Conversation Starter: Online Global Learning…Here to Stay
The Global Career Center is proud to share this post about the future of online global learning from our colleague, Spring 2021 graduate student intern Andrew Solem. Read on for his reflections on the past year and click through for a document with resources and recommendations. Look forward to seeing Andrew’s recommendations in practice during upcoming GCC programs and reach out to keep the conversation going!
This past month of March 2021, we came upon the anniversary of the first major US shutdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Affecting every continent including Antarctica, this virus impacted millions upon millions of people. To keep their employees safe, many workplaces made the transition to remote work and similarly, educational institutions moved instructors and students into online learning environments.
As a graduate student taking classes during this pandemic, I remember the many adjustments that occurred during that initial shift to remote learning. The difficulties in this transition, such as learning new software and bad internet connection, was neither our fault nor the faculty’s. Changing half of a semester’s curriculum in just one week would have sounded unbelievable before COVID-19, but now the education field has become normalized to putting in extra, hard long hours to ensure that our students receive the best learning opportunities.
A year ago, nearly all higher education institutions and other educational travel organizations pulled their students from study abroad placements and shut down their programs. Virtual learning existed before the pandemic, but it was only in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that virtual learning became a major component of intercultural, international, and global learning experiences. Institutions and companies alike sought ways to fill this gap of off campus programming by using remote learning for international and intercultural experiences. Now that a year has gone by, with many ‘trial-and-errors’ periods and many long days, many institutions understand how to utilize remote learning meaningfully. The question now is whether remote learning be here to stay as we transition back into safe in-person study abroad and international programming.
I believe that online learning should remain as an important programming tool and become another critical intervention to the intercultural and international education field. Not only have educators proven that students can have transformational learning experiences behind the screen, but it also adds an increased level of accessibility for students who were not previously able to engage in an international education experience. The major shift to remote learning was never meant to replace in-person programming, only as a stand-in, but this past year has shown the world that successful intercultural learning can happen in these virtual environments.
Shifting to online learning prompted pursuit of new research on best practices for teaching and learning virtually. A portion of this new and upcoming literature focus on virtual international education such as virtual internships and intercultural programs. A common theme found throughout is that in-person and virtual learning in the international education field do not replace each other. They are two separate interventions that can achieve different goals. While in-person and virtual programming serve two different ends, their structure can be thought of as similar to a study abroad program: predeparture, support during the program, and reentry.
The attachment below is a brief, and by no means exhaustive, overview of how to get more out of online learning in intercultural contexts. I hope that these ideas come as inspiration to those who want to enhance online learning and offer the best learning opportunities for their students. The future is getting brighter with the increased availability of vaccines and the reopening of the economy. I believe that the field of international education will be able to flourish as students and educators are able to take on international learning through new and exciting ways.
Click below to access the brief overview and be sure to let me know what you think! I would be happy to hear comments and ideas. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on Linkedin.com/in/ajusolem.
Andrew Solem is a master’s candidate of International Higher Education & Intercultural Relations at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. With a Bachelor of Science in Building & Construction Technology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and years of project management experience, Andrew brings a unique perspective to the international education field. In the summer months, he leads high school travel programs abroad, guiding students through new intercultural and international experiences. Andrew will graduate May 2021 and is seeking new opportunities and collaborations in the International Education field both local and abroad.