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The Global Village: One Course, Two Universities in Different Countries

Friday, July 20, 2012
Imagine a network of classrooms where students and faculty all over the world exchange ideas and work together without leaving home. This unique environment is the idea behind globally networked learning -- a new approach that gives faculty and students the ability to teach and learn with international peers through the use of communication technology.

A Marymount undergraduate Honors class, The Global Village, is one such course that will be offered in fall 2012. It’s a partnership between Marymount’s Sociology Department and the School of Communication and Media at The Hanze University of Applied Science in Groningen, The Netherlands. Janine DeWitt, Marymount professor of Sociology, teamed with Loes Damhof, Hanze professor of Intercultural Communication, to develop the course, and students at both universities will work together to consider what it means to be members of the global community. They will develop their intercultural communication skills and use advances in communication technology to explore the extent to which their lives are interconnected.

Professor DeWitt explains, “The students will begin with a local exploration of how globalization impacts daily life in the communities of Groningen and Arlington. Comparing their findings will yield cross-cultural insights.” She adds, “By looking closely at their home communities, students will consider how globalization affects the movement of people across national borders, and how different groups living in their communities might be influenced by globalization.” For the final course project, Marymount and Hanze students will work in intercultural teams to address the question, “What does it mean to be a member of the global community?” They will also consider how they could apply their understanding of globalization to make a difference in their local communities.

The Global Village course was selected by the SUNY (State University of New York) Global Center to be part of The Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Project, an initiative that is supported by the National Endowment for Humanities. The COIL approach is to link a class at an American university with one at a university abroad. The Hanze- Marymount team was one of 22 college and university teams selected. Participation in COIL provided the Marymount-Hanze team with the support of experienced colleagues who teach global courses, as well as a network of other faculty who are developing globally networked courses.

Development of such internationally shared courses is a team effort. For The Global Village course, the team included Marymount members Janine DeWitt; Victor Betancourt, director of the Center for Global Education; and Carolyn Oxenford, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, and Hanze members Loes Damhof; Marca Wolfensberger, director of the research group Excellence in Higher Education; and Ingrid Schutte, also with the Hanze research group. Their planning began in fall 2011 with the Human Societies workshop at the COIL Center, which was followed by an eight-week online course. Then Professors DeWitt and Damhof worked closely to develop the course, meeting weekly via Skype.

The Global Village is designed to be both flexible and supportive for students who come from very different educational systems. Professor DeWitt points out, “Course activities build on cultural differences by creating opportunities for students to reflect on the subject matter using their cultural frame of reference and to apply these different cultural perspectives to enhance their understanding of globalization.”

Going forward, the COIL team at Marymount plans to integrate globally networked learning into other global education programs on campus. While such virtual cultural exchanges cannot equal the benefits of living and studying in a foreign country, they do provide one more way to connect across borders and cultures – broadening understanding.

Living in today’s global community means encountering people from other cultures on a regular basis. Professor DeWitt notes, “Dealing effectively with these daily experiences requires a sociological appreciation of the global processes generating change, as well as intercultural communication skills to reach a shared understanding. Effective engagement in the world is the key to world citizenship and an important aspect of achieving excellence in higher education.” She adds, “Loes Damhof and I share a fundamental belief that global awareness is best developed when learning engages students in the process of opening their eyes and their minds, and forming relationships with others cross-culturally to work cooperatively.”
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Visit the SUNY Global Center for more information on the COIL Project.