Building Bridges Worldwide: CCI’s VEPD Course for Faculty and Administrators

CoreCollaborative International offers an online, in-depth professional development training course that equips faculty and administrators around the world in the creation and implementation of virtual exchange programs. Globally networked teaching and learning or virtual exchange – umbrella terms that encompass Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) – refer to educational programs that allow geographically separated learners to interact and learn together.

CCI’s course, entitled “Virtual Exchange Professional Development (VEPD),” was developed in 2020 in response to growing interest in virtual exchange on the parts of university faculty and administrators. Though virtual exchange found its origins in the late 1980s, it wasn’t until the 2006 establishment of the SUNY COIL Center that universities began to recognize it as a major tool for internationalization. Virtual exchange internationalizes curricula while offering a low-cost and easily accessible way for both students and faculty to engage internationally.

Around the world, virtual exchange was brought into greater demand as COVID-19-grounded study abroad programs, and institutions searched for alternatives to student mobility. Some institutions already had healthy virtual exchange programs, supported by the SUNY Center, UNICollaboration, and other organizations both in the US and abroad. Many other institutions had interest but needed help in training faculty on how to build courses, or in taking their programs to the next level in terms of funding and institutional support. The CCI team put together the online training course as a response to these needs.

Hosted on CCI’s Canvas site, VEPD is a six-module course designed for virtual exchange coordinators and trainers as they seek to support their faculty and staff peers in designing and delivering virtual exchange programs. In partnership with filmmakers at Crossing Borders Education, the course pairs dynamic asynchronous modules with live, synchronous sessions. Learners receive mentorship, tools, and frameworks for creating and implementing their own virtual exchange instruction.

CCI’s VEPD stands out. The VEPD provides a full understanding of the context behind virtual exchange. VEPD covers all the foundational pieces of adult learning theory, assessment, intercultural competence development, institutional behavior, and tools with strategies that go into a successful virtual exchange program.

Participants learn, for example, about adult learning principles, student-centered course design, intercultural competency development, how to set relevant course objectives and assessments, and how to ensure programmatic sustainability within their institutions. Giving participants the full picture ensures that they’ll be able to effect meaningful programs, no matter how their situations change.

Crucially, VEPD is also based on a unique human needs framework.  Research-based course materials and the instructors who deliver them respond to the individual needs that learners bring to each experience. The result is transformative learning for all, regardless of the learners’ experience level or previous contact with the course concepts. Throughout, the instructional team also models innovative techniques to make the virtual environment personal and engaging, thus providing participants with blueprints for how they can create productive virtual environments at their own institutions.

VEPD course materials were put together by experts in global learning, instructional design, assessment, and online learning facilitation, and are flexible in intent. Designed initially as a train-the-trainer experience, one iteration of the course was also tailored to meet the needs of individual faculty members and global faculty teams seeking to add a virtual exchange element to their classes. In either form, the course includes an open forum, regular mentorship from experts, and the opportunity for participants to complete a comprehensive implementation plan. Collectively, course participants build a robust community of practice that they rely on long after they complete the course.

Learning outcomes from the course include participants’ being able to:

  • Recognize the importance of the connection between appropriate instructional practice and student learning.
  • Develop relevant, measurable learning objectives for virtual learning experiences.
  • Recognize the elements that comprise a virtual exchange experience.
  • Understand how to embed, strengthen, and locate support for virtual exchange activities within their institution.
  • Support intercultural competency development in learners, enabling them to be more successful in their relationships and work/studies with diverse others.
  • Understand how to identify assessment strategies that align with learning objectives and account for who students are.

Past participants in CCI’s VEPD, both faculty and administrator, represent a wide array of disciplinary backgrounds. Across the globe, collaborative and productive partnerships have been forged among course participants, which continue to grow to this day. Two examples are: 

  • Two faculty from the Economics and Epidemiology departments in Argentina collaborated to create a virtual exchange program with a Nursing department in the US, in which students examined the financial ramifications of COVID-19 on healthcare systems.
  • Students in the UK and US collaborated around how society embeds meaning in the symbols people create, led by a UK-US faculty team representing Film Studies and Education Technology. 

Course participants have offered high praise for the VEPD learning experience. One commended the multi-modality course materials: “Great fit between the asynchronous assignments and the synchronous session. It brought home for me the nitty gritty of what to think about when designing learning outcomes and the use of technologies.” Another commented on the transformative learning experienced, even early on, by the group: “I was struck by the energetic and emotional 360 that many of the faculty/participants took in just one session – from anxious, overwhelmed by the prospect of creating VE courses/programs to excited and eager to collaborate and get their creative juices flowing. That was pretty amazing to witness.”

CoreCollaborative International’s Virtual Exchange Professional Development course is open for enrollment to institutional teams, global partnerships, and individuals at universities and organizations worldwide. For more information on how your institution can benefit from this learning, please contact the CCI team.