UCSC faculty reflect on the Global Classrooms experience

In 2020, the Global Classrooms initiative was launched by the Division of Global Engagement to increase opportunity and access to global learning opportunities for all students. The initiative introduces Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) to courses – a pedagogical approach that leverages online learning technologies and project-based learning to incorporate international experiences for students in the classroom.

Melvin Cox, lecturer at Merrill College, who delivered a Global Classroom in fall 2021, immediately saw the potential of the Global Classrooms opportunity after mobility paused due to the pandemic. Global Classrooms stood out as a timely way to open intercultural experiences to all UCSC students by incorporating online, project-based learning with international peers.

“It felt very natural to develop my course into a Global Classroom as a partnership was already underway with the Cooperative University of Kenya to host a faculty-led Global Seminar there in 2023. Mobility, in a way, was no longer a barrier for international education,” said Cox.

Cox states that one unique aspect of the professional development for Global Classrooms focuses on building up faculty competency with intercultural issues in the classroom, such as differences in verbal and nonverbal behaviors. This includes a faculty member’s ability to be culturally aware and overcome common communication barriers in the classroom.

Merrill College Provost Elizabeth Abrams, who also delivered a Global Classroom in fall 2021, states that faculty benefit from collaboration with other professionals in areas of teaching, learning, and curriculum enhancement that are often developed individually. 

“We have the opportunity to work as part of a team and learn about what other institutions consider to be valuable for their undergraduates. Working with teaching partners, we benefit from another’s perspective and area of expertise,” Abrams said.

The Global Classrooms initiative incorporates course design methodologies and pedagogical approaches that complement existing outcomes of the college core. “I found it remarkable that the outcomes for the COIL model meshed so neatly with the learning outcomes for UCSC College One,” Abrams said. “I hope to one day see a Global Classroom section offered as a core class at each of our Colleges.”

Cox believes one of the criteria for student success in a Global Classroom is cooperation and collaboration. “While students often feel they are able to perform well in class on their own, they must learn to work with someone who may be in another state or even another country. That is how they will truly learn about international cooperation, a vital skill for professional situations,” Cox said.

Cox and Abrams agree that the work that goes into Global Classrooms development, while not without challenges, is well worth the effort, as international collaboration is paramount to the academic and professional preparedness of students.

“Our students stand to gain so much. Not only do they get an understanding of people and issues in another part of the world, but they also find similarities among these peers and make connections that will last for many years,” Cox said.

“When we approach topics like water resiliency in Kenya and California or press freedom in Kenya and the U.S., students explore those questions with a new lens. If students can begin to see through other people’s eyes, then they can begin to understand what it is to be a citizen of the world,” Abrams said.

Participation in the Global Classrooms initiative does not require prior international faculty partnerships or experience with international education. 

Learn more at the Global Classrooms webpage, and stay tuned there for details of a new call for applications to be announced in late fall 2022.

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