Challenging Traditional Programs for Providing International Educational Opportunities in Higher Education

Challenging Traditional Programs for Providing International Educational Opportunities in Higher Education

Barbara B. Howard, Natalia Ilyashenko
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4360-3.ch015
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This approach to cross-cultural experiences for students in higher education offers greater accessibility to global experiences by engaging students and faculty in virtual international teams. Built on a partnership agreement between two universities, Appalachian State University in the United States and Novgorod State University in Russia, the ideas developed into a graduate certificate program of study currently composed of four online courses. Each course requires engagement of the students in virtual international teams to solve simulated problems. In this chapter, the authors explore the initial lessons learned in such collaboration from both student and faculty perspectives as well as providing specific course information and student outcomes. They also offer future plans for expanding the project to include other universities in other countries. This model of globalization in higher education challenges the traditional courses, study abroad programs, and student exchanges often found in higher education.
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This project has been under development since 2014, as a result of a partnership agreement formally established in 2013 between Appalachian State University in the United States and Novgorod State University in the Russian Federation. This partnership agreement formed a foundation for cooperation among university administrators and faculty to support various collaborative efforts such as student and faculty exchanges and study abroad programs. As faculty, we sought to expand it even further to include collaborative course design. Delegations from each university visited the other campus as the partnership developed. As Peterson and Helms (2013) advised, we found that strong institutional support for this level of collaboration among faculty members was crucial to our success. Both institutions supported our efforts to build this proposed program with funding to allow travel as well as use of university supported technological platforms such as Moodle, Zoom, OpenQwaq, Google, and faculty effort. Without such support, the project would not have been possible. However, the commitment and passion of the faculty involved, as in many such projects, provided the true cornerstone of the project. Developing a vision that could be shared with colleagues, administrators, and students was key to meeting our challenge. Our vision was to present a way to effectively extend cross-cultural literacy to a wide range of students in an effort to build bridges across the boundaries and political landscapes that divide so many.

Based on our discussions and investigations into the state of globalization on our campuses, our faculty team examined major hurdles to overcoming some of the limitations in globalizing institutions of higher education. The first and foremost tended to be accessibility. Both universities continue to struggle with reaching the non-traditional rural student who may not be able to travel to our campuses for more traditional programs due to a variety of reasons, including disabilities. With innovative technologies, we hope to bridge the opportunity gaps that, unfortunately, can be perpetuated through simple structural barriers.

We also wanted to expand access to globalization. For far too many students completing degrees on our respective campuses, it is possible to have little, if any, cross-cultural learning experiences. If they do not interact with exchange students, participate in a study abroad program or take a global course as an elective, they may miss any chance to build cross-cultural skills during their programs of study. Yet, the majority of twenty-first century businesses and professions require some form of international work or work exchange. There had to be a model for instructors to infuse globalization into coursework for a way to add to a student’s chosen field of study beyond electives.

We searched for a way to offer alternatives to the expense and other limitations of study abroad programs and student exchanges. One goal was to offer such opportunities to a wider range of students from various fields – not just education or business – but any field in which students wished to engage professionally in an international platform. While we did not expect to be able to serve every student on each of our campuses, we hoped to offer a model for collaborative teaching and learning that could influence pedagogy in a wider range of disciplines.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Zoom: A web-based meeting platform designed to allow communication with video and audio.

Study Abroad Program: A specific course in which students travel to another country or continent to engage in study on site that otherwise could not be completed.

Virtual Team: A group or team of individuals engaging in collaborative work for a specific purpose through technological platforms and communications.

Culture: The lens through which a person views relationships, situations, social events, and interactions based on prevalent socio- economic and political environment.

Project-Based Assessment: A type of assessment in which a student completes a multi-level task requiring the application of a set of skills and knowledge.

Graduate Certificate: A program of study designed to enhance knowledge and skill in a specific area or profession beyond that of a graduate degree.

Colonization: Allowing a dominant culture to overtake and subjugate those of another culture by imposing their worldview while discounting or negating those of another culture.

3D Virtual World: Technological platform, such as OpenQwaq, that simulates a real-world situation or place.

Transformative Learning: A style of pedagogy in which a student’s current paradigm is challenged by an event or experience in which the existing paradigm is no longer valid, thus causing the student to alter or change paradigms accordingly.

Cross-Cultural: An event or interaction that occurs when those from two or more cultures interact to exchange ideas or engage in work that enhances their understandings of another culture other than their own.

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