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ECU's Global classroom ends semester

(Apr. 20, 2004)   —   As if glitches on the screen, heavy pixilation and power outages weren't enough, then someone trips on a cord in Switzerland, causing the Internet connection to drop.

If Murphy's Law applies to academic environments, East Carolina University's Global Classroom in the new Science and Technology Building has more than its fair share. But that's all part of the learning process in this latest form of global education.

"Sometimes the technology fails," said Elmer Poe, who, along with Rosina Chia, created ECU's Global Classroom. "And we expect that."

Participants say the technical and communication challenges are part of the project, which expanded this year to include China, the Gambia and Switzerland.

Tuesday students from the four nations said goodbye to each other on screen as part of the ceremonial farewell. "The world is becoming a smaller place, even for the 98 percent of students in any country who cannot participate in study abroad programs," said Chia, ECU's interim assistant vice chancellor for global academic initiatives.

For ECU student Joe Wolyniak, who has participated in the venture twice and will participate in a class with Russia this summer, the world is shrinking by the semester.

"I'm very interested in Africa, so to me the Gambia was the most interesting new element of the course," he said. "Gambia loses power eight to 10 times a day and they had to receive special arrangements from the power company to participate. For them to join us was really an honor."

The course includes more than 40 students from four continents who meet and interact, using real-time digital video feed and e-mail. Students team with each other through e-mail and then engage in group discussions during class time. Topics including family, media, philosophy and business are discussed. Professors from all four institutions participate in teaching the class.

For professors and students alike, the relationships established during the course of the semester will continue. One ECU student will meet up with her Swiss partner, Zsolt, this summer in Venice. The two now talk every day and hope to tour the city together.

For others involved, the expansion of the global classroom to the Gambia and Switzerland piqued the interest of other U.S. colleges and universities who wish to increase their global scale. Plans are in the works to help other academic institutions this summer get set up with ECU's model of the global classroom. For ECU, two global classes are on the horizon for the fall of 2004 involving partnerships with universities in Russia and South Africa.

At the closing ceremony, future expansion was recognized as inevitable.

"I really feel proud to be a part of this," said an administrator at China's Soochow University via live feed. "Five to 10 years in the future, I believe this type of program will be common in the classroom."


Contact: ECU News Bureau | 252-328-6481