DiGregorio Returns to Institute Following Education Mission to Iran

Joseph DiGregorio, director of professional education, international partnerships, at the Georgia Institute of Technology, was one of 10 academicians invited to participate in an education mission to Iran Oct. 26-Nov. 1.

The mission, sponsored by the National Research Council and the National Academy of Sciences, was an effort to help elevate the state of K-12 and post-secondary education in Iran. The academicians represented universities throughout the United States.

The journey marked DiGregorio's first trip to Iran, but he said it was an important one for humanitarian reasons, and it should lead to several mutual-collaboration projects between Iranian and American institutions of higher learning.

"I'm a firm believer that education is the world's great equalizer," DiGregorio said. "I went there to help improve their educational system, which could lead to more and better jobs for the Iranian people, and eventually to peaceful co-existence in the Middle East."

DiGregorio was asked to assist Iranians in formulating a strategy for distance learning throughout their country. Others members of the education mission addressed the country's integration of research and education, vocational and technical training, computer-based education and other topics.

"The invitation to visit Iran was extended by the Iranian Academy of Sciences, which is the counterpart of our National Academy of Sciences," DiGregorio said. Iran faces several issues regarding distance education, he said, including a lack of resources to implement appropriate distance-learning technologies and the lack of an infrastructure to support such technology.

"Basically, Iran is at square one when it comes to distance learning," he said. "There, 'distance learning' really means 'remote campuses,' where students and faculty come together face-to-face. In addition, they deliver some courses via audiotape, but that's about the extent of their technology.

"We were at least able to tell them what the latest developments are in distance learning here," he added. But regardless of its limitations, DiGregorio said the Iranian system works. This past year, the country taught about 300,000 people through correspondence courses and remote campuses, he said.

DiGregorio's group toured facilities and met with Iranian academicians in Tehran and Shiraz. The National Research Council covered all expenses for the visit, and no state funds were used for the trip, he said.

The National Research Council is part of the National Academies, which also comprise the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine. They are private, non-profit institutions that provide science, technology and health-policy advice under a Congressional charter. The council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public and the scientific and engineering communities.

For more information on the education mission to Iran, contact Joe DiGregorio, Georgia Tech's director of Professional Education, International Partnerships, (404) 385-4350 or joseph.digregorio@conted.gatech.edu .