Caucasus University (CU) in cooperation with the Texas A&M University obtained a license for distance learning software WebCT in 2005. Currently there are 40 distance learning courses allocated on the web space of the university where 824 students are already enrolled. The method used at the moment is a blended one with class (traditional) activities plus distance courses.
Tempus (The Trans-European mobility scheme for university studies) is providing funds for consortia of universities for programme development. Currently eleven Georgian HEIs are involved in seven on-going Tempus projects (five more will start in January 2011). From seven running projects two (selection 2009) are directly dealing with the introduction of e-learning.
Tbilisi State University, International Black Sea University, Georgian Technical University, FreeUni and several other universities are also teaching through e-learning.
TSU uses Moodle as the e-learning platform LMS. At www.e-learning.tsu.ge 150 online courses are already available.
The programme started in 2009 and with ICT and e-learning tools it envisions a better learning environment for TSU students. It was first supported by the TSU administration and rector.
“Moodle is the most popular e-learning platform not just in Georgia but also all over the world. In Georgia’s case, Moodle has no real competition because of its price (ie free), and localization project. It was translated to Georgian some years ago. This platform is not perfect but as a start it fits all the requirements. In the future we plan to introduce our own VLE platform,” said Maka Eradze, e-learning development coordinator at TSU.
“Communication tools such as chats and forums are also available on our online platform of learning. Some of the lectures are recorded and put mainly on TSU’s Youtube channel (youtube.com/TSUchannel). These are mainly public lectures and not just students but anybody can watch. We plan on recording more lectures to provide students with digital learning objects,” she said.
“Some lecturers even do mid-exams with quizzes, and some use self-assessment tests. Cheating prevention is the most common issue, though some of them say it’s a more fair method of assessment and gives more objective and realistic results,” she added.
“TSU has high standards in e-courses and develops courses with quality in mind (we have elaborated an e-component standard and an evaluation system). As for other universities some use the Moodle platform for assessment and have e-courses too. It’s my impression that most of the universities use LMS (mainly Moodle) as a repository of files (syllabi+some readers). As for us we have 150 courses available already. Any kind of material can be put on our e-platform but we mainly encourage courses that require student involvement in the learning process – which means that they have to use Moodle as a supplement to traditional learning – they have digital learning objects, they pose questions on the forums, discuss, build high order thinking skills, submit assignments online, have multimedia-rich learning material, etc. It is very important to use all the possibilities that the modern informational technology suggests; the e-component of the course has to add value to the learning experience.”
“As for distance learning courses we don’t yet have them. For distance education we need regulations to be put in place. We are absolutely ready to offer such courses and are waiting for the amendments to the law on higher education,” said Maka Eradze from the TSU e-learning department.
Tempus Programme in which Georgia has participated since 1995, has funded over 50 projects. From seven running projects two (selection 2009) are directly dealing with the introduction of e-learning:
• 158739 – E-learning-Weiterbildungsnetzwerk im Tourismus – focused on the introduction of non-degree leading tourism related learning courses and modules – four Georgian HEIs involved;
• 158627 – Development of the e-learning and distance learning courses and assessment in Biomedical Sciences in the Southern Caucasus – focused on development of a new master programme in biomedical sciences – two Georgian HEIs involved.
“These are the only two projects aiming to develop e-learning, although some others are considering using this tool at the programme implementation stage. The total budget of both projects amounts to 2,661,826 EUR – the share for the Georgian HEIs is 550,700 EUR (projects also involve other countries).
Both projects are right now at the development stage, so students have not yet benefited from this approach,” said Dr. Lika Glonti, head of the national Tempus office in Georgia.
“It must be mentioned that the biomedical project aims to attract distance learning students not only from Georgia, but also from other countries, focusing mainly on India, Pakistan, etc. and charge quite high fees, since it will be a joint degree programme with a UK university,” she said.
“As for technical obstacles, well, internet connection could be a problem in some remote areas, but the main challenge for popularization of distance learning in Georgia is the question of recognition. The Ministry of Education and Science will shortly finish the development of special regulations for distance learning, considering also issues of quality, admission and recognition – text (only in Georgia) will be available next week,” Lika Glonti told The FINANCIAL.
Caucasus University in cooperation with the Texas A&M University runs 40 distance learning courses allocated on the web space of Caucasus University with 284 students already enrolled.
“There were several attempts to develop a distance learning course with our partner Azerbaijan University. For the moment we are still in the processes of collaboration about details, topics, and other issues,” said Dima Butskhrikidze, Head of the IT Department at Caucasus University.
“The main database which is in frequent use is the EBSCO database. The EBSCO host is a powerful reference system which offers a variety of proprietary full text databases and popular databases from leading information providers. Students can also try free trial databases,” he said.
At the moment there are 70 state recognized (institutionally accredited and/or newly licensed) HEIs in Georgia, 23 public and 47 private.
Types of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in Georgia:
1. University – bachelor, master and doctoral programmes
2. Teaching university – bachelor and master programmes
3. College – bachelor and higher professional education programmes
68% of accredited HEIs are located in the capital Tbilisi while the rest are in Batumi, Telavi, Gori, Kutaisi, and other towns.
There are 93,792 students studying in all accredited HEIs at all programs (2010 January).
Student’s quantity by levels of HE:
BA Higher professional Medical Education programmes MA PHD Total sum 67,887 5,532 6,697 10,835 2,841 93,792
% of total 72 6 7 11 3
“E-learning is gaining popularity worldwide, especially in western countries, due to several factors such as: ease of access, good time-management, convenience of places (the possibility to gain a degree without additional expenses, which is much cheaper than living on campus). In today’s fast changing world, with a lack of time, it’s a very good solution for potential students.
However there are several problems with the situation in Georgia and other neighbouring countries which should be taken into consideration while analysing the pros and cons of e-learning. These issues are mainly: government regulation of education (e-learning acknowledgement is a problem), the cultural issue (the mentality of potential customers), lack of knowledge of the customers (insufficient information about e-learning itself).
If not for the above-mentioned issues, there is no problem in the provision of e-learning programmes in Georgia from a technical point of view,” said Tinatin Gugberidze, Director of the Marketing and PR Department at CU.