Distance no object

2nd June 2000 at 01:00
Maria Rodriguez Digital Academy, Reading

Maria Rodriguez Yborras believes she has found her ideal job. As manager of a new online learning project set up by a partnership of FE colleges, she combines her two passions: adult education and new technology.

She is in no doubt about the potential of information and communications technology to deliver learning. She is also a "virtual tutor" for a university in her homeland, Venezuela, teaching masters degree students via the Internet.

"It's been very successful because we have students from all over the world - they can contact me in Portuguese, English and Spanish," she says. "With the new technologies, you don't have any limit geographically - you don't have any borders."

Ms Rodriquez Yborras, 38, is the new e-learning manager of the Digital Academy, a company launched last summer by Reading and Guildford colleges offering a range of online learning and training courses for businesses.

She brings a global perspective to the job. She has worked in Venezuela, North America and Spain before moving to the UK six years ago. Fluent in English , she also has a working knowledge of French, Portuguese and Italian. With a degree in law and a masters in economics from her native country and an MEd from the University of Manchster, she combines an academic background with broad experience in the commercial world.

Her main professional interest is in developing new technology for adult education. Her research has focused on learning programmes for developing countries. "They were looking for someone with experiences abroad, with other cultures and other countries, bringing and exchanging new ideas," she says.

"I have worked in academia and in industry. In academia, you focus on learning, empowering students and so forth. " "When you're working for industry, you're trying to develop skills in your workers. I wanted to see how I could combine both ways of delivering knowledge."

She joins a team of staff at the academy's office in Wokingham, Berkshire. It has a resource centre, offers a range of academic and vocational courses, and is developing distance learning for businesses. Her remit is to explore new approaches to learning, using electronic media - whether it be the Internet, multi-media, radio or television.

"I am fascinated with this new world," she says. "When you start in a new organisation, it has the advantages of great challenges."

"Every day for me is a stimulating day, because you're in a small organisation, in a lovely environment. Every day you do new things."

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