The Global Electronic University

Chapter contribution for
"Contemporary Issues in Distance Education
in North America"
A book to be published from Pergamon Press
The American Journal of Distance Education
Pennsylvania State University
College of Education
University Park, PA 16802
Phone: 814-863-3764

Takeshi Utsumi, Ph.D.
43-23 Colden Street, #9-L
Flushing, NY 11355-3998
Phone: 718-939-0928

Parker Rossman, Ph.D.
Vice President of GU/USA
P. O. Box 382
Niantic, CT 06357-0382
Phone: 203-739-5195

Steven M. Rosen, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology
The College of Staten Island/CUNY
715 Ocean Terrace
Staten Island, NY 10301
Phone: 718-390-7744


In this chapter, we describe the development of a global electronic university consortium to meet the challenge of global education in the twenty-first century by bringing together all kinds of higher education in- stitutions, governmental and non-governmental, business, and private, to exchange lectures and courses from country to country. We begin with a brief account of the steps taken over the past dozen years to pave the way for such an enterprise. Then we describe measures already being implemented to set in motion the first concrete phase: establishment of a Global/Pacific (electronic) University (GPU) Consortium. Questions of membership and organizational structure are discussed in light of GPU's intention to transcend cultural barriers, encouraging full participation from all levels of a global society. Finally it presents a specific agenda for the GPU in the upcoming year, and activities and initiatives planned for the near future.

The Global Electronic University

The need for understanding and cooperation among the world's peoples and nations is imperative in order to develop an authentic sense of global citizenship and harmonious cooperation in our global village. It is our belief that hopes for effectively meeting this challenge lie in global education.

To this end, we propose a worldwide educational network, a partnership of universities and businesses; of governmental, nongovernmental and community organizations; of students, workers and individual citizens -- the Global (electronic) University (GU) Consortium. First steps in this direction have been taken by other distance larning groups in various countries which already are exchanging courses electronically via computer-and- satellite-teleconferencing. GU seeks to serve, facilitate, and complement these enterprises by helping in the development of a cooperative infrastructure for the organic global community of the twenty-first century education.

Background of the Project

In 1972, Takeshi Utsumi initiated the GLObal Systems Analysis and Simulation (GLOSAS) Project for global peace gaming (a term he coined in 1971) -- a computer simulation venture to help decision-makers construct a globally distributed decision support system for positive-sum/win-win alternatives to conflict and war. The idea involves interconnecting experts via global value added networks (VANs) to discover new solutions to world crises such as the deteriorating ecology of our globe.

Over the past dozen years, GLOSAS played a major role in making possible the extension of US data communication networks to various overseas countries, particularly to Japan. In addition, it facilitated the expansion of American and Japanese information industries to foreign markets and the deregulation of Japanese telecommunication policies for the use of electronic mail and computer conferencing through US/Japan public packet-switching lines. GLOSAS also helped achieve a demonopolization of Japanese telecommunication industries, thus enabling various private terrestrial and satellite communication service companies to emerge. This easing of restrictions includes a statutory provision allowing the entry of foreign enterprises into Japanese telecommunication markets. The European Economic Community (EEC) countries and others have followed suit. The way has been paved for the transcontinental, electronic exchange of courses via various telecommunication media.

The most recent phase of the GLOSAS project began with a demonstration of global-scale peace-gaming at the World Future Society's (WFS) "Crisis Management and Conflict Resolution" Conference in New York City, in July of 1986. Through multimedia teleconferencing sessions (using voice, slow-scan TV [SSTV], computer text and data, graphics, and a simulation model), New York was linked with Honolulu, Tokyo and Vancouver World's Fair. The demonstration featured the FUGI computer model of world economy at Japan's Soka University. Noted US economists (Thurow of MIT, Nordhaus of Yale, Johnson of Townsend and Greenspan Company) were electronically interconnected with Japanese counterparts (Onishi of Soka University, and Shishido of International University) for three days of computer-assisted negotiations on a crisis scenario involving US/Japanese trade and economic issues.

The next demonstration was conducted at the WFS Conference held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in October, 1987. Slow-scan TV was used in conjunction with NHK's (Nihon Hoso Kyokai = Japan Broadcasting Corporation) leased INTELSAT satellite channel; and with EIES, the computer conference network of the New Jersey Institute of Technology. In keeping with the WFS theme of "Education for the Twenty-First Century," GLOSAS previewed the "classroom of tomorrow" with discussion on "Globalization of Higher Education Around the Pacific Basin." Lecturers and students at widely dispersed locations in the United States and around the Pacific "assembled" to exchange ideas in a "global-scale electronic lecture hall." The panelists included Takeshi Utsumi from the headquarters of the National Technological University (NTU) at Colorado State University; James Grier Miller, chairman of the University of the World, from the EDUCOM Annual Conference in Los Angeles; and Lionel Baldwin, president of the NTU, from San Francisco; Robert Muller, chancellor of the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica; Hazel Henderson, economist and futurist; Glenn Olds, president of Alaska Pacific University; and Parker Rossman -- the last four of them from MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

GLOSAS's third demonstration was during the conference of the Pacific Telecommunications Council in Honolulu, in February, 1988, on "Distance Learning Around the Pacific Basin." The teachers in this "global classroom" included J. O. Grantham, founder of the National University Teleconference Network (NUTN); C. Urbanowicz, associate dean of the Center for Regional and Continuing Education, California State University, Chico; J. Southworth, College of Education of the University of Hawaii; R. Mills, assistant vice chancellor of the California State University System; D. Wydra of the Pennsylvania Teleteaching Project; L. Baldwin of NTU; and T. Utsumi of GLOSAS. The global lecture hall encompassed 14 sites ranging from the US East Coast to Korea, from Anchorage, Alaska to Brisbane, Australia, and spanning 14 time zones and two calender dates. Of particular significance was the use of live, interactive computer conferencing for backstage management of audio and video presentations, questions and answers, etc.

These events showed how academic departments might be linked across national boundaries for joint study, research and global problem-solving. The demonstrations have also helped GLOSAS discover the technical, regulatory, economic, and marketing impediments to the creation of a global electronic university system. Here the aim is to show how, by combining a variety of improved and presently more affordable technologies, evidence can be given that global educational exchange via satellite is a feasible endeavor. Finally, we believe that we have helped foster a participatory spirit and sense of transnational identity among the participants.

Statement of Aims and Principles

In recognition of the wide range of critical problems currently facing humankind (ICIS Forum 1988), the Global University Consortium is directing itself to four essential goals:

In order to clarify the motives and intentions which underlie the proposed endeavor, we next articulate the GU vision before proceeding to a detailed description of the project. The principles of the GU are set forth in the following eight propositions.

  1. Transcultural, globalwide initiative.

    The highest priority of the GU is to launch a transcultural, globalwide initiative (using modern techniques of communication) to promote the kinds of global education that will advance peace, justice, understanding, and human wisdom. The GU seeks to encourage a sense of transnational identity, a feeling of global community which is necessary for the survival, creative growth, and constructive transformation of our species. Indeed, the survival of our globe itself may depend on such transformation. All those who participate in the Global University will share a firm commitment to the goals set forth, and pledge to pursue them with ongoing vigor. In asking members to affirm and support our agreed-upon aims, we follow the charter of the United Nations. However, a lesson may also be learned from disappointments encountered in the UN experience. Bearing these in mind, we shall address the task of implementing the stated goals; bridging the gap between principle and practice, long-range plans and short-term actions, and dreams for the future and present realities.

  2. The GU to demonstrate moral leadership.

    The GU has no intention of dictating morality to its participants. It will encourage free and open dialog among those with differing opinions and outlooks. But, in view of the challenges confronting humankind at this critical juncture in its history, it behooves us to demonstrate moral leadership in the various activities we undertake. The GU will not enter into partnership with any applicant planning to use its power for objectives such as the waging of war or the oppression of its citizens. A policy of the GU is to offer courses, programs, or practices that are compatible with the interests of global understanding and accord. Moreover, the GU intends to show moral leadership in a positive manner by promoting curricula and activities, such as peace-gaming and global village meetings, that will facilitate global harmony directly. The GU hopes to play an active and meaningful role in addressing the manifold difficulties facing humankind -- war, pollution, disease, hunger -- by fostering an attitude of trust, empathy and compassion, a sense of solidarity and global identity.

  3. Priority on academic freedom.

    In a world now fragmented by hosts of competing special interests, a globe endangered by the tribal rivalries of the nation-states, we affirm our university as a place where teaching and thinking are given free reign to be truly ecological -- to address problems and crises global in scope. If the "zero-sum game" is no longer winnable, if the globe is shrinking to the point where a crisis anywhere is a crisis everywhere, we require the latitude to think globally, bound neither by the motives of profit nor power. In short, the GU espouses academic freedom as an essential value. We trust that those who support us will pledge to uphold this cherished principle.

  4. The GU to stress quality education.

    The GU will place an emphasis on quality in all its programs and courses of instruction. It will draw its curriculum from known centers of learning around the world and seek to identify new centers of excellence and creative scholarship. The undertakings of the GU will include the most up-to-date research and methods, the most recent developments and insights in its various fields of study, and will be supported and enhanced by the latest advances in communication technology. To respond to the immediate needs of its students, the GU will offer culturally relevant educational experiences not readily available in local institutions, perhaps not available through any other means but an electronic university that is interactive in nature and global in scope.

    At the same time, the GU will remain cognizant of the collective needs of the globe. Recognizing that the welter of newly generated information and technologies can itself constitute a significant problem for humankind as a whole, the GU will seek to temper the fragmentizing effects of contemporary innovation. The GU will encourage curricula in which the latest facts and newest techniques are grounded and integrated with the wisdom of our oldest traditions, holistic and ecological approaches found at the core of every native culture on the globe. Accordingly, the GU will define a "quality education" as one which promotes "an integration of the social, economic, political, and spiritual insights of East and West, North and South, masculine and feminine" (Mische 1986: 46) --- encompassing the wisdom of the past, the richness of cultural diversity and the transformative potentialities of the present and future. An education of high quality must give students the most powerful tools of thought accessible to them; it must give them the fullest and clearest version of the facts; and it must interpret the facts, as analyzed by the tools, in accordance with the best-articulated system of values available. The GU will exhibit respect for freedom and dignity by giving many cultures the opportunity to express themselves in their own best terms.

  5. Initiative to be shared with students.

    The GU partnership of universities, businesses, and governmental, non-governmental, and community organizations will be guided by, and remain fully responsive to, the felt needs and stated aspirations of students, workers, and individual citizens around the globe. The GU will search for ways to make it possible for persons of any means in any region of the world to have the opportunity to obtain the highest quality education, as they define it. We dedicate ourselves to the promotion of literacy and lifelong learning, so that global economic equity and employment flexibility may be achieved. Moreover, we pledge our educational resources to the advancement of scholarship and creative growth on a globalwide basis.

  6. Transnational collaboration on research.

    The GU will work diligently to help make it possible for researchers in significant fields of study to collaborate across national boundaries, engaging in joint research projects facilitated by computer, telecommunication and information technologies. A rich new interplay of disciplines and schools of thought is possible through such electronic cooperation and interchange. By bringing many minds together through computer networking and conferencing, our "collective intelligence" can be brought to bear in exploring fresh approaches to global issues.

    But the global problems to be addressed include widespread human suf- fering: physical, emotional, and spiritual anguish and distress. This suggests that exchanges between and among researchers, faculty, and students must be more than intellectual. An affective component seems required. Through intercultural transactions in the arts and humanities, through more intimate interpersonal exchanges, the heart must be engaged as well as the mind. If compassion, trust, and empathy are to be fostered, if a sense of global solidarity is to be attained, we must be willing to share our feelings as well as our ideas.

  7. Commitment to openness.

    The GU endorses the precept of unrestricted access to all information and educational resources at its disposal. To advance this goal, it will sponsor a space-station library system that will be open to any educational institution, group, network, or individual anywhere in the world. The GU will facilitate the free exchange of ideas and insights around the globe and then strive to maintain openness at every level of its own operations.

  8. Toward transcultural unity-in-difference.

The GU is committed to the goal of counteracting the depersonalizing effects of mass technology. But rather than limiting itself to the aim of meeting the purely personal needs of its participants, its primary aim is transpersonal -- it seeks to encourage a sharing of minds and hearts across personal, disciplinary, scientific, and cultural barriers. Entailed here is an exploratory process of dialogue and compassionate exchange that should lead neither to cultural homogenization nor cultural fragmentation, but to a dynamic synthesis of unity and diversity, a transcultural unity-in-difference.

Anticipated Organizational Structure

The GLOSAS/USA Association is incorporated as a New York, non-profit, educational service organization to assist and enhance the quality and availability of international educational exchange through the use of computer, telecommunication and information technologies. It seeks to create a Global/ Pacific (electronic) University (GPU) Consortium around the Pacific rim. The GPU will ultimately become one of three divisions of a Global (electronic) University (GU) Consortium; the others will be Global/Atlantic and Global/Indian in the future (Charp 1988).

Global University in the USA (GU/USA), a divisional activity of GLOSAS/USA, will be the USA organizing group to complete the formation of and become a constituent member of GPU. Similar consortiums are being created in Canada, Japan, Australia, Sri Lanka, and other countries. The GPU will consist of the GU in each country around the Pacific rim. It is expected that the GPU will be a "consortium of national consortiums," each responsible for the collaboration of groups in that country; and each will be invited to have an authorized, cooperative, and collaborative relationship with the GU/USA.

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Pages originally prepared by:
Jerrold Maddox,
June 5, 1995