Key steps in designing an online international project
The Columbus Hub Academy is inspired by several initiatives such as COIL: Collaborative On-line International Learning developed by State University of New York in USA, and the Online International Learning –OIL- by Coventry University, in the United Kingdom. According to this last, the following key steps need to be considered:
- Selecting a course in which you would like to embed your international project.
- Finding a colleague to participate as your international project co-lead.
- Defining the aims of the project in line with the module’s internationalized learning outcomes.
- Deciding on time-span for the project.
- Designing Collaborative interactions, for instance: Online interviews with students from other countries/cultures studying in the same professional area; Online multicultural teams set problem solving tasks related to the professional area; Students participate in an online simulation in which they take the role of someone from another culture they have researched previously; Scenarios from professional practice, with obvious intercultural issues embedded within them.
- Selecting suitable online technologies.
- Designing activity for critical reflection on the intercultural experience.
- Testing tools and resources before use.
Key Factors for a successful project
Teachers create a collaborative project with colleagues of at least another country involving students working on mixed groups, identifying and analysing issues, and producing an intercultural work. The project could be developed by matching similar courses or combining different courses at undergrad or postgraduate level.
The interaction could be organized at different levels of complexity: one single interaction vs. series of activities, asynchronous or synchronous, for a small number or high number of participants, with one or several partners.
This is not a face to face activity. Therefore, to be successful, collaborative online projects demand strong commitment from both teachers and students. Teachers have to consider some key aspects:
- From the beginning, both partners must communicate timely and openly about their needs, expectations and the objectives they want to achieve; often this kind of activity fails because of a lack of a good understanding about the tasks and of clear agreement on advance.
- A common vision on learning outcomes and how to evaluate them is essential.
- Teachers must inform their students about the objectives, activities and difficulties that could emerge during the collaboration.
- Teachers should remain available to support their students and to monitor the whole process; collaborative online learning is time consuming, but, as it doesn’t require extra funding, its impact can reach substantial number of students.
- Teachers and students must be flexible but rigorous and especially with deadlines; online collaboration demands discipline.