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On July 2, 2010, the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s (AGBU) Armenian Virtual College (AVC) celebrated the first anniversary of its activities by holding a Global Online Forum (GOF) to reflect on its achievements and discuss future perspectives on online Armenian education.
Launched in June 2009, the AVC is the pioneer Armenian institution, with the distinct goal to make Armenian education available to everyone and everywhere through state-of-the-art technologies. Education at AVC is conducted in six languages; Eastern Armenian, Western Armenian, English, Russian, French and Spanish. During its one-year operation the Armenian Virtual College has had four academic terms with over 550 participants from 35 countries. AVC’s wide geography stretching from USA to Russia, from Venezuela to South Africa, from Argentine to Reunion Island, has proven that AGBU’s new education project does live up to its goal to surmount educational barriers which have plagued the Armenian Diaspora for decades.
In his opening speech Dr. Yervant Zorian, AGBU Central Board member and Founder/Chairman of AVC presented the activities and achievements of AVC during the past year. Among more than a thousand online universities in the world, AVC is the first one dedicated to Armenian education. Dr. Zorian stated that today only 5 percent of Armenian youth in the world has access to traditional Armenian education.
The AVC project was initiated in 2004 by AGBU’s Silicon Valley Chapter in response to the need for an educational program that better addresses the current demands of the Armenian Diaspora and appeals to present-day students. Since then, the technology has been developed largely in Armenia with the direct collaboration of scientists and engineers at the Yerevan State University. He appreciated the collaboration with Yerevan State University’s Center of IT Education and Research on supporting the development of course content of AVC. In her congratulatory speech RA Diaspora Minister Hranoush Hakobian expressed her gratitude to AGBU and Yerevan State University for establishing such a high quality online university. She also suggested inviting all the graduating students of AVC to Armenia for a graduation ceremony.
Dr. Carol Aslanian, member of the AGBU Central Board and Board of Directors of the University of Phoenix, the biggest university of online education in the world, talked about the recent developments and innovations of online education, presented certain statistical analyses of the field. Online education specialist professor Molly Freeman joined from Berkeley, California, and addressed the peculiarities of the field and the important mission that AVC carries out.
Many AVC students from different countries of the world, as well as AVC Online Instructors and online education specialists participated in the Global Online Forum through a live video bridge, including students from France, Russia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and USA. Students shared their experience of online education at AVC and answered to questions from the audience. Several AVC students, who happened to be visiting Armenia during summer, personally attended the event in Yerevan and shared their learning experience and views.
During its first year of operation, AVC also introduced a hybrid education method which targets schools and education institutes by offering a blend of conventional and online pedagogies. AVC implemented this method for the first time with the Ohanessian Friday School of Sharzhah, United Arab Emirates. The Chairman of the Ohanessian School Board, Mr. Hrach Bronsuzian, joined the Global Online Forum and shared the school’s positive experience with those present. Also, AGBU’s Lazar Najarian Calouste Gulbenkian School of Aleppo joined the GOF via the video bridge to share its enthusiasm with the upcoming launch of a similar hybrid classroom in upcoming academic year, 2010-2011.
Today AVC has three active departments; Armenian Language, History and Culture, each of which offers courses in different levels. A new course in History of Armenian Music will be introduced at AVC in the Fall of 2010. Course author Dr. Mher Navoyan, Professor at the Yerevan State Conservatoire, joined the GOF and briefly introduced the course structure and objectives.
Dr. Artur Avagian, YSU lecturer and program manager of AVC Development presented the course management system at AVC. Four online instructors talked about the student group projects, discussion forums and course assignments implemented during the virtual classrooms.
Prof. Samvel Shoukourian, AVC Board Member and head of YSU's IT Educational and Development Center, concluded the Global Online Forum with closing remarks. All guests were invited to the AVC premises to celebrate the first year anniversary.
Initiated in 2004 by AGBU’s Silicon Valley Chapter, the mission of Armenian Virtual College is to reach all interested individuals and groups worldwide who seek education in Armenian Studies. Through the use of both synchronous and asynchronous communications, AVC allows students to learn new material at their own pace, but also to confer face-to-face with their Online Instructors and virtual classmates. With the latest advances in the world of online education, through university-level courses AVC creates a virtual learning community that fosters both the cultural education and social connections otherwise out of reach of most students across the Armenian Diaspora.