Chronicle of Higher Education
Section: INTERNATIONALVolume 54, Issue 10, Page A35
By Karin Fischer
To Connect With Foreign Students, Champlain College Taps Into Technology
Some colleges are bringing foreign students into their classrooms through video and computer hookups. One professor's experience at Champlain College, in Vermont, shows how a little ingenuity and a lot of persistence can go a long way.
In 2003, Gary Evans Scudder Jr., a professor of history, thought it would be a great idea to connect his senior class on world issues with foreign students at a campus in Dubai then owned by Champlain. He cajoled the college's information-technology staff members to set up a secure online discussion forum, and the global-modules program was born.
The concept is simple: For four weeks during a semester, students at Champlain and a partner institution overseas tackle shared readings, then discuss the material online. The focus is usually thematic, so as not to limit the discussion to specific courses.
After that first success with Dubai, Mr. Scudder scouted out other interested universities, sometimes by simply sending out blanket e-mail messages to key departments. Champlain students have discussed peace activism with Austrians, women's issues with Moroccans, and Aristotle's concept of friendship with students at a college in Israel.
Mr. Scudder says the conversations have opened students' eyes to new ways of seeing the world. For example, one discussion centered on a controversial cartoon of Muhammad published in a Danish newspaper, with Jordanian students explaining why they found the depiction offensive. "I could have talked about that in class every day, and it wouldn't have had the same impact," says Mr. Scudder.
His work has also had a broader impact at Champlain. The college has adopted a new core curriculum that integrates his global modules program. Beginning next spring with the freshman class, all students will take one course a year that includes a module. This fall Mr. Scudder, who recently won a campuswide teaching award, has been given time off from his classroom duties to travel the globe recruiting new partners.