September/October 2001 // Letters to the Editor
A Voyage to the New World of Distance Education and All of Its Opportunities
by Millicent Cox
Note: This article was originally published in The Technology Source ( as: Millicent Cox "A Voyage to the New World of Distance Education and All of Its Opportunities" The Technology Source, September/October 2001. Available online at The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher.

I want to alert Technology Source readers to the upcoming Global Learn Day (GLD), an event that takes place every October on the weekend marking Columbus's landing in the New World. GLD, the largest education conference in the world, offers a convincing demonstration of worldwide, affordable, accessible education that will be common in conferences 10 years from now. The breadth and goals of this worldwide gathering are staggering.

For 24 continuous hours, GLD organizers will webcast the voices of exceptional individuals talking about innovative activities from all 24 time zones. The curtain will rise in Fiji, Tonga, or New Zealand, all of which claim to be the location on which the sun first rises each day. From the South Pacific, the GLD ship will sail virtually west to Hawaii, the long way around. En route it will stop in some of the most remote outposts on the planet: Antarctica, rural Nepal, outback Bolivia—even Timbuktu. The more difficult the geography and circumstance, the harder the organizers work to showcase someone involved in e-learning in that part of the world.

The GLD has a strong history of impressive speakers: an all-star cast of pioneers in the business of telecenters, technology, e-education, e-training, and e-work. This year the opening keynote speakers include the president of the World Community of Radio Broadcasters and the president of the Commonwealth of Learning. Last year it was Sir John Daniels, who won his knighthood changing the landscape of higher education in England. Previous keynote speakers include Vint Cerf (the real father of the Internet), Nelson Mandela, and the Governor of Guam. Former panelists include senators, ministers, and heavyweights from New York to New Zealand. Since its inauguration, the GLD has provided a valuable forum for like-minded souls who are committed to overcoming the barriers to affordable e-education, e-training, and good jobs.

Global Learn Day is organized by volunteers who serve as the "crew" to their "captain" John Hibbs, director of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Global Education. The Institute does not provide courses or degrees but instead promotes distance education and online education conferences. The heart of the Institute is a program called Champions, which recruits motivated Americans to work abroad—part-time as English teachers and part-time as managers of Franklin initiatives.

If the past is any guide, about 7,000 participants will come by the Internet from more than 200 countries. With the help of community radio broadcasters, about 500,000 listeners will tune in to portions of the fifth Global Learn Day (GLD-V). Moreover, fully half of the 24-hour undertaking will be reserved for interactive conversations between attendees and panelists.

Ultimately, GLD organizers want to reach 20,000,000 radio listeners and make GLD as big as Earth Day. Their push is to encourage millions to take a short bus ride to a telecenter where e-training can lead to e-jobs. Hibbs insists that knowledge work is the key to closing the gap between rich and poor, a gap that he thinks is far more dangerous than global warming.

The technology of the GLD event will also strive to keep a balance between accessibility and quality. The conference is designed for the lowest possible level of technical knowledge, the least expensive hardware, and the slowest modem speed (14.4 is good enough). All presenters convene in a virtual telephone room where conversations are spirited and free of technical fuss. Attendees may listen in the telephone room for only the cost of a normal long distance call to Florida. Meanwhile, those online can listen in with free telephone use in "rooms" provided free by, or they can point their browsers to conventional audio streaming with software from This year GLD organizers will also experiment with brand new Internet broadcast technology. If it works as advertised, the cost of webcasting could drop by 75%. "All of our efforts," says Hibbs, "are designed to affordably link motivated people with leading-edge technology, radio, big audiences, and e-job centers."

GLD-V opens Sunday October 7, 2001, at 00:01 GMT. Here in the Americas, from Alaska to Argentina, that is Saturday afternoon, October 6. The event closes 23 hours and 59 minutes later at 23:59 GMT. Of course, if you live east of Moscow, Cairo, and Capetown, and west of Hawaii, that is Monday, October 8. For those who want to witness the future of technology in global education, GLD-V is a voyage worth taking.

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