Redefining Study Abroad

May 26, 2016 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

An Interview with CAPA President & CEO John Christian


As CAPA grows and evolves as a study abroad organization, we continue to look for ways to innovate and improve and to create opportunities for our students to develop both personally and professionally. Last year, we launched C-GEN: CAPA The Global Education Network. Now, we're using some exciting new technology that makes it possible for students to learn and collaborate across multiple cities.

Below, CAPA's President and CEO John Christian goes into depth about why this approach is important, how techonology plays a key role and some of the key skills it will help students develop as they prepare for careers in an increasingly global world.

CAPA WORLD: Tell us about the global education network. What is it and how does technology play a role?
JOHN CHRISTIAN: The Global Education Network is a new approach to teaching and learning in study abroad. Essentially, through the use of technology and a global learning management system, we’ve enabled our classrooms to see, hear and connect with each other across CAPA’s study abroad sites.  

CAPA’s global classrooms enable faculty to participate in collaborative team teaching across multiple sites with multiple student communities. Students can also engage in project work with students from other CAPA locations. We’re going beyond by taking learning abroad from an international perspective, where American students travel and learn in their study abroad destination, to a transnational perspective in which students are actually connected to and are learning from more than one global city. 

At the core of this learning experience are CAPA’s learning and development outcomes: globalization, social dynamics, urban environments, diversity and personal and professional development.


CW: Why is this technology important for CAPA? How has it re-defined study abroad education?
JC: At CAPA we’re constantly looking for ways to bring new approaches and innovation to learning abroad. These technologies are enabling us to incorporate real global experiences into our programs, without the need to travel to multiple locations.

By using technology to go beyond conventional approaches to learning abroad, we can better prepare students for the future: a future in which the knowledge and skills acquired through a truly global study abroad experience give our students an advantage in the highly competitive post-graduation world of careers and graduate schools.

Screenshot: CANVAS My Global Education calendar page

CW: How will the global network technology be used going forward?
JC: There are four different ways that we will bring a global perspective to the student experience.

1. TEAM TEACHING. The first one is through collaborative team teaching. This means that students in select courses will actually be learning from two instructors – one in the location where they are studying abroad and another in a different CAPA global city. Essentially, it’s just like team teaching in America. It means that two instructors are actually teaching the course, but in this case, they’re in two different locations. There might be a faculty member in Dublin and a faculty member in London team teaching a course, each of whom has a cohort of students locally. This allows both faculty and students to learn from two faculty perspectives as well as from two urban environments, therefore allowing them to form a global comparative of the subject.

2. PROJECT WORK. Students in multiple cities will work on different projects together. An example could be an international marketing course in which students could look at one product’s placement in three different locations: say, London, Shanghai and Sydney. These students would be engaged in collaborative working groups where they do the research, analysis and development on these product placements in these destinations and therefore learn what it’s like to place a product in Shanghai, the same product in London and again in Sydney. The consideration of cultural and market differences will help them better understand global product placement.

3. CAPA TALKS. These global talks are international guest lectures that our faculty stream into their classrooms. As these talks can come from all over the world, it allows for academic content far beyond CAPA’s physical study locations. By bringing in people from outside of our network, students will again gain another perspective on the topics that they’re learning.

4. SOCIAL AND ACADEMIC COMMUNITIES. Students can talk to each other through this technology called student communities. These communities will be both social and academic. As with other networking platforms, students in different CAPA locations will be able to share photos and experiences and learn from one another’s stories.

Students benefit greatly by sharing an experience and learning from other students who have faced similar or different challenges and how they have developed while they’re abroad. For example, a student in Shanghai and a student in Florence may have the very same experience of getting lost, feeling a little nervous and growing more confident as they go along; these communities give them the opportunity to share this, to encourage each other, and to gain an appreciation of how such experiences are not only common but transnational.

Students will also be placed into academic communities, allowing them to create consulting groups and engage in course-related discussions across multiple cities.

The communities will be both fun and educational. They also build a network of students who are henceforth connected to one another, thereby also expanding the CAPA alumni network and the opportunity to stay connected and supportive long after the CAPA program ends.

Screenshot: CANVAS homepage for a course set up for CAPA faculty and staff

CW: Is there a timeline for the full development of The Global Education Network technology?
We are halfway to where we want to be when it’s fully functioning. Faculty are currently experimenting in team teaching environments as well as welcoming international guest lecturers.

By autumn 2016 and spring 2017, we will have multiple courses engaged in collaborative team teaching environments. Again, this means students will actually see each other in classrooms in different cities, have two faculty members – one locally and another in a different location – and be equipped to engage in a comparative analysis of their academic work across two sites. We’re very excited about that! Additionally, in autumn 2016, students will be working in a learning management system called CANVAS in which they will be able to connect with students in different locations, gaining a real understanding of what happens across CAPA world.

In addition to this we are really excited to announce the integration of library access into our learning management system, CANVAS. From autumn 2016, global city program students will be able to access the State University of New York College at Oswego’s library system. Faculty and students across the CAPA globe will be able to share the same academic resources, participate in joint research and know that they have a top notch and comprehensive academic library to support their course work and individual interests.

Screenshot: CAPA Sydney My Global Education calendar

CW: Can you give us some examples of how this technology is currently being used across CAPA global cities?
JC: One recent example of how The Global Education Network provides us with an opportunity for transnational teaching and learning was demonstrated at the International Human Rights Conference that CAPA hosted in our London center. We welcomed delegates from various human rights organizations including the Innocence Project, Stonewall and Womankind Worldwide

Students in London, Florence and Dublin and colleagues in Boston were all plugged into the network and were able to participate in this event for a full day. We were able to stream in video contributions from other people around the world as well as have dialogs across multiple sites. In that sense, we achieved a virtual connection, and a real connection, across the CAPA network on the topic of human rights. We’re receiving many compliments from our students and our professional community on just how amazing it was to be able to engage with a topic without actually having to be there physically.


CW: What do you hope study abroad students will gain from having access to this new technology? How will the way in which they learn change?
A major component to CAPA’s learning abroad methodology is personal and professional development. We’re creating courses that have outcomes that help students understand what professional skills and personal development they are gaining by learning abroad with us. 

Our wish is that by creating this intentional engagement with their study abroad experience, they will understand how to interpret, document and, later, present and articulate an experience that has generated real valuable skills as they enter the job market or apply for graduate school.


CW: What are some of the key skills this technology will help students develop for their future?
JC: It isn’t just all about getting a career after graduation, but their learning with CAPA could substantially impact their future – both professionally and personally. The fact that we’re offering students a more diverse and global view in their academic coursework and internships is going to prepare them for what is becoming a globally interdependent world.

Whether CAPA alumni end up working in the US or abroad, this skill of appreciating diversity is going to be invaluable. But there are other important skills to learn here, like how to collaborate in an online environment. The world is going global. It doesn’t even necessarily mean you have to leave the US because the world is becoming increasingly virtual. Being able to collaborate online, to engage with people, to understand the protocols of online engagement, including online engagement in an international environment, and to appreciate the benefits and the difficulties that come with the use of globally connected technology are skills that will be highly valuable. Most organizations students will work for in the future will hold meetings with people in another room or may have a branch in another country. They are going to require employees to learn, contribute and present on a virtual scale. That may seem like a small thing, but it’s becoming a very large and very important area of expertise. Those are just a few of the things that are going to come out of this.

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Topics: International Education, Interviews