACU that have a social service mission. None of the lecturers received additional remuneration for their teaching in the Refugee Program. MacLaren (personal communication, March 29, 2011) is optimistic that if a university was willing to use the ACU model and apply it elsewhere (another refugee camp, for example) they could develop a successful program assuming they have a strong social service focus. In fact, they may not have the political problems that exist in the Thai situation. The Royal Thai Government (RTG) does not recognize the right of the refugees to have a tertiary education, as they are not signatories to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention. (This lack of recognition means that the study center for the students [where they have access to tutors, lecturers, and computers] exists outside of the refugee camp in a secret location. As the Burmese refugees cannot leave the camps, attending school is a dangerous exercise). Moreover, in the

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES camps in Malawi and Kenya, for example, the students can have internet access. Interested


universities would need to ensure that they have the infrastructure support on ground as well as the logistical support. However, MacLaren noted that the university would have to recognize that refugee education is an altruistic endeavor that requires the university to have a moral and financial commitment to the cause. When a university makes a commitment and then pulls out of the endeavor, it has negative consequences for the vulnerable population. Capacity Building Once a needs assessment is completed and a design for scalability is created, one of the primary functions of NGOs and international organizations is to build capacity. This is the process of those agencies working with the government to turn over their aid project eventually so that it is run entirely by the government or local authorities. This means helping in a myriad of areas, including training, development of technological capabilities, infrastructure, etc. Political will is an important factor in capacity, because if a nation has the political will (i.e., the desire and the political capability) to take over a social service such as education from a donor agency, then capacity is much easier to develop. The most significant issue is capacity building for programs that are more than short-term fixes, and for the recipient nation to have ownership in the process. However, in a refugee crisis, the host nation does not typically want to assume responsibility for the social services and capacity building of the refugee population. This further exacerbates the crisis and makes the work of the international community (nations, international organizations, and donor groups) even more critical (Brannelly, Ndaruhutse, & Rigaud, 2009; OECD, 2008).



Dependable infrastructure is an essential need for students taking online courses. Prior to 2008, the ACU program had problems with internet access and dependable electricity. However, ACU received help from a Marist Mission on the ground in Thailand that provided a husband and wife team to tutor the students and also serve as IT support. Since then, the internet access and computer problems have been minimal. There may still be electrical outages, however (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). Using a consortium of universities was a benefit to ACUs program. This allowed ACU to include the additional courses that stakeholders wanted to see included in the program. It provided additional support in the way of university lecturers, provided greater ownership of the program to more stakeholders, and aided in funding the program somewhat (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). It is important to note, however, that the trend in distance learning has been away from consortium models due to several factors including student allegiance to one university, funding opportunities running dry in economically hard times, and universities wanting to have greater autonomy over how they run their programs (Parry, 2009). International donors have provided an on ground coordinator to help with security, to ensure the well-being of the students, and ensure that logistically things work. On ground tutors provide the coaching needed to help students with academic English as well as guidance through the course material. Further, they provide the motivation for staying in the program as otherwise students get confused and depressed (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). Providing on ground tutors was the recommendation of an evaluation of the program completed in 2006, when the program was struggling as a fully-online program with no on ground support and minimal internet access (Purnell, 2008). Replicating this program on a larger scale or in a

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES different refugee community would require careful planning for individual sector (IT, tutoring, security, etc) support. Stevenson and Wilcott (2007) noted that students who are refugees need guidance and advice about accessing education programs and need that appropriate support. Funding Successful refugee education requires consistent and dependable funding, especially given that the students have no means of supporting the costs of education themselves. Scaling


up for tertiary education for refugees means obtaining institutional funding through grants from philanthropic groups or through development aid provided by government aid programs. MacLaren (personal communication, March 29, 2011) noted that ACU has funded the program since 2004 and has committed to funding it through the end of the current cohorts program that ends in August of 2012. MacLaren is expected to obtain institutional funding through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) or other donors to maintain the programs operation. The UNHCR met with MacLaren about the program, which is a milestone given that they are committed to primary and secondary education. Realizing that idleness among refugees who have no tertiary schooling options can create unrest in the camps, the UNHCR is exploring options for funding tertiary education. Whether it will ever get beyond the report stage is something that remains uncertain (CCSDPT/UNHCR, 2007; D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). There must be an effective policy and plan in place for donors to be willing to contribute to it (INEE, 2003). Obtaining any institutional aid will require an objective and outside assessment of the program, measuring student outcomes in learning, relevance of the program, efficiency of the program, the long-term impact of the program, and its sustainability (Johannessen, 2001). MacLaren estimates that a third party summative evaluation

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES will occur after the current cohort has graduated in August of 2012 (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). In actuality, ACUs program has a myriad of donors who provide elements of funding and support. As mentioned previously, the Marist Mission provides infrastructure support and


universities in North America provide lecturers, texts, and some funding. Minmahaw Education Foundation in Thailand works with the migrant students to help them get their General Education Degree (GED) so that they can attend ACUs program. Palms Australia, a volunteer-sending agency, provided an on site tutor. All of these resources are used for a program of 38 students. Scaling up would require not only greater capacity building but also the accumulation of committed lecturers, volunteer tutors, sufficient infrastructure, and effective coordination. The Open University By contrast, The Open University supports greater numbers of students from vulnerable populations (including resettled refugees and migrants) by coordinating the students within the existing framework of their existing online classes taught by current lecturers. On ground tutoring throughout Scotland allows OU to reach out to resettled refugees who may experience barriers in language acquisition or understanding the technology platform. Funding for students from the most disadvantaged areas with low incomes can receive tuition waivers from the UK government (The Open University, 2009/2010). Institutional funding on a grand scale can therefore provide for a much larger framework with greater support mechanisms. Thus, educating students who are in refugee camps and those who are resettled require greater financial commitment from donors and aid groups, which then requires the effective communication of refugee leaders to make the case for the importance of tertiary refugee education.

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES Technology in Online Education: Creating a User-Driven Approach in a Refugee Setting


ACU uses Blackboard Learning Management System (LMS) and the courses range from 6 weeks to 16 weeks based on the university teaching the class. While taking the shorter courses, the students take one course at a time. When taking the longer courses, students will take two courses at a time. The students in the refugee camps have access to computers at a study center just outside the camps, as Thailand will not allow internet services or online education in the camps. (Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and the Royal Thai Government [RTG] does not recognize the right of refugees to a tertiary education. The RTG does not allow refugees to leave the camps so the act of these online students leaving the camps to go to the study center is a dangerous one and can result in their arrest.) (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). The study center consists of enough computers to meet the demand of the 38 students currently enrolled in the diploma program at ACU. Students who work for NGOs and CBOs have laptops available for their use as well. Tutors provided through the volunteer sending agency, Palms Australia, work with students at the study center to help them understand the course material, provide motivation, and provide computer support (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). The faculty members who teach in the program have extensive backgrounds in tertiary education teaching and many have experience teaching vulnerable populations. MacLaren provides faculty members with a briefing from his most recent visits to the camps, which includes information on the culture as well as technology expectations. Students in the program receive a personal orientation from MacLaren on tertiary education expectations, critical

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES thinking, peace building exercises, and an introduction to Blackboard (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, March 30, 2011). Prior to 2008 and MacLarens tenure as the Program Director of the Refugee Program,


there were technology-driven problems that caused feelings of isolation and confusion among the students enrolled in the program. Students were online with little on-ground support, internet connectivity was poor, and power outages were common (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). In 2007, Dr. Terry Veling taught in the program and noted that because of problems with old computers and slow connectivity as well as the need for on ground help with understanding course content delivered in English, the approach became one of distance learning rather than online learning. An on-ground tutor was used who was proficient in theology (the course Dr. Veling taught) with content that was delivered and assignments that were received through the mail (T. Veling, personal communication, March 25, 2011). Since 2008, internet connectivity is rarely a problem except when there are power outages. Students can download video content and participate in online discussions through Blackboard. MacLaren attributes this to the programs ability to attract an altruistic staff who use their own vacation time and resources to travel to the camps to work on technology issues (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 30, 2011). In addition, one of the tutors supplied by Palms Australia has an IT background and is able to provide IT support for the study center (D. MacLaren, personal communication, March 29, 2011). The Potential of Technology in Development Universities must consider how the learners will use the technology within the context of where they live. Colle (2005) discussed the role of the telecenter in developing countries. Telecenters are typically internet centers where computers donated by development agencies and

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES other generous donors are designed for use in learning, communication, and as a means of


bridging the digital divide. Ideally, telecenters allow students to access information and build an information society. Universities can help to create and sustain telecenters, but they are falling short of doing this effectively. Telecenters are resource intensive: They need hardware, software, and personnel. Telecenters link to universities by filling the needs a university would have for such a resource. This top-down approach could work if the funds and the personnel are available. ICT4D A User-Driven Model Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for development (4D) has evolved significantly since the 1980s and the advent of the cassette tape to deliver content in distance education. Heeks (2009) noted that ICT4Ds predecessor was a top-down model driving by wellmeaning donors who delivered hardware but left little in the way of ongoing support for the users. Furthermore, such a top-down method could be counterproductive to societal ownership in technology empowerment. One alternative to resource-intensive telecenters is mobile technology. Mobile technology is user-driven and user-defined. It requires much less hardware, software, or personnel support. Access to the internet is easier because wireless networks are typically more available than a wifi. Access to the device is less expensive than maintaining a telecenter. Mobile technology is gaining momentum in the global ICT4D discussion and may be the future of online education in the developing world. Integrating ICT4D into education are universities that are examining ways to combine sound pedagogy with developmental needs to provide a user-driven model. Rye (2009) reported that the promise of the internet in education has not led to corresponding usage at the level one would expect. Students may be sold on the potential of the internet, but if not guided properly will become frustrated with the experience. They may become passive learners. MacLaren

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES (personal communication, March 29, 2011) noted this as well. Without motivation or


engagement, the internet becomes a barrier to education. Rye (2009) reported that at Indonesias Open University, the use of ICTs in higher education became more about the capabilities and excitement over the technology and less about actual student engagement and achievement. Students became passive throughout the online graduate program and did not fully utilize the online resources available. This confirmed Ramanujan (2002) as cited in Rye (2009), who noted that acquiring the equipment and software to begin an online program in the developing world is the easy part. The implementation of engaging teaching, meaningful content, on ground support, and student ownership in the process is the hard part that without successful realization can lead to failure of the program. ICT4D and Social Constructivism Universities that wish to consider a refugee education program may want to think about how to involve students in the technology decisions and implementation. Foster (2011) discussed the use of ICTs as a means of opening educational spaces to allow students and community members to learn educational content and technology through creating community projects, developing community radio stations, or designing documentaries that give voice to their lives and their experiences. It is through ICT hands-on use rather than ICT just as a means to an end that content learning occurs. Learning is collaborative, integrated into real world applications, and user designed. Using ICTs and developing digital content provides empowerment by allowing the student to engage socially and politically as well as learning about making good choices that lead to a satisfactory outcome. The learning process is more sustainable because the user is driving it and benefiting from it. Further, as the user increasingly employs technology through projects that are fun and meaningful, it becomes less mysterious. The user experiments

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES with technology. A social constructivist meaning is derived from ICT use when learners and


participants share similar experiences and cultural understandings (a social experience) and they construct learning around those experiences using technology to drive the process (constructivism). It is a powerful mechanism for witnessing the voice of vulnerable populations. Recommendations for Technology As the programs successes generate interest in other schools providing an online refugee education program, there are technology items to consider. First, ACUs serendipitous fortune of having an IT professional as an on-ground tutor greatly enhanced their capacity to offer online education near the camps. Other universities must consider (as ACU did) the full cost in money, time, and personnel of establishing a distance learning program in a developing country among a vulnerable population. Not only are there hardware, software, and LMS costs, but there are also training, tutoring, and technology support costs (Rye, 2009). Universities must make additional considerations for online distance education to include a vision for it shared by all stakeholders. This vision should include the technology function of a distance-learning program as well. The LMS chosen, the pedagogical approach used, the training offered, the student support created must all be factored into the vision of the program. Often universities will plan the costs and revenues associated with online learning without factoring in the entire program. Universities are wise to develop training sessions for faculty and students using the LMS; to provide online student support that allows students to communicate with a live person about academic, technical, or administrative issues; and to design courses that complement the platform used. Universities must also consider varying abilities of students to access their schooling based on where they are located, especially if in developing countries (Levy, 2003).

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES Ethical Considerations as Policy Educators working with students in vulnerable populations must take extra care and


sensitivity in providing education opportunities (T. Veling, personal communication, March 25, 2011). Diverse factors such as the students experiences of oppression, natural disasters, separation from family, and fleeing their homes will affect how they succeed in their educational endeavors (Purnell, 2008). Education for vulnerable populations also exists within the educational policy realm of developed countries. As the UK continues to have heated debates over government subsidies of higher education versus requiring college students to shoulder more of the cost, The Open University responded by highlighting the needs of vulnerable populations in education. In the current budget battle over higher education, OU believes that it is imperative that students from all backgrounds have access to publically financed higher education (The Open University, 2011). In addition, Universities Scotland (2010), which represents Scotlands 21 higher education institutes (including OU) recognize that there must be some burden sharing but that long-range policy analysis must consider the needs of marginalized populations in obtaining an education. Educational administrators and policy makers interested in providing tertiary education for vulnerable populations must have an altruistic business model that recognizes the value of an effectively scaled, culturally appropriate educational system. They must consider that this system will need additional resources to provide necessary on-ground support and student funding. This is not a model designed for profit; rather it is one of outreach. As MacLaren (2010) noted, education for vulnerable populations exists within Catholic social thought of the common good and promoting the dignity of all people. Yet, long-term policy analysts will recognize that

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES educational attainment will ultimately mean less individual reliance on government programs and donor support as graduates become gainfully employed and engaged citizens. Therefore, while refugee education programs can exist in an ad hoc way with various donor-funding


mechanisms, wider participation, such as through The Open Universitys Widening Participation policy requires governmental and institutional funding. There are larger, societal issues at stake such as refugee and immigration policy, Education for All (an as-yet unrealized Millennium Development Goal) at all levels, economic advancement for the individual and society through education and training, and the promotion of international human rights. These issues demand broad and integrated policy initiatives at the nation-state level. Conclusion The data reveals that refugees benefit from access to post-secondary education. It provides empowerment, benefits to the refugee community, and benefits to the common good. Technology provides the capability to deliver distance education more easily than other educational models in the camps and can allow for easier transition for refugees upon resettlement. International donors should be encouraged to examine the findings that increased education is not the primary cause of brain drain in the camps nor does it correlate significantly with resettlement. Regardless, it is the right of each refugee that qualifies for higher education to have it. Utilizing technology effectively requires creative and organized leadership as well as providing the on-ground learner support to promote success. Culturally relevant curriculum should empower refugees to learn the culture of the university providing the education while allowing the refugee to retain their own identity. On-ground tutors can help refugees understand the educational norms of the online university program. Merging technology with culturally

ONLINE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES appropriate education that offers refugees the opportunity to practice skills and develop critical thinking can enhance their lives and those in their community.




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