Global Classroom initiative connects faculty and students with partners abroad

Long before the coronavirus pandemic closed borders, canceled flights and made international travel nearly impossible, the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs at Indiana University was already exploring new ways to bring the world to faculty and students without leaving IU classrooms.

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IU Bloomington's Global Classroom initaitive has overcome the challenges and uncertainty of the pandemic to launch this fall. Photo by Getty Images

One new initiative, the Global Classroom, has overcome the challenges and uncertainty of the pandemic to launch this fall at IU Bloomington. This program takes a class already being taught by an IU faculty member and pairs it with a complementary parallel course taught at a foreign partner university. The two faculty members collaborate to design a project that students from both universities work on together virtually over the semester.

"IU had already been taking well-planned steps toward internationalization at home before the outbreak of the global pandemic," said Rita Koryan, assistant vice president for international affairs. "COVID-19 has enormously impacted everything we do, including international education. It has also highlighted the need for, and the feasibility of, global learning and connection. It is essential to help all students to learn global skills now more than ever. I should also add that our faculty's engagement with and commitment to global classroom have been inspiring."

The six classes being taught this semester cover a broad range of disciplines, and international partners span the globe. One course partners IU students with resettled Burmese refugees and with college students at the National Management Degree College in Myanmar to explore diversity within cultures. Another focuses on research collaborations, like the physics course exploring scatter theory with the University of Bonn in Germany.

In addition to teaching their courses, these six faculty members are also participating in the Global Classroom Fellowship -- a deep dive into international course development and best practices. The fellowship includes collaborative planning sessions before the courses begin and a follow-up session to discuss outcomes once the courses are complete.

Since these fellows applied and were selected as fellows before the pandemic, the preparatory sessions this summer were even more crucial to the success of their Global Classroom courses. Not only did the faculty have to navigate IU's altered academic calendar and hybrid model, they had to consider the wide range of challenges their international partners were facing as well.

IU's master's program in adult education is already a completely online program, so assistant professor and global fellow Amy Pickard did not have to switch modality for her course, "Forms and Forces of Adult Education." But University of Glasgow, the international counterpart, is a residential program that enrolls students from around the world, and the pandemic meant navigating a switch to online.

Iman Alramadan, lecturer in the IU Hamilton Lugar School of International Studies, was not accustomed to teaching her immersive, interactive Arabic courses online. Luckily, she had some practice over the summer teaching students in the Arabic Language Flagship and found that re-creating language immersion online is not just possible but quite effective.

Her global classroom course, Advanced Arabic III, pairs IU students with their peers from around the world who are studying Arabic at the Qasid Institute in Jordan. These small groups gather to discuss global issues like immigration, women's rights and climate change. Alramadan said her IU students have been eager to connect with their global classmates and willing to meet at odd hours and during weekends to overcome the challenges of living in different time zones.

Alramadan said these experiences are just another example of IU's first-rate language instruction, which recognizes that learning a language requires much more than learning vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar.

"Hamilton Lugar's school motto is 'To change the world, first seek to understand it,' and the gateway to understanding the world is through language," Alramadan said. "This opportunity allows students to investigate meaning in spoken or written language, understand different cultures, expand their knowledge in other disciplines, and build a global community inside the safe, virtual classroom."

The students aren't the only beneficiaries of the Global Classroom initiative; both Alramadan and Pickard said the experience has connected them with IU faculty across campus, enriched their pedagogy skills and opened doors for more international opportunities.

"The Global Classroom Fellowship has been pivotal in laying the groundwork for future collaborative work in my field," Pickard said.

Applications for next year's fellowship are now open to all full-time academic appointees who are serving as instructor of record for a class at any IU campus. Those interested should request a consultation with Rita Koryan by Sept. 15. Full applications are due by Oct. 1.