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HEXTLEARN Quality Assessment



  1. Higher education exploring ICT use for Lifelong Learning
  2. Summary of the Virtual Peer Review –
  3. IOU Foundation – DRAFT De briefing SWOT and recommendations


VPR Board

Scienter España (ES) – VPR Manager

M. Begoña Arenas

ILI -University Erlangen-Nuremberg (DE) – VPR Reviewer

Thomas Kretschmer

Cevug University of Granada (ES) – VPR Reviewer

Rosana Montes


Host Insitution – IOU Foundation

IOU Foundation (NE) – VPR HOST

Sandra Hurlong, PhD

Technical staff

Anton M. Pieters

Board of Governors/External Scholar

John M. Toothman, PhD


Draft SWOT
IOU Foundation


  • Great enthusiasm from managers and staff and great availability to participate and exchange views about the institution
  • Enriching multidisciplinary approach, participatory governance and collaboration approaches
  • Good dissemination and marketing strategies to attract adult learners
  • Impressive student retain results
  • Approppriate use of new technologies according to students needs (Skype, telephone, email and discussion platforms such as Ning and Elgg...)
  • Internal evaluation is an asset: the self-study and best practices identifed provides a very clear approach of the IOUF reflecting their values and mission
  • Mentoring has proved to be a great methodology to promote social change and is key for retention. It seems to be particularly successful at IOUF due to its “learner-centered educational environment devoted to social change and research in a global perspective”


  • ICT could be used more intensively:
    - Data bases for on-line library research and full text resources needed
    - Promote the use of video resources (example: Youtube EDU)
    - Need to reinforce resources like WIKI space and students forum: create one for all the learners. Forum could be used also for general evaluation purposes;
    - Particularly to support learners.
  • CPD courses particularly for lecturers on the use of ICT for learning and customisation to students could help.
  • Combined use of ICT and mentoring AND
  • Innovative and open approach regarding the effective implementation of the different learning strategies, modes, and styles
    as opportunity to promote IOUF in third countries.


  • Former pirating the Foundation’s diplomas could still have a negative impact on the Foundation's image.
  • Non traditional approach, modest tuition and voluntary status of staff could give wrong impressions to outsiders as “not serious learning."



This SWOT table will be presented to IOU Foundation President Sandra Hurlong. It is complemented by the set of recommendations included in the following page.
It will require specific feedback from IOUF government board.

De-briefing draft Recommendations:


  • Improve resources available: use and web 2.0 simple resources to improve student's support and improve as much as possible the access to data bases for on-line library research;
  • Resources availability:
  • We agree that improving library and research access are vital to our institution. We currently address this need in the following ways:
  • The majority of our learners already have library access through their employment or prior university associations and community libraries.
  • IOUF librarian Rudy Jansma, Ph.D. is always available for learner consultation. Our Website lists for learners over 50 data bases that are available on-line and free of cost.
  • In addition, for that rare learner who doesn’t already have library access, IOUF will pay the cost of subscription to an on-line library service such as Questia for individual learners. Please see our Website pages on Student Support, resources and Library data bases
  • Faculty assess technological competence and present learners with numerous Web resources for improving skills and research during our individualized degree orientation colloquia.
  • The Quality Assurance Committee of the faculty is currently examining additional ways of providing access to on-line data bases for research.
  • Overall approach: avoid sentences such as “modest tuition” and explain these will be adapted to the needs of the students;
  • Tuition:
  • We agree that the IOU Foundation tuition policy needs to be stated in a clear and democratic way. The current IOUF Homepage has a tuition menu button that we believe states our policy clearly. (See the following link, Tuition and the IOUF philosophy.)
  • Include a section that explains cearly the former pirating the Foundation’s diplomas, the actions undertaken by the government bodies and the results. This information is included in the Self study: With the imprisonment in 2009 of the president of one of the Institutes in India, this fraudulent printing of IOU Foundation diplomas was stopped, but we recommend to inform about it at the IOUF front page.
  • Two years ago, IOU Foundation posted on its Homepage a Disclaimer link which addresses the diploma pirating. A paragraph at the bottom of this page gives the history of the pirating and our current stance. (See Homepage menu item, Disclaimer.)
  • Invest in Continuing Professional Development courses for staff, specially focusing on innovations regarding the use of ICT for learning;
  • Professional Development:
  • We agree that finding resources for the use of ICT in Mentoring and individualized curricula is important for continued growth. IOU Foundation holds seminars on-line and face-to-face for improving faculty and staff skills in ICT. We also have discussion groups on the use of ICT and mentoring. (See news item for November 2009, WORKSHOP ON TECHNOLOGY AND DESIGN TO IOU FOUNDATION STAFF AND FACULTY, technology workshop.)
  • ICT for Learning
  • One of the challenges that IOU Foundation faces in the realm of ICT is the limited resources available to many of our learners in the developing world. As an institution focusing on social change, we attract individuals who sometimes live in areas that do not have the most modern technologies available to them. For example, one learner living in a Southern Mexico City of 500,000 inhabitants and who has DSL internet service averages 44 kpbs upload speed and 485kpbs download speed. Such a limitation makes video resources a very frustrating platform. This presents a reality in technology limitations that we must consider in our Web posting and ICT use.
  • Edit a quartely newsletter using a wiki: try to involve all the lecturers/mentors and even students in this exercise. Promote the exchange of methodologies between lecturers/mentors and succesful use of ICT they are implementing with their students;
  • Wikis and Newsletter
  • The IOU Foundation community has been carrying on discussions for the past two months on whether to institute a newsletter Wiki, find the appropriate application to tie our current news format to our Facebook and Linked-in pages or use our social networking sites for the newsletter. Right now our newsletter posts items as they are sent in by faculty, learners, staff and graduates. (See link on the IOUF Homepage, Newsletter.) There is a consensus that a Wiki would represent the kind of collaborative endeavors that our pedagogy encourages. Our goal is to make a decision about Wiki applications by the beginning of November. We are in agreement that a platform for the discussion of learning methodologies and ICT use is necessary.
  • We also agree that a newsletter format for our home page is necessary. We are in the process of constructing a new Homepage which will feature our newsletter. (For a prototype of that Homepage see, Homepage prototype.)
  • Introduce general and open means to get feedback from students: open a forum for all, moderated by a faculty staff and include specific questions regarding the use of ICT for learning and think of focus groups using ICT as they may help receiving interactive and positive feedback on how to further improve learner's support;
  • Feedback from Learners:
  • Built into IOUF pedagogy is a continuous feedback process for our learners. IOUF learners reflect and give feed back to faculty and their peers in each Program Summary and Learning Agreement which they create.
  • Because our learners work one-on-one with a mentor and do continual reflection and assessment of learning and their individual process of learning, the mentor and the learner’s committee regularly evaluate the learning process and delivery of learner needs. Through the organization of on-line peer days, learners also assess the degree program and share their finding through narratives about their learning process.
  • In addition, IOUF has two open forum platforms moderated by faculty for learners, graduates, faculty and staff. In May of 2010, we introduced a moderated open forum on “ICT and Mentoring” and “Experiential Learning.” Unfortunately, we were not able to export the group discussion when NIng changed its policy in June 2010. Fortunately, we now have Pierce funding to resume our open forum discussion on NING. (See Discussion Forum and to see our previous discussion on ICT and Mentoring, please see this link, Open Forum discussion.) Both our NIng and Elgg are being reconstructed and will be moderated again in November 2010.
  • During the past year, we have learned from our experiments with our on-line open forums is that creating and maintaining participation is challenging. Our adult learners are involved with their families, their jobs, and their studies. Making time to participate in open forums is not high on their priority list. We have had greater success involving our graduates and faculty in our moderated forum discussions.
  • Provide career guidance opportunities: provide specific sessions, even online, of the certification and potential professional oppportunities that may be available after the post-graduate or post-PhD course to those students that may need them.
  • Career Counseling:
  • We agree that we need to do a better job of marketing our graduate and postgraduate programs. To achieve that goal, we have recently contracted with a PR and Marketing firm, Tomic Consultants.
  • However, career counseling has not been a request of our learners. IOUF learners are generally already employed and do not seek to change professions. Most learners are older that 45 years old. Since one of the requirements for admission is to be working in areas of social change, it is unusual for learners to seek different employment after graduation. One aim of our Foundation is to credential individuals who are already making significant contributions to global social development.

    For example, over the past three years, a sampling of our graduates illustrates that they are all working in the same field as when they enrolled, e.g.:

    Rene Goris, Ph. D. in Oriental Medicine. Rene is the president of the International Oriental College in Amsterdam and continues to develop affiliations with institutions in Shanghai and Beijing.

    Lisa Shaffner, Ph. D. in Psychology continues her private practice in Counseling Psychology and her position as Instructor of Psychology at Goldey-Beacom College in Delaware, USA.

    Bremley Lingdoh, Ph. D. in Ecology and Development continues to direct his own UK based private foundation in Ecology and Develoment and his work with various UN Organizations on global re-forestation projects.

    Dagmar Vermeer, Ph. D. in Literature continues as Marketing Manager for International Law at Brill Academic Publishers (NL/Canada).

    IOU Foundation is a small community, and we maintain continual correspondence with our graduates and learners and conduct individual career counseling when requested.

The VPR team expressed their interest in being considered as a critical friend and not at all as a judge and kindly request the IOUF government body to respond to this short de-briefing.

This debriefing response was created by the IOUF Self-study team and authorized by the IOU Foundation Board of Governors:

The IOUF Self-study team very much appreciates HEXTLEARN’s very professional and thorough peer review of our Institution. As a result of this peer review process, we have re-examined many issues in our ICT use, our pedagogy, and our government. While we have not solved all of the issues raised by the process, we are grateful for the opportunity HEXTLEARN has provided for us to critically review our institution.

Sandra Hurlong, Ph.D., President

John Toothman, Ph.D., Board of Governors

Cynthia Jackson, Ph.D., Vice-President for Academic Affairs

Marvin Surkin, Ph.D., Core Faculty

Ben Davis, Ph.D., Faculty

Roxanne Toothman, M.S., Assistant to the President