Many institutions are looking at options to seamlessly integrate global connections into courses offered virtually, and DePaul University is no different.
Distance education offers a myriad of possibilities for contextualizing content in different ways. One example of this is establishing partnerships with universities in other countries that allow students from diverse cultures to engage with one another while learning the subject matter.
The course design below is one professor’s approach to integrating global collaborative activities into her fully online course.
With the amount of ubiquitous technology available, it’s easy to concentrate on the course’s modality or the types of technology that can be integrated into the course from the outset. But in the design of any course, the content should be the focal point and not the technology.
In working with a professor whose expertise is in public relations and advertising, the course that we chose to pilot was Advertising and Public-Relations Ethics. Since the professor had taught this topic multiple times while in Nairobi, Kenya, it was a natural first choice for the pilot.
In designing this course, we considered the following:
- Content Planning
- Course Design
At the outset of development, it was important to establish what course- and module-level objectives would be most conducive to eliciting engagement among students. From there, we were able to work backwards to identify which assignments and content would be best suited to test during the collaborative sessions.
In fleshing out the content, the professor introduced a widely utilized model, the Potter Box Model of Reasoning to frame the conversations between the students.
Next, she strategically identified case studies, being careful not to include pop culture cases. From there, students would be assigned roles in group discussions: (1) the analyst role: interpreting the model based on the case assigned and (2) the commenter role: responding to another student’s explanation of the case based upon the model.
To preface the sessions, the professor delivered a video introduction that included etiquette not only in the context of working in a virtual environment but also cultural considerations and group dynamics.
Our first conversations about course design were about how we would be able to connect the students logistically. As the designer, I was interested in identifying seamless solutions, whether low tech or high tech, that didn’t disrupt their fundamental learning experience.
To do this, I researched technology solutions that would support collaborative discussions—whether synchronous or asynchronous.
Online Discussion Boards
- Learning Management System (LMS) Integration
host school allow guests
- Google Groups
- Google Docs
- Adobe Connect
- Google Plus
- Blackboard Collaborate
Asynchronous and Synchronous Solutions
Aside from providing an experience with minimal technical interruption, the solution needed to take into consideration the time-zone difference and be hosted on a secure platform.
For this pilot, we decided to start with an asynchronous solution that met the expectations of the professors and factored in university policies. The students from Nairobi were provided with guest access to the DePaul learning management system, which enabled them to utilize the online discussion forum and other functionality within the tool.
Now that a solution was solidified, logistics was the next consideration. Since the students from Nairobi hadn’t used the LMS, we created a table-style matrix on the course’s homepage that directed students to the assignments within the LMS.
A master schedule that included due dates based on time zone was also included in the matrix.
The final resource was evaluative surveys to identify each student’s experience within the course.
During the course planning stage, I utilized the ADDIE model to frame much of the way in which this course was structured. In the needs assessment/analysis phase, I posed a number of questions to both professors to ascertain the outcomes they were striving for with this course.
As a result, they were able to craft questions that they would pose to students at the end of the course. The categories of questions focused on the students’ experience with the content and engagement with peers from different cultures and the operability of the technology throughout the course.
Having data from the professors and students will be essential as I continue to work with others in the university who opt to integrate global connections in their courses.
Additionally, resources that organizations such as NAFSA’s Internationalizing Teacher Education Online provide will help as I work with faculty looking for ideas on how internationalization may work in their online course.