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Global Classrooms: creating international opportunities for students

By Emilee Simmons - Posted on 13 February 2020

Dr Emilee Simmons is bringing the concept of global classrooms to Strathclyde, allowing students to gain international experience without leaving the country. Here, she explains how it works.

Global Classrooms can mean many things, but in this context it refers to: a teaching method where students can have an international experience without having to step foot outside the classroom, let alone the country. Whilst this is not a new concept, the programme myself and my collaborators have delivered for 5+years goes beyond the definitions of what is commonly referred to as ‘virtual exchange’.

My Global Classroom journey started before I joined Strathclyde, though that’s not saying much as I only started here in January 2020! Our programme was called: the Drexel-Leeds Global Classroom initiative (DLGC).  We also started out simple, but through our 5-year strategy we regularly gained momentum and challenged ourselves and our institutions on what was possible thus providing a unique and engaging experience for our students.

So, what could a Global Classroom look like?

There are many ways to run a Global Classroom, though here I’m going to outline one that is very easy to run and positively impacts a multitude of stakeholders.

Short, Virtual Projects – these can be a single instance in the classroom between 2+ institutions or projects that can run for up to six weeks.  The classrooms are connected via an online platform, such as Zoom, and student groups are paired across the countries so they can learn in virtual/online teams.

This is actually how we started our first Global Classroom. My partner, Professor Dana D’Angelo (Drexel University, USA), and I were both based in business schools; however, we were teaching two different pathways. I was teaching Entrepreneurship and Dana was teaching Accounting and General Business.  However, when we discussed our classes and preferred teaching approaches, we discovered good links between our courses.  They did not match perfectly, but there was a great combination that allowed us to provide a group project that took our students’ academic learning and brought it to life.

For this project, students were separated into teams (i.e. 2 UK and 2 USA students) and were tasked with starting a new business venture. However, it had to be a social enterprise and it had to fit both the US and EU markets. In the first two weeks the students had opportunities in and outside of class to bond as a team online.  This allowed them to learn about the UK/USA cultures (reality, not what’s on TV) and to come up with potential business ideas.  After this, they had four weeks to devise a basic business pitch consisting of: what’s the idea, who is your market, i.e. customers and competitors and what’s your USP.

At the end of the six weeks, students then pitched their idea to a panel of experts. The panel was wonderful, because it consisted of academic colleagues, alumni, business leaders and investors from both the UK and USA.  These pitches and panels were live, so it was simultaneously broadcast via webcams and video cameras.  It was definitely a challenge for the students to continuously hand back and forth between teammates ‘across the pond’, but students have always done amazingly well and risen to the challenge.

What is also great about this example, is that we ran this success Global Classroom with first year, first Semester Undergraduate Students. These were 18/19-year-old students, who were new to University and academia - they rose to the challenge and did some amazing work.  These projects can run for pre-University up through to Post-graduate level, and across levels too.

This is definitely a great example of an early to mid-level global classroom project. It doesn’t have to cost much, or any, money, it doesn’t take too much time to implement and it doesn’t have to be embedded within the curriculum, so it is flexible for all parties. Overall:

  • For Universities – it’s a wonderful way to involve business and strategic partners, including alumni in supporting our students and engaging with us. Our research has also shown greater student retention, greater student engagement and better employability opportunities.
  • For Staff – it’s not as time consuming as you’d think, and it can help to bring particular concepts to life. Also, modules don’t even have to match, and actually they do well with multi-disciplinary projects. It can work well for new academics as well as those looking to invigorate their practice.
  • For Students – it’s a great opportunity to put your knowledge into practice, whilst learning about new cultures and gaining incredible employability skills and experiences.  It becomes a real selling point on CVs and at job interviews.
  • For Alumni & Businesses – it provides another opportunity for both parties to support the university and the next generation of leaders. Alumni around the world can act as mentors online, which opens up new, unexplored ways to engage and give back. Business leaders are always looking to see upcoming talent and provide invaluable business advice and expertise to our students as well.

Bringing Global Classrooms to Strathclyde

I am very keen and eager to bring this type of experience to our students at Strathclyde though to do this I will need willing collaborators:

  • Strathclyde alumni & business leaders from around the world – we could really use your time and expertise
  • Interested academics and staff – even if it’s just to find out more information, please do get in touch. This includes academics and staff who look after student lifecycle, experience and/or internationalisation across all Faculties.  If you’re not at Strathclyde, don’t worry, we’d like to hear from you too and are happy to help you on starting your own Global Classroom journey.
  • Students – watch this space!

Find out More 

You can find out more about our specific DLGC programme, including the variety and breadth of many different projects over the years through Drexel’s GC website

We also published a book chapter aimed at supporting staff and students to understand the expectations and processes of working in a Global Classroom.  The chapter also includes templates and full outlines to make for easier duplication and/or adoption. It can be found in "Unplugging the Classroom: Teaching with Technologies to Promote Students’ Lifelong Learning" which can be accessed here

To get in touch about Global Classrooms, please feel free to email me directly: Emilee.simmons@strath.ac.uk



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