Hello, I’m Kieran Lindsey…
I’m Dan Marcucci, and this is Wired Ivy. We have combined 20 years of experience in the virtual classroom.
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As the world reopens, in fits and starts, higher ed is attempting to speed away from the pandemic as quickly as possible. But the end of the academic year is now on the horizon and, for academics, that means it’s time for an assessment. A glance in the rear-view mirror, a review of the virtual content and activities created to address a specific, limited-term situation, and consider whether some of those tools might be more durable than intended.
Such is the experience of today’s guests. Faced with university travel bans and course rosters full of students who were counting on study abroad programming and credit hours, Karen Edwards and Sandy Strick of the University of South Carolina, and Tori Ellenburger of Australia’s Deakin University, shifted gears from globetrotting to web surfing with barely a tap on the clutch pedal. In the process, they discovered a fleet of readily available digital resources that addressed their immediate needs, allowing students to meet the same personal, cultural, academic, and professional learning outcomes established for in-person educational travel.
But wait, there’s more! The resulting instructional strategies will be used to augment upcoming board-a-physical-airplane excursions, a new intentionally virtual study abroad course has been approved at University of South Carolina to be offered each summer going forward, and Wired Ivy’s own Dan Marcucci has revised his approach to leading global study after hearing Tori, Sandy, and Karen describe their experiences and insights. Trust me, you’ll want to take notes!
Karen Edwards is at the University of South Carolina, where she is a Senior Instructor in the Department of Retailing, as well as Interim Associate Dean of Academic Programs in the College of Hospitality, Retail, and Sport Management. She teaches digital commerce, asset protection, and law-related issues affecting retailers in both online and face-to-face formats. She has received numerous teaching awards, including the Brian J. And Linda L Mihalik Global Scholar Award for her work with study abroad programs. Recently, Karen co-developed, the university’s first ever virtual study abroad course. Karen, welcome to Wired Ivy.
Thank you, it’s great to be here.
Sandy Strick is also at the University of South Carolina, where she is an Associate Professor and Director of the Wine and Beverage Institute at the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management. She has also received numerous recognitions for her teaching. Her core subjects include wine and spirits, meeting management, and teaching pedagogy. For years, she has led students to Tuscany. With Karen, she co-developed the university’s first ever study abroad course. Sandy, welcome to WIred Ivy. Glad to have you here today.
Thank you, Dan. It’s great to be here.
And Tori Ellenberger serves as the Director, North America at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Tori is responsible for developing university partnerships and regional strategy students, staff exchange, and alumni engagement. She has extensive experience working in international higher education, having previously worked at universities in Ireland, the US, and Australia. It’s great to have you on Wired Ivy today – welcome!
Thanks, Dan. It’s great to be here.
I know it sounds as though you’re far away, but you’re actually based in North America. Is that right?
That’s right. I’m based in North Carolina and not too far from my colleagues, Sandy and Karen.
So this episode really is an outgrowth of a short article the three of you published in the Teaching Online Pedagogical Repository, which the University of Central Florida maintains. I reached out because it’s very timely for my work. Specifically, your article was about working with virtual study abroad, and that really captured my imagination. We’re always looking on Wired Ivy for innovative teaching approaches, and this really struck me as something I wanted to know more about.
But before we get into that, let’s try to understand what some of the partners are that we have here. The University of South Carolina and Deakin University are obviously working together. What’s the relationship, and how is it that you all were working together even to write this article?
Deakin and University of South Carolina have been long-standing traditional exchange partners. It’s times like the past couple of years that we rely on our trusted partners. It just so happens that when this global pandemic crisis broke out, that was the time we started to reach out across our networks to see what they were doing, how they were doing it, how to facilitate cultural competency outcomes in a world where we were no longer able to physically exchange students or academics across universities, continents, countries, etcetera.
It just happened that we connected. We started learning from each other, having meetings, and developing ideas, and really just started to pick each other’s brains.
And then from South Carolina’s perspective, when you started working with Deakin, what was your motivation, or what were you looking to do in that collaboration?
Sandy and I had been leading study abroad programs and really weren’t managing the inter-institutional connections. So we were connected through our Director of Global Learning at the time and started comparing notes, basically, on what we had done, and it led to a conference presentation.
We were really excited at that point and thought, see what else we can do with this combined institutional knowledge, and how we can create a tool that future faculty could use to replicate this virtual study abroad experience. Because we had, South Carolina had been working on it; parallel, Deakin was doing something very similar, but we didn’t really realize it until after the fact, after we had launched that first program at each of our institutions. So it was truly a meeting of the minds and sharing of what worked, what didn’t work. We collaborated and created that document that you mentioned.
Let’s go back to the beginning of 2020, because that was a pivotal point for all of our lives, wasn’t it? In South Carolina, January of 2020, what had you planned? What were your expectations? And then how did that change? How did you have to rethink those expectations?
Karen and I had done this before and we had a full roster. We were all set to go until the university decided that studying literally abroad was not a good idea, and we totally agreed. We very quickly try to change gears and figure out what else could we do. We had students that had counted on some summer elective hours and they were eager and willing and ready. With the great support of our Global Studies Office, in very short order we got to go from literally getting on the plane to virtually getting on the plane.
And that’s where we started. We tried to duplicate everything that we would have done, or as much as possible of what we would have done, if we were going abroad. We had them arrive in Rome and navigate the airport there. Try to get on the train. There’s a lot of great stuff for, uh, students to experience. We still buddied them up. We still gave them projects to do. We had them touring around the Uffuzi, and some of the great iconic places in Florence. It just happened to be virtual.
So this was a short-term study abroad? A couple of weeks, maybe 10 days, a couple of weeks? Is that right?
And these were students who were working in some form of hospitality or retail?
The most part, it was hospitality and retail students, with a smattering of business school students and people around campus that are just interested in the topic.
And they’re undergraduates or graduates?
Primarily they’re undergraduates, but since it’s a 500 level course, graduate students certainly are welcome to come in, and we usually have a couple.
Then about how many would you normally take on a learning experience like that?
Somewhere between 16 and 20.
Okay. You have done this before so you had contacts in Italy. You had very specific learning outcomes in mind for what you wanted to get out of that course.
And you’ve already alluded to this a little bit. What happens when you needed to make the switch. Okay, we’ve got to figure out some facsimile experience for them that is going to be effective. Was it obvious you were going to do something virtually? Or was your thought, “We just can’t do this at all”? How did you come to that decision?
We never said to ourselves, “We can’t do this.” We just said, “How are we going to figure it out?” Karen and I were so lucky because our Global Studies folks were so willing to help. They actually did a pre-departure, and a post-experience lecture with the students. There was an instrument they used to assess learning outcomes and see how much they had developed in terms of their own global awareness.
It was really wonderful to work with them and they were so great about fixing all of our technological issues. As you might imagine, we had no idea what was going to go wrong next. And they were so good about all of that. Kudos to them. They really ramped it up a bunch.
Now, Tori, were you already aware of what they were doing when this was happening or did your connection come in after the fact?
I think it was after the fact. Fortunately for Deakin, we have a very strong foundation in online learning. We have the saying that digital is in our DNA. Deakin started out as a correspondence teaching university and has always been at fore of making sure students who are not able to be physically present in the classroom are able to have an equivalent experience virtually.
So as you said, Dan, we were set up, in some ways, to easily transition to online programming. But the thing that really mattered for us was being able to call in our partners to facilitate that. We were ready. That’s great. But we also needed partners who were able to quickly adapt and pick up using different technology. Okay – what did you do? What experiences did you create in your virtual study abroad programming that your students found to be engaging and to be able to connect with?
One of the things we take pride in at Deakin is the student experience. At that time, we had already done some virtual programming study abroad, synchronous classrooms with partners around the world, but we were also looking to refine and refocus. So the very first thing we did when we knew we had to adapt our programming to fit this unique situation was to survey our students. We went out to all the students who are stuck in that limbo and said, “Okay, what is it that you want out of these virtual experiences that we can curate for you, given the fact that we’re grounded?”
That’s really where we’ve leveraged off of each other’s strengths in terms of what we were doing at both institutions and how we could learn from our students, our faculty colleagues, and our central support teams around the world to make these experiences really meaningful for both the students and the academics running these programs.
Yeah, this is really interesting to me. My program is online, as you all know, but the one thing that isn’t is a global field study. I lead three of those, so the things that you guys are talking about are things that I’ve been wrestling with for a couple of years now.
I don’t think it’s obvious that the global study was going to go on. I applaud your Global Study Office, Karen and Sandy, kudos to them for really stepping up. Saying, “No, we’re going to work out something that’s going to be a valuable facsimile for the learners because they need to graduate and move on with their lives.” I think for many places it would have been easy to just say, “We can’t do this – can’t be done.” Since we all work online, and since you all work in very technologically savvy offices, we know we’ve got to figure out ways of doing things. This is modern times, 21st century.
The two things that I’m hearing in both of your stories is the importance of understanding what the learning outcomes want to be, what the objectives are, and developing a learner experience that’s going to add value. Hearing you say it just drives home, study abroad is essentially experiential work at its core. There’s a lot of other things that go with it, but it’s experiential learning. So of course the learners’ experience is very important.
I’m curious – and Karen, I’ll throw this one to you – here we are in May of 2020, and you’ve got students who are taking luxury management. Did they do the virtual global study in the same time-frame that they would have had they gone on the airplane? Was it, “Okay, we’ve got you for two weeks.”? This is a question about, was it synchronous or asynchronous? So how did you work the schedule, the itinerary of the virtual trip?
What we did is exactly what you said, starting with the learning outcomes. We kept the learning outcomes the same for both, and those include personal cultural, academic, and professional learning outcomes. Based on that, we designed the course to replicate the same experiences as closely as we could. The physical in-country course was canceled. Based on our work with Global Studies, we were able to then re-offer the virtual version of the course. So the Maymester would have been May, you know, 15th through 27th, or something like that.
Both Sandy and I had quite extensive online teaching experience, but it still took a few weeks to build it. That was offered in June, and we counted that a win. It was a remarkably quick turnaround and we were really pleased with it. In retrospect, we thought, “Oh, next time we’re going to add this, and next time we’re going to add that.”
So we ended up doing both asynchronous and synchronous elements of the program because so much of the in-country experience is talking with people who are professionals in the field of luxury management. We really wanted to make that happen. So calling on some of our partners over on the other side of the pond was really an important element of the program.
We found many virtual 360 tours, or even just guided video tours of the locations we normally take the students to. So we used those for some of the asynchronous work. We also recorded mini-lectures of us talking about whatever we would talk during our morning set up or our evening debrief in-country.
But then we also had, I believe it was five that first time, five live sessions. Sandy mentioned the pre-departure, which was getting ready for the cultural immersion experience. We had three live guest speakers sessions that lasted about an hour, where we actually had professionals in the field in Italy live streaming to us at X appointed time. The students did their prep work. They interacted, asked questions, and we got as close as we could to an in-country kind of experience. Those were outstanding. And our final was the debriefing and the repatriation part the study abroad office helped us with.
I’ll let Sandy fill us in on the really cool guest speakers we had.
Yeah. So there’s so many great details that unpack, let’s go ahead and start with the guest speakers. Yeah. So this is, this is really interesting.
They were so wonderfully ready to help us. One of them was at the Castello Banfi, which is a winery in Tuscany. The gal who’s the manager of hospitality, who usually gives us the tour and takes us through the wine tasting, was standing outside of this castle in Tuscany. Breeze is blowing, her hair is blowing, and she’s giving us the whole rundown of the history of this Castello or looking at the vineyards behind her. And then she’s walking us into the tasting room.
We can see how all that fits together and she’s talking about how wine fits into luxury, typical customers that come through, and really did a great job of, short of eating in their taverna, which we would have done if we were there, she really gave us a great flavor for what it would have been like had we gone there. I think a lot of the students have it on their to do list one day when they get to Italy, they’re going to go do. So that was the Banfi one.
We had one of our graduates who was working in Milan for a company that made luxury eyeglasses. She was talking to the students and that was such a wonderful interview with her because she could relate to the students from the standpoint of how is culture different in Italy than it is back home? I think she was from Cincinnati, and she said, “Coming to live in Italy… I love the job, but here are some of the great cultural differences that I see. For instance, everybody has coffee together in the morning, you all take a break and you go have coffee, and then you all have lunch together!”
And she said, “In the States we’re used to working through lunch. Maybe we have a cup of coffee at our desk but then we leave at five or six. They don’t do that in Italy. They stay till seven or eight because everybody’s taking so many breaks during the day!” Which then explains why people are eating dinner so late at night, as a family. If you’re in Italy, you can find little kids in restaurants at 10 or 11 at night! Karen and I are looking at each other, going, “What are these little kids doing up at this hour?” But it explains…
What am I doing up at this hour?
…yeah, really. But it explains so much because they’ve taken a break during the day. They still work the critical number of 8 or 10 hours a day, it just looks a lot different than it does in the US. As a tourist or somebody studying the culture, you’re, you’re always questioning why are they doing it this way? The kids took the same break at lunchtime, they just went home and took a nap. It works quite well. But anyway, from her perspective, that whole cultural immersion thing for her was very eye-opening for a lot of us.
And then the third speaker we had, she actually did a cooking demonstration, along with recipes for the students; talked about food differences in the different regions within Italy. And she made a bread salad, which led to the conversation about how frugal Italians are, and how even when bread was getting on the stale side they would define one more thing to do with it. And that might be to moisten the bread and soften it up and make a bread salad with tomatoes, and basil, and cucumbers, and all of the things that were in season at the moment.
But she talked about the differences in culture when it comes to food expectations. She talked about the differences in culture between the north and the south in Italy. She is American with an Italian background. She takes tours to Italy to teach Italian cooking. So she had the American and the Italian perspectives as well, which gave the students some great insights. It was so fun.
That sounds like a lot of fun. They were real time, and it sounds like they were interactive. There were questions back. And I assume if you’d actually gone to the country, you might’ve had even more in-person meetings, but these were clearly remote in-person meetings. Definitely synchronous, direct communication with people in the country.
Exactly. And we had given some background to the students and asked them to do a little bit of research coming into those interviews or those presentations. Because we wanted them to: 1) be prepared; and 2) be ready to ask good questions. We didn’t really want poor Elizabeth, over at Castello Banfi, we didn’t want her to feel like we were not prepared for what she had to offer. So they were ready with some really great questions. That means you have to give them the information ahead of time, and hold their feet to the fire, and be prepared for what we’re doing tomorrow.
So I’m wondering, are you familiar with programs at Deakin where similar technology has been put to use, where people are able to make that direct connection in their global studies. What’s your awareness?
One of, one of the programs that we take pride in at Deakin is a virtual consulting program that we do through our Business School. Typically, we would have done this in-person around the world with our partners, where it’s a two week live business challenge with industry partners. When we had to go virtual, we were fortunate enough that our partners were still prepared to work with us.
Essentially, what that looked like was students would get a business challenge. They would work on it for two weeks. They would touch base with their clients as if it were a proper consulting experience – it was a consulting experience – and in doing so then we pulled in industry guests from across government and local business with one of our partner institutions. We turned it into a case competition where our alumni judge the students. “Okay, not only will you be marked on completing this project and the quality of this, but you’ll be judged by people from industry, from our partner universities in that program.”
We really did rely on colleagues and partners to be available and ready and, fortunately, we were able to provide that programming for around 300 of our students during the pandemic. Yeah, you learn a lot from that. And we look to partners like Karen and Sandy. What other elements can we add? How can we improve upon what we’ve done to make this even better? And then add another element? Okay. So perhaps we could enhance that cultural competency aspect of our programming. How do we do that? Is that through connecting with partners in a virtual space to be able to learn about Italian dining at 10:00 PM?
So some things like that really helped to enhance our programming. And part of our, our marks for our students, you will be expected to be working at odd hours. You have two weeks to complete a consulting project with a partner internationally, and students from other universities you don’t know. That really throws people into real life. How are you going to manage these things that you don’t necessarily think of? Like, how will I be able to think on my feet at 11:00 PM in front of an industry judge? So these are the things that make the element of virtual programming, even more exciting and dynamic.
What I’m hearing is that with imagination, and using technology, you’re both really opening, kind of, virtual doors because these are opportunities for direct, real time engagement experts and professionals in the field. And the great thing is, technologically, it’s pretty easy to set up.
I want to know more about the 360 immersion experience. Karen, maybe you could talk to us a little bit more about how these worked.
Sure. Sandy and I had always thought, “We will take a 360 camera with us, that would be a cool new thing, right?
On a planning trip when we went, actually, to Israel, we had taken the 360 camera with us — it’s harder than it looks, let’s just say that. Surprisingly, there are several 360 videos out there that either individuals have taken, or institutions, organizations.
For example, in our piece that you mentioned earlier, we linked users to a 360 tour of the Sistine Chapel. You can go to the website and look around and move your mouse, look at the ceiling. And there are many resources, especially from museums and institutions that have put information out there for free. If you’re a little more savvy or experienced with the 360 video you can actually create them when you go on future trips.
But there’s a remarkable amount of 360 video out there. The students could take a gondola ride and Venice, virtually. We tried to amass as many of those experiences that we would have had students either engage in or as an optional item for them to use. The 360 is a really wonderful way for students to immerse themselves and the actual location.
In some of the Italian cities they have 360 video of the city. During the pandemic you can’t really see much going on because the streets were empty, but that kind of live webcam can be used as we move the program forward. Because our idea was, this is not just pandemic-worthy, this is future-worthy. It’s a sustainable program.
And we found a 20 minute video that’s an excellent example of immersing yourself in the San Lorenzo Market in Florence, Italy, which is one of the places we take our students. We had a guy who was a food tour guide who pointed out the highlights. So it wasn’t 360, but he had done a really good job of getting some very nice panoramic views.
I knew 360 videos existed. I hadn’t really paid any attention to them until we got a chance to talk, getting ready for this episode. And so I played with them a little bit since then, and they are a lot of fun. Just in case our viewers have never done it, it’s exactly as Karen said. It’s a video, so you’re moving through a space, but you also then have the control of… it’s 360 around, and then 180 overhead. So you can look up at the sky, or the Sistine Chapel, or if you’re a dog sledding through Finland you can look behind you and see where you’ve just come from, for example. It’s quite amazing.
The activity that you had for the learners, how did you structure that? Was that, “okay, here is the video, look at this and have fun? Or were they doing that in teams? Were they looking at it together? Did they have to report something from that into the learning environment into — I don’t know what your LMS is — what was the activity set up to do?
As a schedule with an itinerary that mirrored what we do in-person. So every morning they had to check with their virtual buddy — either via email texts, zoom, whatever tool they wanted — but they checked with their buddy. And as much as practical, because some students were working, we encouraged them to do the tours together. Whether it’s a video, whether it’s navigating a 360 of the Florence or the Rome airport, they were required each day to engage in specific learning activities.
At the end of each day, just as our live and in-person students do, they were to complete their reflective journal. We used the blog tool in our LMS system, which is Blackboard, and at the close of each day, the students were required to reflect on their learning experience, think back to the learning objectives, and put the pieces together in an integrative experience. We gave them questions to prompt them, but it was basically a reflective exercise so that they would integrate the activities with the objectives and pull it out together based on good pedagogy.
If you let them do it at the end, they’re going to forget a lot of information, forget the feelings and experiences. So we really tried to keep them in the moment on a genuine itinerary.
What I’m hearing, it was semi-synchronous. “You need to be doing this today. This is today’s agenda.” And they didn’t have to do it as a group necessarily, they had a little bit of flexibility when they did it within that day. But the point is, “This is what we’re working on today, these are the experiences we’re all sharing today.”
Did they share their reflections with their peers as in a discussion format, either at the end of the day or at the end of the week or anything like that? How did the peer to peer interaction work on the reflection?
We wanted them to feel free to really express their thoughts, and we did tell them that their blog postings were only seen by themselves, as well as their instructor. However we did set up the form for video discussions where they would record – I don’t know, we had maybe four or five of these – we gave them a prompt regarding something that was either discussed, or that they were researching. They would post their individual discussion, then they were required to respond to their colleagues within a day or two. So instead of a discussion board where they’re typing everything in, we’ve tried to make it as interactive as possible. They could see each other and get a closer to in-person kind of experience.
The reason I even asked in the first place – and this is really a question for any of you – in my experience, when you’re doing a global study of experience, I think it works well when you develop a learning community in the group. So I’m wondering, in this innovation, what are ways that can happen still, that we can have the group become cohesive? Particularly if – Sandy, I believe you said that the students were potentially from different departments and colleges at the university – are there other things that come to mind that you all have done or seen as ways of getting a virtual group like this to come together over this virtual experience?
It’s not a virtual group. It’s a real group, in this case, that are having a virtual experience. My colleague, Kieran, on Wired Ivy, would say I’m peculiar about the word virtual, but I like to think I’m particular.
I will just pipe in and mention the initial pre-departure meeting that we normally have within our in-country group… We had a pre-departure meeting for this group as well. Our first live session we engaged in what you’re going to see, what you’re going to do, meet each other. We had a student athlete from Italy joining us, and telling us a little bit about her take on the differences between the US and her hometown in Italy, and what they need to pay special attention to, and this kind of thing.
So we had them interacting with each other in a live session to start with covering the objectives, and helping them choose their buddies based on interests. We did try, in that first meeting, to develop the foundation for that community of learners.
Are there other things, Sandy or Tori, that you’ve seen, as a way of trying to create this learning community among the group?
Yeah, I’ll jump in there. Some of our programming was similar to the style that Karen and Sandy are talking about, where you would set them up in virtual teams, and then it was a requirement to participate in that discussion. And they had that formal structured environment to start off that connecting. Though what students would later tell us, “oh, we started our own channel on WhatsApp.” They just took it on their own to create informal networks, which we see on the ground as well when we run these programs.
We have great partners in Japan who we said, “can you send us a box of Japanese treats that we can then mail out to each of the students, and we can delight in that experience together, as a sort of a mandatory part of the class. Which is it’s an aspect and an element of the programming that you take for granted when you are in another host country, but we’re fortunate enough to recreate. So that’s one of the things we did.
So yes, you require some interaction that structured and supported, and then you provide the opportunity for them make it work, however they need to, um, to get more out of the experience as well.
I love that, having treats come, because the one thing that I think is very hard to replicate, virtually, going to another country is about the sites and towns, but it’s also about the smells and the taste, and how do we have that shared experience? It’s a small thing. It’s a treat from Japan. But I don’t think it’s a trivial experience. I think is an important thing to be able to… I’m looking at you, Sandy, because you deal with wine and spirits, which is clearly more than sights and sounds. It’s clearly about taste and smell, and that surely is important for people to understand place.
I agree. And kudos to Tori and her team there, because I think that is a great idea, to get up a box of goodies to then distribute them among the students. That’s so brilliant! I love it! I mean, I know that when we are actually planning a study abroad, we try in advance to do a food experience so students can start to get an idea of what they’re going to encounter, maybe discuss what they might find strange about the food there, or encourage students to try things and get them thinking in that direction. But I love the idea of the box. I love that! Karen, we should definitely do that!
I’m taking notes, too! Yes, exactly. Which is why we’re doing the podcast.
Are there other elements of asynchronous learning that you’ve built into the programs, both at South Carolina and at Deakin, that I’m not even thinking to ask? We’ve covered lectures, and we’ve covered 360s, but what other things are people doing?
The students also engaged in a research project with their buddy and recorded a presentation, in addition to submitting a paper on the luxury topic of their choice, and uploaded it for their colleagues to view that was an important element as well.
I’m thinking of activities and your Tuscany trip. I’m reminded that I just saw about a week or two ago in my online Italian film festival, a documentary about the recycling of fibers, which is a big industry in Prato. For 150 years they’ve been recycling wool fibers. It’s the perfect kind of thing to watch this documentary about this town in Tuscany, and I could see how you could build that into curriculum, into a lesson plan. Yeah, that’s really cool.
Tori, I’ll turn to you real quick and then we’re going to go forward. Is there any other asynchronous work you’ve seen done that you think would be a valuable addition?
The things I’ve seen done are in advanced similar to, and, you know, before they embarked upon their, their projects or their host country. whether that’s virtually or in-person, is just doing that background research on those companies you’ll be servicing in your consulting project. What are the general expectations in terms of business culture in, in the country where you will be? So just that sort of preliminary research, you get a basic understanding before you enter into this experience.
And then one of the things we have our students do is keep a journal of their experiences. What are they thinking before they go, and then during, and after? What have you learned, in terms of yourself and your orientation to time, and place, and structure? And they can do asynchronously, but it still encourages them to reflect on their learning experience. I think it’s nice. It provides them the time and space to genuinely reflect before and after.
I think it’s so important, the point that you make. If we can build the context in the student for what they’re going to be experiencing, they’re going to learn a lot more from it.
Let’s think about going forward. Fortunately, the world’s opening up a little bit more and, clearly, the point of travel study is travel, so we’re going to go out there. I don’t know, Karen or Sandy, one of you mentioned that you guys are scheduled to go to Italy in May, then? That’s coming up. And I’m scheduled to head off to Finland. Fingers-crossed, these things are happening, so that’s great.
But it feels like this experience has actually given us lessons, that there’s really ongoing value from these innovations. I’m really interested to get your take on. Where do you see this idea of virtual study abroad going forward? What do you think is going to happen with it? And how are we going to continue to innovate? I… it’s an open question.
We really found that that’s a different audience. The students that do the virtual experience for whatever reason — they can’t afford it, they’re afraid of travel, they’re working — they’ve got so many other things in life that sometimes this is the experience that they can fit in. So we found that sometimes the student that actually gets on the plane with us is not the same student that attends virtually. That’s an interesting aha moment for us, when we figured that one out.
But also, sometimes the virtual experience prepares them to do a boots-on-the-ground, get-on-the-plane kind of an experience. That they realize this is something that they didn’t quite consider before which prepares them, and maybe their parents, maybe their families, maybe whatever else was holding them back. Maybe they also realize that this is something that’s a wonderful experience, such a great learning tool. So yeah, we found that one leads to the other, but also that there’s different audiences.
That makes sense. That really parallels what we see in online education, overall. There are some audiences, particularly adult learners, sometimes called non-traditional learners, that they’re got very busy lives, they’ve got jobs, they’re in some far away place, and they don’t have the opportunity of going to campus, even if they wanted to.
It really makes the pie way bigger. Instead of saying, “it’s going to be half virtual and half not,” it’s all of a sudden the pie’s 10 times as big as it was, because we can have the physical travel still going on in places but there’s gonna be so much more opportunity to build virtual field trips. They’re not without work and cost, but there something that could be developed on a bigger scale, it seems to me. I haven’t run the numbers on that, but that’s just my reaction.
Other thoughts on where virtual study abroad is going to end up Tori. How about you take a shot at.
I’d love to jump in there, Dan. I think certainly it is here to stay, whether it looks exactly like it does today, or we keep innovating. I think some of the things we’re seeing now and trying to expand upon and improve upon it, certainly at Deakin and with other partners, is adding another dimension to that virtual experience. Okay, so we’ve got our foundation. How do we then enhance that experience further for student?
One of the things we’re doing is creating virtual reality spaces and an environment. So we’re working on a marine environment, currently, where we’re building out assets. Where we can meet our partners in this virtual space and discuss animals, plant life, flora and fauna, of our marine environments, and, and be able to meet them in a virtual space that we’ve created together.
So it’s really just finding ways. How do we add another dimension to this virtual or digital experience as we continue to see it develop? Because I certainly don’t think it’s going anywhere. We all need to be conscious of the fact that we have some responsibility in terms of sustainability and travel. How do we create places and experiences where our students can meet and continue to have engaging experiences?
I love that because, as someone who’s pedagogy, and andragogy, and research is place-based, it’s not just necessarily going to Rome, or going to London. It can also be about going to the bottom of the ocean, or going to the top of the Himalaya. And clearly you’re not going to run a set of students to the top of Mount Everest. That’s not going to happen. But as someone who wants to expose his learners to places, then all of a sudden these innovations opened up so many possibilities. I, there’s resources that have to be developed for it, but the opportunity, the mindset really expands. That’s very encouraging.
Karen, what are your thoughts? You’re the Interim Dean of Academic Programs so you get the official sort of soapbox on this one.
I think this is a sustainable model for student learning when Sandy and I pitched this to our Global Studies leaders, back when the pandemic was first hitting, we thought, well, this is a Band-Aid. But when we started building it and started executing that virtual program, we looked at each other and said, “you know what? This is a wonderful learning opportunity for students who we otherwise would not have engaged. We’d like to do this on an ongoing basis!”
So we put the course through the Faculty Senate and got it approved for ongoing online teaching. We’re teaching it every summer. We are going boots-on-the-ground in May, and we’re teaching the virtual version in June. We hope that at some point we may be able to figure out a way for those two student groups to interact over time and share experiences. I think Tori’s team has done interact with students across the globe virtually. And so we really do see this as a, an ongoing element of just good education experiences for our students. We’re really excited and honored to be part of the whole process.
That’s wonderful. I mean, you already have a couple of years now of, of student reaction and clearly it’s been positive because you’re moving forward with even more investment in this area, but the value added to the learner, it strikes me, is very high.
If I can add my own little anecdote to this… the word hybrid came up in our earlier conversation and I’ve got three trips that I’m planning right now that are going in April, May, and June. Talking with you all changed my mindset a little bit, because I’m responsible for both the trip and also the lead up context to the trip.
And it’s wait a second… instead of “read these 10 articles kind of thing, go read the CIA fact book, get some data about this,” we can just start the field trip three weeks earlier. But we can say, and this is literally what I wrote in the lesson plan, “the field trip starts here, now. This is the virtual par, portion of the field trip, and then we’re going to be in country for 10 days, and it’s all one experience.
Now that I’ve talked to you more, I’ve even got more ideas. To re-frame what I wanted to do with these three weeks that I have before the trip goes — wait a second, it can be more immersive. It can be more experiential. It can be more fun, quite frankly. And it can be more collaborative. All of the things that we want to be doing, building community, building cultural awareness, and building specific knowledge.
In my case, the subject areas are around sustainability. It’s a small tweak to re-frame your approach, but to me it’s actually been quite valuable to rethink that this is a hybrid-type situation. Where I’ve got 10 days in-country, and I’ve got 21 days before country, but it’s really all one trip, one experience. It’s not just a bunch of assignments, and then the fun starts. No, we can start before that. So thank you all!
I’ve taken a lot of your time. You all have worked together um, before. Now that we’ve had this conversation, do you have any questions of each other, or of me, that you would like to throw out on the table for brainstorming purposes?
We had chatted with Tori in the past… the possibility of maybe some of our students interacting and a little bit of cross-pollination there. And maybe sharing some of the student feedback, and learning from the successes, as well as the, you know, maybe not so successful elements of the program. I think our last phone conversation, we said, we need to do another conference presentation. So we’re thinking that.
We really love, also, Wired Ivy. I wasn’t really as in-tune to all the cool things you’re doing. Being a part of this has been really great, and we appreciate that!
Well, thank you very much, Karen. But I really have to thank all of you, first of all, for the work that you’re doing in the innovative space of online learning, but even more importantly, thank you for sharing on Wired Ivy so we can really help get the word out together.
Our guest today were Karen Edwards and Sandy Strick from the University of South Carolina, and Tori Ellenberger from Deakin University in Melbourne. I cannot tell you how appreciative we are that you joined us on Wired Ivy today. Thank you so much, everybody.
It’s been a lot of fun.
Dan, hi! How are you?
I’m doing great this afternoon. Thank you.
I had a chance to listen to your interview with Karen and Sandy from University of South Carolina, and Tori from Deakin University in Melbourne, and… wow! I mean, I was just, as you know, we struggled with this same problem of having study abroad trips, prepared and ready to go, not being able to go. And I have to admit, I’m a bit embarrassed to say that, as somebody who’s running an online program, who’s been an online student, who’s been doing all this…. it never occurred to me that we could have tried to stand up a virtual facsimile of that experience for our students.
I was a bit chagrined the same way. I mean, considering I was literally in Argentina planning a global study trip when the world started shutting down, it didn’t didn’t occur to me, well, let’s just run the trip in the same time frame…
DAN 44:52 .
..you know, and use our technology and our skills and do it virtually. But living and learn.
I’m going to chalk it up to, there was a lot of other things going on and maybe I just didn’t have the mental bandwidth time. But I’m so glad that our guests have opened my eyes to this. I think Tori was the one who mentioned that, even though these virtual programs were brought on as a kind of Band-Aid to address immediate need and solve a problem, her take on it is that they’re here to stay. Because what they’ve learned is many of the things that they implemented are really useful for feeding the traditional models of education and creating better outcomes.
And I know you got really excited about the ways virtual can start to build that learner community that you are really aiming for. I think at one point you said, “the trip doesn’t start when you get on the plane. From now on your trips are going to start in the 21 days before departure.
How are you going to implement that? I’m, I’m sure your, your brain has just been spinning with things that you could do.
It has been, and partly because of the timeliness of, of talking with Karen and Sandy and Tori. I think both Sandy and Karen also said something comparable… this is definitely here to stay. Um, even though, clearly, it was a response to things that happened two years ago.
It was sort of fun to think about what I need to do. There’s a key word here, which is “experience.” I mean, global field study is an experiential form of learning. That’s what you’re trying to create, unequivocally. That’s what it is.
So here we have a question of, well, wait a second… the whole package is not just the 10 days that are there. You know, anytime I lead one of these trips, I’ve got a chunk of time to work with the learners beforehand and get them up to speed with the itinerary, and where we’re going, and whom we’re meeting, and things like that… instead of making that perfunctory – and I hope it wasn’t actually perfunctory, so maybe I’m downplaying it a little bit – but instead of having that be packing the suitcase, let’s instead have it be no, no, this is already part of the trip, you know?
Mmmhmm. As I was thinking about it, of course, we know that some of our students are very experienced with international travel…
…and some of them have never been on a plane. Our trips are not the standard everybody-gets-on-the-plane-together because our students are starting out from their individual locations. They’re not all on campus. And that part is sometimes a little bit intimidating.
You get past all that anxiety, uncertainty, the newness, and now you’ve cleared the decks for them to focus on the topic of the learning objectives.
Right. Yes. I’m going to be very curious after these, um, with these next two trips that are, that are imminent for me, whether the learners have a much smoother movement into the itinerary. Because I’ve made assignments, and I’ve said, okay, post 360s. If you don’t, can’t find it 360, find a good hi-def video of this place, this place, or this place. And it’s a group, so it’s a collective effort. Some of them will post about the airport, and some of them will post about downtown, and some of them will posted flyovers. There’s some, some nice drone footages and it’s like, “okay, that’s where you’re staying, that’s where the train station is.” You know, I can, I can point these things out on the flyover.
So I’m going to be curious to see if just that much familiarity makes the transition into the actual itinerary of the trip a bit smoother and more comfortable I think.
Yeah. I am always excited about any approach to teaching that blurs the line between virtual and non-virtual.
Yeah,, we’re going to need another word… you know, we’re already struggling with blended, hybrid, high flex. Well, what is it… like, we need a new word for what…
Gradient learning? I don’t know.
Oh, that’s kinda nice. Yeah, that’s kinda nice.
That’s not, you know, covers some of our bases. Yeah. No, I, it’s great when we’re using this technology, whether we’re meeting people face-to-face in a classroom, or we’re working with people across the globe, there’s a lot of technology that, not only is it not in the way, but rather it’s a tool. You know, we’re not teaching because of the technology, we’re using the technology to enable us to get to the learning outcomes that we want to have. And, you know, that’s fun. That’s just innovative and fun.
For our program, that you and I work in, this being the one thing that happens synchronously, in-person. I think it’s very natural for us, let’s have a ramp, you know, let’s have a gradient that goes from the space that we’re used to working in, to this space in downtown Helsinki, or one of many of the other cities that we go to. And it’s not a hard and fast division between these modes of learning. Should all be seamless.
Shifting smoothly between these different realms… I love it! I can’t wait to see how this is going to impact what we do in these spaces, because I think there’s just great potential here.
Well, I think I’ll have to do a summer short for Wired Ivy just to report back. So we’ll, we’ll get that in there sometime in the summer.
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Until next time, this is Dan Marcucci…
… and I’m Kieran Lindsey.
DAN & KIERAN 50:31
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