World-Wide Learning Environment

A $205,000 grant from the McGregor Fund supports a College of Arts and Sciences project to promote collaborations around the globe through the use of advanced communication technologies. Led by principal investigator Molly W. Berger, Instructor of History and Associate Dean, and beginning in fall 2006, an inter-disciplinary cadre of faculty has participated in this internationalization initiative.

The McGregor grant has supported faculty as they develop new and innovative ways to build international experiences into the educational lives of CWRU undergraduates through travel, the development of international relationships in courses and programs, and innovative teaching and learning initiatives that result in expanded international experiences. The goal is not only to increase the numbers of international learning experiences available for undergraduates and the number of students participating, but also to transform these experiences by leveraging the university’s information technology structure. As a result, nineteen projects have connected CWRU undergraduates to peers in China, Cameroon, Brazil, Denmark, Turkey and a host of other countries. Even though the funding ends in December 2010, most of the projects will continue on and have proliferated through additional projects.

One example of the impact of the World-Wide Learning Environment grant is Biology 301—Biotechnology Laboratory: Genes and Genetic Engineering. Using grant funds, Christopher Cullis, Professor of Biology, refocused this course on the development of new molecular markers for under-utilized crops in Africa--marama bean, bambara nut, cassava and cowpea.  Before international connections for this course were developed, students were only able to connect with the use of these crops through the literature.  Building on his research contacts in southern Africa, Cullis connects his students with researchers and students in Africa through the use of advanced communication technology. Through interactive lectures and conversations, CWRU students discuss their research interests and, in an interactive net conference at the end of the course, describe their results to their African fellow students. As new markers become available, African partner students report back to CWRU undergraduates on their usefulness. As a result of this ongoing and regularly offered course, CWRU students engage in current problems in sub-Saharan Africa with respect to food security. Their work is directly applied to crops by African researchers and their students. The course has expanded to University of Namibia and been integrated into CWRU’s Global Health Initiative. In addition, the international connections have been integrated into other Department of Biology laboratory courses.

In another example, John Orlock, Professor of English, and Denise Caterinacci, Instructor of Modern Languages and Literatures, collaborated on a project that brought together students studying at the University of Urbino with CWRU students of Italian language and playwriting in a co-taught course that covered both playwriting and translation skills. The cross-listed special topics course used the format of a video-conferenced collaborative seminar/workshop involving undergraduate student playwrights and translators. The project developed the skills of translation in respect to dramatic writing and, additionally, the seminar explored the contemporary dramatic literature of both Italy and the United States.  At the end of the semester, the classes produced an International CyberFestival of New Plays, a set of teleconference-staged readings of the students’ scripts—at CWRU and in Italy—in both Italian and English.  This project built on a previous project of Caterinacci’s that drew on the expertise of Professor Sanzio Balducci of the University of Urbino to enhance conversational skills of upper-division Italian language students. As a further component of the collaboration with the University of Urbino, Professor Caterinacci takes students to Urbino and other Italian cities during her May Term course, ITAL 308 The Italian Experience. Each of these projects was supported by the World-Wide Learning Environment project.