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Uzbek-American partnership: MOOC on Ecotourism of Uzbekistan

In partnership with Purdue University (U.S.), the research team at the Faculty of Tourism and Economics of Urgench State University (Olimjon Saidmamatov, Umidjon Matyakubov, Inna Rudenko) secured a project from UNiCEN (Central Asia University Partnerships Program) program of the American Councils on “Developing MOOC on Ecotourism of Uzbekistan”. The project aims to create the MOOC (Massive Online Open Course) materials on opportunities and perspectives of ecotourism in Uzbekistan.

As a kick-off meeting, the UNiCEN management visited to Urgench State University in September 2020 to discuss the project design and implementation. This MOOC aims to provide decentralized, open and online learning opportunity to learn theoretical and practical aspects of ecotourism in Uzbekistan. COVID-19 pandemic proved that higher education needs more online and open learning solutions.  In the middle of the project, the following results are achieved:

1) prof.Jonathon Day is supervising and assisting with the research of academic staff and PhD students of UrSU, namely, Ergash Ibadullayev , Elbek Khodjaniyazov, Sanat Chuponov, Dilmurod Bekjanov, Murodjon Matniyazov and Bunyod Matyusupov.

A small research group is developed to conduct state of the art research on interdisciplinary directions of tourism and economics. Weekly ZOOM discussions are established to accelerate research on important aspects of tourism.

The team is currently working on the impact assessment of COVID-19 to the tourism industry of Central Asia along with proposing solutions to release economic tensions caused by the pandemic. The team is actively networking with scholars from Australia, Hong Kong, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovenia, UK to learn from their experiences.

2)  With the supervision of prof.Jonathon Day, PhD students are actively proceeding with the several research papers. As a result of the academic collaboration, the team was able to publish a paper on “Employing Ecotourism Opportunities for Sustainability in the Aral Sea Region: Prospects and Challenges” at Sustainability journal  (impact factor=2.7, open access, CiteScore=2.37, Q2).

3)  MOOC content is being developed and theoretical materials are being enriched with Case studies from various ecotourism destinations of Uzbekistan (i.e., Nurata mountains, Zaamin natural park, Boysun mountain range, Aidarkul lake, Jairan eco-center). The team expects to run the MOOC on July 2021.