The University of Worcester is exploring online educational co-operations with a US university partner to give students a more truly global education.
The seven-year partnership between Worcester and the University of Minnesota Duluth has involved well over a hundred students and staff involved in educational exchange. Minnesota students have spent up to a year at Worcester and have proved very popular as have Worcester students when they have studied for a semester in the USA.
Now two leading educators from the University of Minnesota Duluth have just completed intensive discussions at the University of Worcester on new ways for the two Universities to work together, using advances in digital technology, to communicate across cyberspace and introduce a valuable new dimension to students" education.
University of Worcester Vice Chancellor, Professor David Green, who met with the visitors, said: "We have had a very happy and productive partnership with the University of Minnesota Duluth for several years involving many areas of the University's research and education. We are delighted that we are now exploring the prospect of co-operating in a systematic way using modern digital technology. We are fully committed to systematically working to improve educational contact, content and connections. Society, business and education are becoming ever more global. The ability to work across continents and cultures is ever more needed.""The employment record of Worcester graduates is already in the top 10 in the UK. This development will help prepare our future graduates with the skills and international cultural know-how which are ever more important."
The two academics spearheading this development from the University of Minnesota Duluth are Dr Helen Mongan-Rallis, Associate Professor of Education and Dr David Syring, Associate Professor of Anthropology." Both are highly experienced in working with educational partners using online channels. During their visit to Worcester, the two American academics identified a dozen potential areas for partnership working.
Dr Mongan-Rallis said: "With developments in the internet, students will be working with people online all over the world.
"Students cannot always afford to travel. This way they have the opportunity to collaborate. This will not replicate being at another university physically, but it will give that all important opportunity to talk about different cultural perspectives on the issues of the day."
Approaches could range from a guest lecturer speaking remotely, to fully integrated, digitally enabled programmes.
Dr Mongan-Rallis said that it was about more than just working together on projects, but also about how students from different countries engage with each other through social media platforms. "It's about developing intercultural skills and being able to collaborate with people in other parts of the world," she said. "Things that are important in one culture are not necessarily important in another so it's about how to navigate that with sensitivity."
Dr Mongan-Rallis said that her department had already been using online technology to communicate with a school in Cambodia, a connection that Worcester could also link into. This is just one of several online international partnerships that the University of Minnesota Duluth has created with schools, including in Mexico and Ireland.
"Many students studying to be teachers are going to be in schools teaching children from all over the world and it's so important that they understand the cultural complexities in their classroom," added Dr Mongan-Rallis.