Home Current Events Skype, a PowerPoint, and a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Skype, a PowerPoint, and a Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

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Beth Gray is an Executive Assistant in my office.  I asked her to provide a guest article for my blog.  Beth is also a regular contributor to the APUS Sustainability Blog.

A couple of weeks ago, I read an interesting article on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Wired Campus blog.  The Wired Campus blog frequently has interesting information on how technology is being used in classrooms.  In his April 15th posting, Ben Wieder details how one group of students at Lehigh University used technology to connect with a very unlikely group, Libyan rebels.

Here’s how it came to be:  Issa Hakim, a Libyan engineering graduate student at Lehigh put his studies on hold when violence erupted in his home country to return there and fight alongside the rebels attempting to overthrow Qaddafi.  Hakim’s advisor, John P. Coulter, explains to Wieder that he (and others at the university) were and continue to be very concerned for Hakim but have been able to maintain contact with him since he’s been overseas.  Hakim and Coulter saw a unique learning opportunity for Coulter’s other students and set about establishing a meeting for those students and members of the Libyan rebels. 

Using Skype and a PowerPoint presentation, Coulter’s students were able to interact with Libyan rebels.  Naturally, the rebels asserted their justification for revolution and sat in front of a banner reading, “Libyan revolution highly appreciates the coalition intervention,” signaling their gratitude for the international community’s response to the violence in their country.  The students had the opportunity to ask direct questions of the rebels and for their part, the rebels expressed their interest in conveying their story to those they feel can help their cause – American students who may eventually become leaders of the nation.

Several comments have been posted to the article – some positive, some not so positive.  Some commentators have noted that the meeting was nothing more than a propaganda opportunity for the rebels and, in response, others have accused the “propaganda theorists” of being “Qaddafi loyalists.”  Regardless of one’s political opinion, there can be no questioning the potential value of such interactions.  Through the use of technology, the students who participated in the meeting were given the opportunity to hear first-hand from a group that otherwise may remain quite mysterious for the average American.  And, if we are to expect our future leaders to be open-minded, forward-thinking individuals, what better way of preparing them than providing information from the source and then allowing them to discern what is of value and what may have been simple propaganda? 

I would like to applaud Issa Hakim and John Coulter for their innovative use of technology in the classroom.  While these students may have been inundated by media coverage of the events unfolding in Libya, they had the benefit of asking their specific questions of the participants themselves thanks to the technology.  Their opinions may not have been altered by what they heard from that group, but the noteworthy event is that they had the opportunity to hear from them firsthand. 

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Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In July 2016, he retired as APUS president and continued as CEO of APEI. In September 2017, he was reappointed APUS president after the resignation of Dr. Karan Powell. In September 2019, Angela Selden was named CEO of APEI, succeeding Dr. Boston who will remain APUS president until his planned retirement in June 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. During his tenure, APUS grew to over 100,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 90,000 alumni. In addition to his service as a board member of APUS and APEI, Dr. Boston is a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA), a member of the Board of Overseers of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, a board member of the Presidents’ Forum, and a board member of Hondros College of Nursing and Fidelis, Inc. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus.

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