Creating Global Classrooms

A global classroom is an initiative between two partner universities, often in different countries, designed to bring students together through a project or collaboration. These can work in any academic discipline—the objective is to increase cross-cultural awareness while the student learns about the course subject.

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A global classroom is an initiative between two partner universities, often in different countries, designed to bring students together through a project or collaboration. These can work in any academic discipline—the objective is to increase cross-cultural awareness while the student learns about the course subject. The global classroom that my partners and I created had three cultural learnings as objectives:  knowledge, skills, and attitudes. The knowledge aspect was to embrace cultural awareness across two different universities in two continents. We had students establish cultural differences and work to ensure that their project incorporated those differences into the outcome. The second objective was to develop skills in long-distance communication and collaboration. Lastly, we wanted students to learn about other cultures through their interaction with peers in other countries. The classroom project between Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the University of Leeds in Leeds, England, was a “Six-Minute Pitch.” We chose it because the project tied into the disciplinary teachings of both universities. The Drexel University course was Foundations of Business, whereas the University of Leeds course was Starting Your Own Business. The classes were not synched in any other way beyond the project, but the business concepts behind the project were taught in both courses, so the project reinforced those. Additionally, both student groups learned about the project by watching popular television programs in their respective countries that had a similar theme: Shark Tank in the United States and Dragons' Den in the United Kingdom. There was, therefore, a “common language” between the two student groups in terms of media. However, there were also many dissimilarities in which new product ideas could work in the United Kingdom but would not in the United States and vice versa, prompting vibrant research, discussion, and learning among the pitch project teams as they developed ideas. So how did this global classroom project work? Twelve teams created product pitch ideas. The teams had a close to equal balance of students from both institutions. The pitches were presented live via Skype sessions, with both global classrooms logged in simultaneously across multiple screens. Students on both sides pitched their ideas in well-thought-out and prepared presentations. Faculty and all students attended the sessions. Both Drexel and Leeds faculty invited guest judges/panelists to join in as well (from industry and from alumni), and the judges were given evaluation forms that assessed not only teamwork and communication skills, but also the feasibility of the pitch in their respective country. Judges on both sides had the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback, and students together alternated answering and interacting with the panel. Judges then selected the top two pitches as the winners. Students reflected on the global classroom experience after the pitches, what they learned, how they learned, the connections they made, and how they may apply the experience in their future academic and professional careers. Through these responses, as well as through post-project surveys, data are being collected on the impact of participation in a global classroom in regards to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes used and acquired, as well as how the exposure to global experiences early in the academic curricula affected students' interest and activity in further study and work abroad.  We anticipate increased student engagement, commitment, and international experience as outcomes following this global classroom. Based on over two years of experience, the following are some lessons learned about how to execute a global classroom: While they require some effort, global classrooms can be a valuable learning experience for students. Emilee Simmons is the director of enhancement at the University of Leeds. Dana D'Angelo is a clinical professor and Jodi Cataline is an associate clinical professor at Drexel University.