American online education system

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Vietnam is in the Indochina peninsula in Southeast Asia. Vietnam has a total land area of 329,314 square kilometers and a long coastline of approximately 3,200 kilometers. The population of Vietnam is approximately 88 million people in 2009, composed of almost 51% females (Central Intelligence Agency, 2009, para. 3). However, Vietnam faces many difficulties and is still a developing country, in part because of the aftermath of the Vietnam War. In 2007, Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization, with the goal of reforming the nation's economy and becoming a developed nation by 2020 (United Nations, 2009, para. 7).

In Vietnam, the number of learners in higher education institutions reached 1,020,670 in 2003 (Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training (VMET), 2006, para. 2). The VMET (2006) reported that there were 111 universities and 119 colleges in the higher education system in Vietnam, most of which are state-owned. In addition, the VMET reported that of the 32,205 instructors and lecturers at these schools, over half held only a bachelor's degree. The country allocation of 3.5% of its Gross Domestic Product on education in based on a renewed commitment to higher education by the Vietnamese government (Kelly, 2000). For a nation to emerge and sustain itself there must be a commitment either by the government or individual citizens to educate themselves. Although over 90% of the Vietnamese population over the age of 15 is considered literate (Central Intelligence Agency, 2009, para. 3), before 2000 less than 1% of the population has a college degree (Kelly, 2000). Currently, 89% of the Vietnamese population has not attended a higher education learning institution, meaning that the Vietnamese market has strong potential for growth from both foreign and domestic educational institutions.

Statement of the Problem

The problem to be addressed in the proposed study is that learners in Vietnam have been unable to obtain a modern education through the domestic educational system. Vallely and Wilkinson (2008) stated "it is difficult to overstate the seriousness of the challenges confronting Vietnam in higher education" (p. 1). Former Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai conceded in his resignation speech in June 2006 that the Vietnamese government had failed to develop an adequate educational system (Vallely & Wilkinson, 2008). Recent surveys have revealed that approximately half of Vietnamese university graduates cannot find suitable jobs (Vallely & Wilkinson, 2008). The failure of many Vietnamese university graduates to find suitable jobs provides evidence of a gap between what is learned in school and what is required in the job market

It is estimated that as many as 60 million of the workers in Vietnam are eager to achieve higher levels of education (Central Intelligence Agency, 2009, para. 3), but the present education system does not satisfy this demand. Vietnamese universities lag behind the international academic community because of their poor publication record (Vallely & Wilkinson, 2008), among other factors. Fortunately, current Vietnamese students might pursue formal education without leaving their country by enrolling in an online program offered by American universities. Institutional theory (Grandy & Wicks, 2008) will be used as the theoretical framework for this study because this theory will assist in explaining the processes through which American universities attempt to make institutional benchmarks in an educational environment.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study is to examine the perceptions and opinions of Vietnamese students enrolled in American distance education programs to understand the benefits and problems associated with this method of obtaining an education. In this study, the opportunity offered by the American online education system is assumed to be a potential source to be tapped by young Vietnamese learners. Online education is defined as "the use of Internet technology to provide educational content and materials to geographically dispersed learners. Bebawi (2005) stated that distance education "provides for interaction between teachers and students and for the exchange of ideas at a distance" (p. 7).

Many Vietnamese learners prefer to attend traditional classrooms with lecturers in direct communication, rather than joining a virtual class through online education format. However, online education, to some extent, may offer better opportunities for Vietnamese learners to acquire conveniently the knowledge and training they require. American online educational institutions could use the results from this study to introduce and improve educational programs offered in Vietnam through a multifaceted instructional delivery system, such as audio, video, computer, and networking technologies. In addition, students in Vietnam could use the results from this study to improve the quality of their education and better prepare him for the work force.

Research Questions

The following research questions have been developed for the proposed study:

How do Vietnamese learners strengthen knowledge in higher education offered by the American online education system?

Q1: What are the unique features of American online programs that will entice the Vietnamese learners to study?

Q2: What is the cost of education (including tuition, expenses, and indirect costs) for an American online program relative to domestic educational programs for Vietnamese students?

Q3: What educational and institutional characteristics are most important for Vietnamese students in choosing an American online program?

Q4: What information resources are the most important regarding an American online program?

Q5: What are the admission criteria for American online education program that Vietnamese students may have difficulty meeting?

Definition of Key Terms

Online education. Online education is defined as a mode of training methodology that uses computer and the Internet in distance education. Online education is the two-way communication through the Internet so that learners may benefit by communication with lecturers, and institutional staffs (Keegan, 1988).

Higher education. Higher education is defined as the study beyond the rank of secondary education. Higher education also includes tertiary education, or college education (Mendes, 2004).

Online course. Online course is defined as a course that is conducted through the Internet. Online course is also considered as a delivering method which all learning materials, course assignments and assessments are transferred through the Internet (Mendes, 2004).

Vietnamese higher education system. Vietnamese higher education system is defined as a system that includes undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Undergraduate students will attend four to six-year program, which leads to diploma or bachelor degrees while postgraduate learners will join two to six-year program to get master degrees or doctorate degrees (Vietnam Ministry of Education and Training, 2006, para. 3).

Brief Review of the Literature

Ashwill (2005) analyzed the U.S government pays more attention on exchange programs in Vietnam than any other country. One of these programs is the Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF). This program will help to train Vietnamese talented people in science and technology. Ashwill (2005) stated that the Vietnam Education Foundation will become "one of the great success stories in the still budding relationship between two former enemies. As a legacy of the U.S. war in Vietnam, VEF is, symbolically speaking, a well-conceived and superbly executed effort to turn swords into plowshares" (p. 51).

Regarding online learning, Endres and Hurtubis (2009) discussed that online education is attracting a new huge market with learners who work full-time. In this new education methodology, school managements should pay more attention on the students' need and satisfaction. The authors concluded that online MBA student satisfaction appears to be multifaceted. They also revealed that online MBA students are not fully satisfied to their faculty, courses, and university. The school managements must concentrate on a diversity of different courses, faculty, and online learning tools.

Hayden and Lam (2007) discussed the reform agenda of Vietnamese education authority in developing higher education system. Although the education authority has more efforts in upgrading higher education system for the past decade, but the problem still be remained. Only 10 percent of the learners who are in the learning age can continue their education. The missing factor in the reform agenda is the implemented methodology to gain its objectives. Therefore, the reform agenda seem to be more ambitious to Vietnam education authority.

Menchaca and Bekele (2008) analyzed the participants' experiences in an online learning environment. The stability of the online program was affected by the learners' satisfaction. When learners were gratified with the online education, they were more willing to learn other online programs. Menchaca and Bekele (2008) stated "optimal distance education environments should address factors identified in the conceptual framework" (p. 231).

Mendes (2004) discussed the Indian higher education's market need for American online education. "The findings of this research offer insights into the Indian higher education market for providers of online education by investigating the expectations and needs of this population" (Mendes, 2004, p. 1). The Vietnam higher education market has many similar characters to Indian one. Therefore, some lessons can be learned from this research that can apply to Vietnam higher education market.

Overland (2006) presented the current condition of Vietnamese higher education system. "Vietnam faces the same problems in its higher education system that puzzles other countries in Southeast Asia: low teaching salaries, rote learning, ill-equipped and crowded classrooms" (Overland, 2006, p.36). Vietnam higher education is managed by the obsolete and bureaucratic system. Moreover, Vietnamese government has controlled strictly foreign investment on education. The result of this stagnant situation is that the students graduate from university four-year program with ineffectual knowledge.

Peterson and Slotta (2009) discussed that distance learning has become a part of higher education for more than a decade. Faculty members worried that distance courses will affect on their traditional dominion. "The study presented the results of a case study of one graduate online course in literacy taught by an instructor who had never before taught online" (Peterson and Slotta, 2009, p. 120). The research realized that online learning was welcomed by students because it provided learners with convenience and autonomy. Online courses could be taken by learners on their own academic schedule, allowing a professional to earn a degree while still working.


It is a manifest from the literature that online learning is the vital tendency for education on the twenty first century. It helps to eliminate the geographical barriers and bring education to any corner on around the world. And the United States is the leading country in developing online education system. Therefore, Vietnam higher education learners can exploit the advantage of American online education system to approach the modern knowledge. With this advance learning method, Vietnamese learners can overcome all disadvantages that caused by Vietnam sluggish higher education system.

Research Method

According to Creswell (2009), "The process of research involves emerging questions and procedures, data typically collected in the participant's setting, data analysis inductively building from particulars to general theme, and the researcher making interpretations of the meaning of the data" (p. 4). A qualitative methodology was selected as most appropriate for the proposed study. The qualitative approach allows the researchers to innovate and work within the chosen topic, and given the lack of research in this area, a qualitative design will allow the researcher to provide a platform of preliminary results to achieve the purpose of this study. Specifically, qualitative research methods will be used to explore the perception of Vietnamese graduate candidates, aged 25 to 35, regarding the characteristics and value of online learning from American sources of higher education.

Operational Definition of Constructs

According to Schram (2006), the following questions will be answered in this qualitative research: What can this research do to ensure the credibility of the inquiry? How does the researcher maintain the integrity of the study? To answer these questions, the study will focus on two dimensions. The first question focuses on the following sections as practical considerations: standards for competent performance as a fieldworker and issues of researcher presence, the inevitable selectivity of fieldwork, and the play of subjectivity. The second dimension, ethical considerations, refers to standards for conduct based on moral principles and includes issues of posturing and role presentation, exchange and disclosure, and making public the private and building relationships amid expectations of eventual departure.

Lincoln and Guba (1985) developed the concepts of dependability and credibility in qualitative research. Dependability describes the researchers' "ability to know where the data in a given study comes from, how it was collected, and how it was used" (Shank, 2006, p. 114). In order to apply the results from a research project in the real world, the researchers can increase dependability by member checks, especially when external reviewers examine the results to ensure this information reflects what the researchers claim.

Credibility reflects the level of believability of the study findings (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). In credible studies, the information is conformable and adhesive rather than scattered and inconsistent (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Applying this credibility concept into the proposed study, the participants will be contacted to review the results of the study prior to publication. Through this communication, the impressions of the research participants can be understood and their feedback can be incorporated into the results.

Data Collection

This study will be implemented with the two largest cities in Vietnam: Hochiminh and Hanoi. Eight American institutions launched their online higher education programs in these cities. Thirty participants who are graduates from American graduate programs in business administration or information technology who have been trained in Vietnam will be researched in this study. It will be a condition of the research that all participants learn from American accredited universities. The research participants will be contacted to collect information either by face-to-face interviews or by telephone interviews. Unstructured and generally open-ended questions will be used with the intention of eliciting views and opinions from the participants.

Interviews and focus groups will be conducted. Some learners who cannot attend the focus groups will be later interviewed individually. The focus group's members will communicate with each other by utilizing special computer software. This focus group format does not need to have a moderator in the traditional sense (Sinkovics, Penz & Ghauri, 2008). In interviews and focus groups, participants will be asked the same set of questions about their understanding of feedback, the actual feedback that they received how they used this feedback, and what are gaps within the provision of feedback. The reason for these activities is aimed to create validity. During the research process, qualitative documents will be collected such as public documents (e.g., newspapers, official reports) or private documents (e.g., letters, e-mails). According to Greckhamer and Koro-Ljungberg (2005), "Researchers can neither collect data without keeping in mind their epistemological purpose nor can they use particular analysis without their appropriateness to produce the type of knowledge desired" (p. 731).

Data Analysis and Interpretation

Patton (2002) stated that "Guidelines for analyzing qualitative data can be found in abundance and studying examples of qualitative analysis can be especially helpful" (p. 433). One needs to have an innovative mindset when applying guidelines. Each qualitative study is unique; therefore, each study will apply its unique analytical approach. The qualitative research will be affected by the knowledge, viewpoint, and experience of the analyst. Accordingly, "the human factor is the great strength and the fundamental weakness of qualitative inquiry and analysis--a scientific two-edged sword" (Patton, 2002, p. 433).

The researcher will conduct the following steps of the data analysis procedures:

Step 1

The first step in the analysis will be to organize and prepare the data for subsequent analysis. Creswell (2009) stated that "this involves transcribing interviews, optically scanning material, typing up field notes, sorting, and arranging the data into different types depending on the sources of information" (p. 185).

Step 2

The second analysis step consists of a review of all study information. A first activity is to formulate an overall meaning of the data. During this step, notes will be written in to begin organizing the available information (Creswell, 2009). Mouza (2008) stated that transcription of audio tapes is often the first step in the review of qualitative data (p. 454).

Step 3

The third step in analysis is information coding. According to Rossman and Rallis, "coding is the process of organizing the material into chunks or segment of text before bring meaning to information" (p. 171). Information or pictures will be gathered during data collection, and data with similar meaning will be brought together through the coding process. The analyst will use the codes to compare and specify the final themes that receive some level of consensus (Hernández, Siegel & Ameilda, 2008).

Step 4

The cipher procedure will then be applied to analyze the collected information about research participants (Creswell, 2009). The cipher will be used to assist in creating the themes derived from the analysis of the interview and focus group data.

Step 5

The fifth step is to "Advance how the description and themes will be represented in the qualitative narrative" (Creswell, 2009, p. 189). Tams (2008) stated that codes and themes are "merged into overlapping concepts and grouped under higher-level categories. As a result of this iterative process of comparing data and concepts, concepts that referred to only one or a few episodes were discarded" (p. 170).

Step 6

The last stage of analysis is to draw conclusions based on the codes and themes uncovered in previous steps.


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Appendix Annotated Bibliography

  • Ashwill, M. A. (2005). Moving Vietnam forward. International Educator, 14(3), 46-52. Retrieved from
  • The Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) is an educational exchange program between the United States and Vietnam that awards scholarships for Vietnamese higher education learners to learn and research at American universities at many graduate programs of medicine, technology, mathematics, and sciences. Ashwill described VEF is a valuable tool to foster the relationship between the United States and Vietnam. VEF also aims to create a better environment for the development of science and technology in Vietnam.

  • Endres, M., & Hurtubis, C. (2009). The multifaceted nature of online MBA student satisfaction and impacts on behavioral intentions. Journal of Education for Business, 84, 304-312. doi:10.3200/JOEB.84.5.304-312
  • The authors analyzed the surveys that gathered from more than 250 students enrolled in online MBA courses at a large Midwest university. Student satisfaction predicted the purpose to advocate the course, lecturer, and school to others. The universities' managements had to focus on a variety of different courses, faculty, learning tools, and online learning tools.

  • Hayden, M., & Thiep, L. Q. (2007). A 2020 vision for higher education in Vietnam. International Educator, 16(1), 14-18. Retrieved from
  • Vietnamese higher education institutions did not have the autonomy rights to develop the governance system. The education system is controlled strictly by the central government. The authors have revealed the reasons that caused the critical sluggishness in Vietnamese education system.

  • Menchaca, M., & Bekele, T. (2008). Learner and instructor identified success factors in distance education. Distance Education, 29, 231-252. doi:10.1080/01587910802395771
  • The online education experiences of learners and mentors have been examined in this research. According to the authors, the best distance learning framework should focus on the conception model. Although the research unveiled interesting findings about student and faculty experiences, a better understanding of specific tools and factors was still needed. The author revealed that the online education experiences were impacted by many factors at human, pedagogic, technologic, course, and leadership.

  • Mendes, G. F. (2004). An analysis of potential target markets in India for online education offered by United States universities (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Digital Dissertations. (AAT 3138509)
  • The Indian market need for American online education had been analyzed in this study. The author created the foundation for institutions to execute their own study about Indian higher education market. The Vietnam higher education market had many similar features to Indian one. Therefore, some lessons could be learned from this research that could apply to Vietnam education market.

  • Overland, M. A. (2006). Higher education lags behind the times in Vietnam. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 52(40), 36-40. Retrieved from
  • After conducting renewal policy for two decades, Vietnam was one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Although Vietnam was one of the poorest countries in the world, Vietnamese people were willing to pay for their children attending the best education. Unfortunately, Vietnamese government prohibited foreign investment on education strictly. However, this framework would help to develop American online education in Vietnam. This new learning methodology would help Vietnamese students overcoming the geographic barriers to enroll American online learning programs.

  • Peterson, S., & Slotta, J. (2009). Saying yes to online learning: A first-time experience teaching an online graduate course in literacy education. Literacy Research and Instruction, 48, 120-136. doi:10.1080/19388070802226303