Global Connections: Leveraging virtual exchanges in New York

Three community colleges in rural New York leverage online education to provide experiences for U.S. students and to tap international students.

Tompkins-Cortland Community College (TC3), Genesee Community College and Broome Community College are examples of small rural colleges in upstate New York that use their online presence to deliver international programs. They are part of the SUNY Center for Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL), which has received great national and international attention.

More than two decades ago, the State University of New York created COIL to allow its students an opportunity to participate in two-way, interactive online classrooms with students in other countries. According to the COIL model, faculty in both countries co-create a class by working together to form the syllabus and plan classroom activities based on academic principles that promote substantive experiential and collaborative learning. Classes can be completely online or have a blended format, which consists of face-to-face online interactions between schools, as well as separate offline interactions within each school.

In 2016, COIL received an ASPEN Stevens Initiative grant to establish partnerships and virtual exchanges with schools in the Middle East and North Africa. As a result, several COIL-participating colleges established partnerships with higher education institutions in Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco.

Providing alternative pathways

Keeping pace with advances in technology, several SUNY COIL institutions have reached across geographic boundaries to forge new international partnerships and innovations using online and virtual technology.

TC3 found partners in South America and Europe through its creation of Global Connections, a dual-degree program that allows international students to study in their home countries during the normal school semester. International students can complete TC3 classes entirely online or combined with in-classroom instruction.

Students in the program can then come to the TC3 campus during summer breaks or after graduation in their home countries to complete their U.S. associate degrees. Successful students can then transfer to any of TC3’s transfer partners, which include Ivy League and other highly regarded U.S. institutions, including Cornell University and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Multiple learning options

Genesee created the 360 Learning Option to reach all students regardless of their location. With the 360 Option, online and in-classroom instruction occurs at the same time. Students can participate on their computers, iPads or any other smart communication device. Faculty (including more than one instructor in different locations) can provide two-way, interactive instruction and share content over the Internet with students who are online and in the classroom.

Online students can “raise their hands” to answer questions and participate in classroom discussions as if they were all physically present at the same location. They can also give “remote control” to an instructor or a student for demonstrations or instructional support. Each class is recorded for later playback for students unable to attend the live class or who wish to review the material. Genesee promotes the 360 Learning Option to a wide range of users, including prospective international students and local multinational businesses that wish to engage in remote employee training.

Leveraging relationships

Broome created its dual-degree and joint-degree programs with a university in Novosibirsk, Russia, and another in Cartagena, Colombia. Currently, Broome’s students in Russia take all online courses. In Colombia, Broome has leveraged its relationship for online course delivery to also develop student and faculty exchange opportunities. Each partnership expands upon Broome’s mission of participating in a diverse educational environment and provides concomitant international professional development opportunities for faculty and staff who can bring their experiences back to the college classroom and campus life.

In all, there are 11 community colleges in New York participating in the COIL program.

About the Author

Wayne Wheeler
is director of international programs and services at the American Association of Community Colleges.