Global Connections 2.0 (or are we up to 3.0?)

Steve Volk, April 3, 2017

"Sam_6010," photo by Johanna L., Flickr - Creative Commons

“Sam_6010,” photo by Johanna L., Flickr – Creative Commons

The higher ed press has run a number of articles recently on the ways that institutional collaborations can save money by multiplying scarce resources while providing opportunities for students and faculty not normally available on any single campus.  Susan Palmer, the executive director of the Five Colleges of Ohio (Denison, Kenyon, Ohio Wesleyan, Oberlin, and Wooster), for example, wrote about a number of our collaborations including projects on digital scholarship, faculty planning, curricular coherence,  integrated learning, language enrichment, and others.

Individual faculty have been collaborating with colleagues at other institutions for years, often using readily available and free software (usually Skype) to “bring in” the author of a book the students are currently reading, listening to “on the scene” observations from colleagues living in areas of the world where important events are occurring, or connecting language learners with peers in target language countries.

Palestinian, Israeli and U.S. student at Keep Co-op, Oberlin College, 2010 (Photo Amanda Nagy)

Palestinian, Israeli and U.S. student at Keep Co-op, Oberlin College, 2010 (Photo Amanda Nagy)

Beyond this, some faculty have put the time and effort (and often blood, sweat and tears) into developing more intensive collaborations across institutions and national borders because the results, in terms of student learning and personal impact as well as the faculty members’ own professional development, can be so significant. At Oberlin, the “American Democracy” project run by emeriti history professors Carol Lasser and Gary Kornblith, comes to mind.  Beginning in 2010. The project consisted of two parallel partnerships, one between Al Quds University (Palestine) and Oberlin College, and the other between Tel Aviv University (Israel) and Oberlin College. Using a common sourcebook of readings, courses on the American democratic experience were taught in tandem at the three institutions. Besides posting reflections on a joint course management site, students from all three institutions “met” via video conferencing and, for a number of summers, in person in Oberlin. Continue reading