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Online courses help Myanmar students continue education

ASU pilot program seeks funding to grow enrollment 2 years after coup halted classes

Shot of Durham Hall building and sign.

The Education Support for Displaced Myanmar Students launched this spring. Photo by ASU

April 17, 2023

In a continuing effort to make education accessible to as many people as possible, the Center for Asian Research in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has launched a program to support displaced students in Myanmar.

Education Support for Displaced Myanmar Students launched this spring to provide a bridge to higher education for students in Southeast Asian country of Myanmar whose education was disrupted by the military coup that began over two years ago.

“Most institutions of higher learning have been shut down in Myanmar because all of the teachers are on strike,” said Juliane Schober, director of the Center for Asian Research“There is tremendous demand for students to have access to higher education. That’s important in a developing country where you are trying to create a vision.”

The interruption began in February 2021 after the military coup took over the country following the 2020 general election. Many teachers and students went on strike to protest the coup, leaving the education system in shambles.

Looking for ways to further their education, students in Myanmar turned to the center’s new program, which leveraged existing online learning opportunities at ASU.

The program has enrolled 60 university students to take online Universal Learner Courses. Students can take courses to continue their education and later use the credit they earned in the class to earn admission to ASU.

Schober said that because students in Myanmar are dedicated to their education and sharing the program through word of mouth, it brings a lot of attention and demand to the learner courses.

'Many of them are just grateful'

Students in the program have also shown great success. Those enrolled have averaged a grade of 84% in the various courses that they have taken in the program’s first semester.

The program provides online first-year college courses to anyone looking to jump-start their college journey.

The cost is $25 per course, and anyone can register. Once the student receives a passing grade, they can choose to gain course credits at ASU by paying a $400 fee.

The university’s established success in online learning and global engagement has aided in the smooth launch of the program.

“At ASU, we already stepped into the space of online learning, so we had a product that we could deliver right away. That wasn’t there for them, so to learn online is that kind of knowledge transformation in and of itself,” Schober said. “We see it as a part of ASU’s global engagement.”

“Many of them are just grateful to have access to these courses,” said Chan Lwin, the center's senior program coordinator. “When the military coup happened, many students decided not to participate in the military education system. Students stuck in the country have no access to education.”

For many of those enrolled, their courses were on topics they weren’t familiar with.

“This is the first time they are encountering courses like these,” Lwin said. “They’ve had a military dictatorship for decades. Topics like social justice or public engagement are eye-opening for students.”

Participants have shown gratitude for the opportunity to further their education, explore classes that spark their interests and learn different ways of communicating about unfamiliar topics.

Positive feedback on program

The center asked students in the program to provide feedback on how this course is changing their educational experience. Here are some of their responses:

  • “I have taken SST 220: Introduction to Social Transformation and ENG 101: First Year Composition. SST 220 offered me plenty of eye-opening insights, and ENG 101 has equipped me with the technical skills required for effective writing. I would really love to explore many ASU courses that spark my interest.”

  • “I have a great chance to attend valuable courses by staying in my home country. I gain tons of knowledge by learning sociology, for instance, I can put myself in another’s shoes and view the world from different points of view.”

Looking to the future, leadership at the center wants to adapt to meet the growing demand, including training teachers and expanding access to even more rural areas that might have trouble accessing online courses.

But the biggest challenge getting in the way of growth is the affordability. The center has applied for a grant to help with several proposed initiatives, including the Myanmar education program. 

“These students were saying they could get 50 students, and those students could get 50 more. The demand is there,” Schober said. “But for those courses to count, they need tuition support.”

The Education Support for Displaced Myanmar Students fund helps support those students. Funding goes toward earned admission costs, global launch courses, course enrollment and ASU transcript credit.

“That can be millions of people needing education. For that to happen, we need support. We need people wanting to get involved and show their support," she said.

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