This course offers a very unique opportunity for students to learn about other cultures in a face-to-face environment without having to leave their classroom. The class is designed to make the most effective use of interactive technologies to give students the opportunity to communicate with students in different countries in a 'live' environment. This way, students at each participating university can learn about a number of different cultures while simultaneously helping to teach about their own. The cultural exchange is based both on written communications between pairs of students (via chatting and collaborative written assignments) as well as through “web-streamed” face-to-face dialogue.
Students will connect consecutively with a total of three different universities. Each linkage will be with one university at a time and thus will make up a small block (a little less than a third) of the entire semester. The three universities we are linking with for this pilot semester are Jammu University in India, Istanbul University in Turkey, and Moscow State University in Russia. This pilot semester was made possible with the support of East Carolina University’s Global Understanding Program.
We are currently running a pilot of what will be an academic course and our students are already enjoying it very much. We are hoping to connect with students in Korea for an intercultural exchange in English via online chat and video conferencing (currently we are using the Polycom H.323 protocol). Classes would meet twice a week for 90 minutes (e.g., Tuesday & Thursdays, or Wednesdays and Fridays).
Ideally, we will have a total of four partner institutions next semester (e.g., University of Michigan, University of British Columbia, a school in Korea, a school in Russia). We will take turns pairing with one another so that each classroom has a chance to exchange with three other cultures during one semester. Each class needs to have 12-16 students and some proficiency in English.
The individual instructors at each site determine the academic credits and course content outside of the times that partners link. For example, on days that classrooms are not linked, instructors may give lectures on issues specific to their academic discipline, such as Psychology, Anthropology, English, Tourism, Medicine, etc. During the times classrooms do link, students can ask questions of one another about college life, culture, family, traditions, religion and spirituality, the meaning of life, stereotypes, and prejudices. The Global Understanding class is a wonderful opportunity for students to engage in intercultural exchange and to pursue international interests.
Over the course of the semester we will be linking with three different universities from three different countries for approximately 4 weeks each. Each of these 4 week blocks start with a general information session about our partner university/country. This is followed by a lecture day in which the instructors and our partner university each give a brief lecture on some aspect of their respective country. Over the next number of days the primary class activity will be student interaction.
On days devoted to student interaction we will divide the class into two groups. Using videoconferencing technology, for the first half of the class group A, will have a group discussion about a predetermined topic with your partner country’s group A. While group A, is having group discussion, group B will be in individual chat rooms with their particular partner. Halfway through class we switch so that now group B will have an opportunity for group discussion and students in group A will have one-on-one time with their partners. The final day of each block is devoted to summary and reflection on our partner country. Interspersed within and between these blocks will be “local” days. These are non-linking days. On these days there will be lectures and activities pertinent to the course.
- Offer students the opportunity to understand, explore and appreciate the nature of human diversity and globalization by providing a direct international experience in a virtual collaborative learning environment with students and faculty from other countries.
- Provide students with the tools and ethnographic methods necessary to effectively interact with, understand, and learn from peoples of other cultures.
- Provide students the unique opportunity to learn and apply skills for cross-cultural research and analysis.
- Foster international partnerships via technology to develop trust, friendship, and future opportunities for scholarly collaboration.
- Build the basic technical and social skills necessary to work in a virtual collaborative environment (VCE).
See the classroom in action....
Jennifer Young Yim, M.A.
Director, Global Scholars Pilot Program
The Program on Intergroup Relations
530 S. State Street
3000 Michigan Union
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1308