Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 136

136   Arctic Yearbook 2014   The University of the Arctic Thematic Network on Distance Education and E-learning was started in 2008. The University of Tromsø, Faculty of Education, is the lead and the host institution in the network, with partners from Nordic countries, Russia, and Canada. The Thematic Network’s main activities can be described as sharing experiences with E-learning with members of the Network; identifying the relevant challenges and problems in the field of Elearning in the Arctic countries; facilitating student and teacher exchanges; facilitating collaborative research projects, conferences; and publications in the area of E-learning; and drafting applications for funding the network and activities within the network education (The official website of the Thematic Network on Distance Education and E-learning). In 2009 the thematic network arranged a conference in Murmansk in the Russian Federation on flexible learning, together with Murmansk State Pedagogical University. The aim of the e-learning part of the conference was to exchange knowledge and research about e-learning and to host a discussion of the methodology of the field. It was centered on the learning processes, pedagogy, and appropriate information technologies necessary to deliver content to and support distant learners. The sessions had their main focus on education in the Arctic communities and regions. Particular emphasis was placed on technology-enhanced learning, and the pedagogic and creative use of learning management systems (LMS) were discussed, together with issues related to teacher training and digital resources from the Arctic region. Five of the presentations were from Russia, three from Canada, one from Denmark, and nine from Norway (Thorvaldsen 2011). Distance Education in the Circumpolar North Distance learning is seen as an obvious solution for remote learners, and the use of online media is expected to overcome any access difficulties imposed by geographical distance. Macintyre (2011) indicates that the researchers found that perceptions of remoteness depended on geography, but were also relative to individual circumstances. With respect to students’ sense of connection with university staff and peers, most mentioned their contact with their personal tutor. Networks with peers were less common, a matter of concern if peer networks are integral to fostering improved retention and progression. In this particular context, distance education may be playing an important and distinctive role for remote students by providing opportunities for connections with like-minded people. An emerging trend for circumpolar education is its increasing accessibility. Accessibility is about students being able to take classes and fulfill their potential, that is, it concerns their possibilities for attending school, both physically and culturally. Even though this increased accessibility of education is occurring in some places, it is not unique to the North. Rather, it is a reflection of changes that have occurred in urbanized areas around the world, where population growth, increased living standards, modernity, and technology have been transforming schools for the past fifty years (AHDR I 2004). The importance of equal access to higher education was emphasized repeatedly in the declarations that emerged from the 1998 World Conference on Higher Education. UNESCO reaffirmed Article 26(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaiming, “Everyone has the right to Lipatov