Alfonso Sintjago, a fifth-year Ph.D. student studying Comparative and International Development Education, is having fun as he explores the effects of mobile learning and online education on the advancement of developing countries.
In his dissertation project, Sintjago – who also holds a master's in information technology from the U – focuses on the experience of international students using Massive Open Online Courses (free and non-credit higher-education courses provided by University professors. He seeks to understand the benefits of these online courses for students in remote areas of the world, such as gaining access to specific academic subjects that aren't locally available to them.
In another research project, Sintjago examines the connection between learning and development in the Dominican Republic, where he distributed smartphones stored with educational data and online books to technology centers throughout the island. He studied how improved technological access and information literacy may help prepare people for the advanced 21st-century economy.
By promoting education in developing countries, Sintjago says technology may help lessen the effects of the brain drain – when high numbers of skilled and educated people, often from a developing country, migrate to another place for better employment options or social conditions. "It's great when people look for better opportunities," he says, "but if that happens, how do places improve and develop?"
This year, Sintjago received the President's Student Leadership & Service Award for his contributions to student government and U faculty. Since 2011, he has also worked as a instructional technology fellow, helping faculty incorporate mobile devices into courses, build websites, hold media conferences and organize workshops.
As president of the University's Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA), Sintjago helps raise awareness of graduate students' experiences. "It's good to be able to voice our concerns, address issues like the rising costs of tuition, and promote professional and graduate students," he says.
Sintago says he is having fun "playing with technology to positively influence education." More than just fun, though, Sintjago's research on online and mobile learning – and his passion for education and technology – may open up greater educational and economic opportunities for residents in developing countries.
– Lyra Fontaine