Virginia Tech and the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (Costa Rica Tech) recently entered into a memorandum of understanding, with the first official activity teaching an online course titled Business Process Management for the Manufacturing Systems Program.

The inaugural course was delivered in Spanish this summer by Henry Quesada-Pineda, Virginia Tech assistant professor of wood science and forest products in the College of Natural Resources, to students at Costa Rica Tech’s School of Industrial Production Engineering.

Quesada-Pineda is also credited for initiating the partnership with Costa Rica Tech, having served for 10 years as a faculty member at Costa Rica Tech before transferring to Virginia Tech. “I knew people at Costa Rica Tech that were very interested in forming partnerships and collaboration in research, teaching, and extension activities with high ranked universities such as Virginia Tech,” said Quesada-Pineda.

Virginia Tech’s Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning, along with Quesada-Pineda, hosted a faculty delegation from Costa Rica Tech this past spring to discuss strategies for creating a successful eLearning model. “It is our hope that a mutually beneficial relationship will evolve as a result of our collaboration on eLearning courses developed to serve the wood products industry,” says Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning Director Sam Conn.

Plans are underway for Costa Rica Tech faculty to bring their expertise and diversity into Virginia Tech’s course offerings. “Through the support of new online information technologies, we can now cross real frontiers and travel around the world without having to physically go anywhere,” cites Quesada-Pineda. “The vision of [the Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning] at [Virginia Tech] is well regarded and provides students and faculty interacting at a distance the ability to continue increasing their education with the highest quality and the most efficient educational process.”

The first online course enrolled 22 students, which for the majority of the students, comprised their first online course experience. The students have expressed their satisfaction with the course, citing such benefits as not having to travel to a classroom and having time flexibility to engage in the asynchronous components of the course (meaning that the students and instructors do not need to participate at the same time).

This fall, Quesada-Pineda is teaching a new online course at Virginia Tech entitled Forest Products Business Systems. For the spring 2010 semester this same course will be delivered to the wood forest products industry and two industry-specific courses will be added.

Virginia Tech and Costa Rica Tech’s partnership also sets the stage for parallel collaborations, including a study abroad trip for Virginia Tech undergraduate and graduate students to Costa Rica during the 2010 spring break. In addition to the distance learning exchange, Quesada-Pineda is working face-to-face with faculty and students from Costa Rica Tech, including a student enrolling in his research program to earn a doctorate degree. He is also meeting with faculty to highlight the wood science and forest products program.

Quesada-Pineda says he anticipates the partnership with Costa Rica Tech to expand to other Virginia Tech colleges and departments that would like to increase their international collaboration.