We’re proud that over 40% of our undergraduates study abroad, and that our education abroad population largely mirrors the overall demographic and socio-economic diversity of our New York campuses. But a truly global education cannot only rely on mobility, which remains out of reach for many students—and for a variety of complex reasons. As a Vincentian university, then, we must find other ways to connect students with viewpoints and perspectives from throughout the world that they might not otherwise encounter.

GOLE Report - map of the world with icons in specific locations

Innovative, Interactive, and Intercultural 

“Engage with the world, incorporate global learning experiences in the curriculum, and promote inclusion and success for all students.”  -Zoe Petropoulou, Senior Director for Global Engagement, Office of Global Programs.

St. John’s Global Online Learning Exchange (GOLE) is an innovative, active-learning approach that brings faculty and students together with international counterparts in cross-cultural learning experiences. GOLE directly aligns with two of St. John’s strategic priorities, to “ensure student success” and to “expand global and community partnerships,” by integrating a high-impact educational practice—global learning—into participating classes.

The exchange is conducted as part of an existing class and can take the form of a project, activity, or full-semester collaboration aimed at increasing both traditional course content and intercultural competency. Classroom-based and student-to-student interactions are conducted using technology that best suits the needs of the exchange, such as Canvas, Cisco Webex, various Google tools, WhatsApp, and others.

GOLE and DEI  

The GOLE program makes global engagement accessible to all students who are unable to join traditional study abroad programs. By their very nature, GOLE classrooms are multi-diverse and multicultural environments. Through GOLE, students on both sides of the exchange explore cultures and ways of thinking and learning that are different from their own, while benefiting from unique ways to connect with course content.

Faculty Training & Funding

GOLE started as a pilot in 2018 and is modeled after similar virtual exchange programs developed by the State University of New York and DePaul University, among many others. Virtual Exchange is supported by AAC&U and the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations are incorporated into most GOLE courses addressing global issues such as inclusive, accessible, quality education, health inequities, and economic development.

Every semester, the Office of Global Programs in cooperation with the Center for Faculty Success and Development offers faculty and their international partners  an online three-week workshop to incorporate GOLE into existing St. John’s University courses as well as instructional design support once faculty begin developing a GOLE project. Funding for the implementation of GOLE courses is available for St. John’s faculty.

GOLE Faculty Experiences

Linguistically and Culturally Appropriate Language Assessment: A GOLE Collaboration

By Mellissa Bortz, Ph.D., Assistant Professor

In the fall of 2022, Tinashe Nhokwara, MSc in Audiology, Shahdeedah Aufe, and I ran a six- week Global Online Learning Exchange (GOLE) course between 20 St John’s undergraduates majoring in Speech, Language, and Pathology and 14 students majoring in Hearing and Speech Language Therapy from the University of Zimbabwe in Harare.

The overarching aims of the exchange were for students to become familiar with cultural responsiveness, methods of language assessment, and devising culturally and linguistically appropriate test items.  

The students learned a great deal about each other posting discussions about various topics such as energy power needs, food, and weekends. Each week, they were required to complete a reflection journal as well as identify culturally and linguistically diverse items including different vocabulary, morphology, phonology, and metaphorical language. They learned that English is an Indo-European language with subject-verb-object sentence formation. Shona is a Bantu agglutinating tonal language where different meanings of the same word are represented by changing the intonation of the production.

The reflection journal was extremely useful for students to exchange ideas about how to treat potential culturally and linguistically diverse clients. One student commented, “I chose to take part in the discussions of this course, as I believe that a better understanding of cultural linguistics yields a competent speech and language therapist. It is safe to say that studying language (linguistics) and culture will help me in my interactions with patients as I have a better understanding of their language and culture, and I will be able to efficiently respect them according to how their culture requires.”

Students were required to complete two assignments, one individual and one group, identifying culturally and linguistically inappropriate items and replacing them with alternative items that they had learned during discussions, for example, brand names of cereal or vacuum cleaners for rural Zimbabwean populations. University of Zimbabwe students identified alternative games instead of “patty cake” commonly played by toddlers in the U.S. and animals such as penguins which are not found in a land locked country such as Zimbabwe.

The course was originally planned to take place using Canvas and WhatsApp. St. John’s students had access to both platforms while University of Zimbabwe students used WhatsApp exclusively. An ongoing challenge in this course was the seven-hour time difference. The main reason was that students at the University of Zimbabwe do not have access to laptops and cannot operate free Canvas on Smartphones, and their Wi-Fi is sporadic and very expensive.

These challenges, however, did not prevent robust and fascinating discussions taking place such as around the Zimbabwean staple food sadsa “corn meal.”                                                     

The positives, challenges, and recommendations for future iterations of GOLE were discussed during debriefing sessions. St John’s students reported that they learned a lot about Zimbabwe, a country that they had previously not known much about. The technology and lack of synchronous classes were challenging for them. Ms. Nhokwara made a very powerful comment stating that Canvas was the first time that she had “seen what a functional e-learning system looked like.” The University of Zimbabwe students were grateful that the course was available on WhatsApp as it made it accessible for them. They expressed enthusiasm for all that they had learned and want future classes of this type to further their knowledge.

In order to achieve this goal, an unintended positive outcome of this course is that the University of Zimbabwe students will become founding members of the African Connections Speech Language Therapy student group. This request was facilitated by members of the teaching team approaching the African Connections Speech Language Therapy group. This group consists of over 300 Speech-Language Therapists working or collaborating in Africa. 

In fall 2019, I implemented my GOLE project in one graduate level course in the School of Education focusing on designing and integrating learning technologies in classrooms. 

After a year-long planning period, my GOLE project was designed around the theme of cross-cultural instructional design with learning technologies. Pre-service teachers at St. John’s University worked collaboratively with partners at East China Normal University in Shanghai, China, on a 10-week-long instructional design project.Each team consisted of approximately two St. John’s graduate students and four or five graduate students from the international partner university. The main task for the virtual teams was to design and develop an interdisciplinary unit for middle school students in two metropolitan cities in both countries, by researching and creating lesson plans that would employ particular technological applications in classroom teaching. The project guidelines required virtual team members to work as communities of practice to design an interdisciplinary unit for middle school students in both countries while simultaneously learning to use various online web- based and mobile-supported technologies in order to collaborate effectively. Students cultivated their cross-cultural competencies throughout the course. Many team members became great life friends after the project. 

Being a course-based international exchange that does not require student travel, GOLE project allows St. John’s students who cannot study abroad or travel due to financial and other challenges. This virtual exchange experience became more valuable in the global COVID-19 situation where travel and health concerns rise worldwide.  Without traveling to different international places, St. John’s students can collaborate and learn with their peers from around the world. 

Language and Culture Virtual Exchange Builds Intercultural Competencies for GOLE Students

Zoe Petropoulou, Ph.D., Associate Professor of French, Department of Languages and Literatures, collaborated with colleagues from the University of Nantes and the University of Bordeaux in France to connect students studying French on St. John’s Queens, NY, campus with their peers in France studying Sociology/Psychology and English as part of the Global Online Learning Exchange (GOLE) program.

“This initiative is not just a peripheral project for a language and culture class,” she said. “It is aligned with St. John’s University’s mission to promote international education through global attitudes, knowledge, and intercultural skills, and includes everyone—even the students who cannot participate in traditional study abroad.”

Over two months, in course-embedded synchronous and asynchronous sessions, students worked together in small groups. They engaged in broad linguistic and cultural experiences and compared responses from interviews they conducted in both French- and English-speaking communities on different topics connected to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals such as global health, the effects of COVID on young people, climate change, and discrimination.

“These courses aim to provide a forum for students for cultural and linguistic exchange where they share cultural activities and experiences and compare points of views from both countries,” Dr. Petropoulou explained.   

GOLE Presentations and Publications by St. John's Faculty

Since the beginning of the GOLE pilot program in 2018, St. John’s University faculty have been active in research and conference presentations nationally and internationally.  

Aquino, K. C., Tobin, E., Sloan, S. (2022). Global learning in a pandemic: The role of graduate level virtual exchanges. Association for the Study of Higher Education Conference, Las Vegas, NV, November 16-19.    

Angel, C., Cillerai, C., Petropoulou, Z., Schreiber, A. (2022). Navigating Successful and Appropriate Communication within the online Intercultural Setting. Global Conversations: Creating Connections from Home, Online, De Paul University, Illinois, April 26.  

Angel, C., Schreiber, A. (2022) Communication through Culture - Challenging the Curator´s Perspective Practice. IVEC 2022 International Virtual Exchange Conference, Valencia, Spain, October 28.

Cozine, K., (2022). Global Online Learning Exchange (GOLE) as a tool for building cultural intelligence in undergraduate intelligence courses. International Associations for Intelligence Education, Charleston, South Carolina, October 20-22.

Mello, M., Petropoulou, Z., Stefanidis, A., (2024). Creating International Learning Communities through Virtual Exchange. VALIANT Conference, Léon, Spain, February 7 – 9, 2024.

Mello, M., Camargo, S., (2023). Global Online Learning Exchange between Brazilian and American Universities to Develop Culturally Humility in Special Education Teachers Learning Applied Behavior Analysis. Annual Conference for the Division on Autism and Developmental Disabilities (DADD), Clearwater Beach, Florida, January 18-20.

Osttveit-Moe, HL., Phillips, C., & Petropoulou, Z., (2024). Enhancing Internationalization Norway Panorama Institute: VID Specialized & St. John's Universities: transferable lessons.  Association for International Education Administrators - AEIA, Washington D.C. February 18th-21, 2024

Petropoulou, Z., (2023). International Education - Global Learning for all. International Education Conference. Kerala, India. July 20th, 2023.

Petropoulou, Z., (2021). Virtual Exchange Intercultural Competence, Equity, Inclusion, and Sustainability in Internationalization. Thematic Forum Conference on Virtual Exchange. University of Sacred Heart, CT, July 14th.     

Petropoulou, Z., Pellettiere Calix, L., Younus, M., (2021). Getting started “on a shoestring”: Institutionalizing virtual exchange with minimal financial investment. IVEC 2021 –International Virtual Exchange Conference. October 26-29.   

Upton, H. (2022). Building an International Partnership from the Ground Up: A Story About Global Online Learning Exchange in Action. Association for Interdisciplinary Studies-Annual 44th Annual Conference, Sonoma State University, CA. Nov. 10-12. 

Aquino, K. C., Tobin, E. & Sloan, S. (2023). Remote global learning: The role and use of virtual exchange for U.S. and Irish graduate students. Online Learning Journal, 27(2), 208-222. 

Petropoulou, Z. (2020/2021). Virtual classroom experiences for Second Language Learning and cultural exchange. International Journal of Technology in Teaching and Learning, 16(1), 49-60.     

GOLE Faculty Ambassadors 

GOLE Faculty Ambassadors represent diverse disciplines and are experienced GOLE practitioners who provide support to colleagues, share lessons learned, and foster quality programming during the GOLE course development process.

Angel, Christine
GOLE & Collaborative Learning, March 9, 2022.

Aquino, Katherine
GOLE Outcomes, March 25, 2021. 

Chen, Judy, & Petropoulou, Zoe
Seminar Focus on Partners & Developing Cross-Cultural & Discipline-Specific Learning Outcomes, October 29, 2020.

Cillerai, Chiara
GOLE & Collaborative Learning, March 9, 2022.

Ivan, Emese
Virtual Internationalization and Communication, March 3, 2021.

Mello, Maria
Developing Learning Objectives and Incorporating Intercultural Competencies into GOLE Learning Objectives & Outcomes, March 30, 2022.

Developing Learning Objectives and Connecting Them to Project Activities, October 27, 2022.

Singh, Rajesh
Virtual Internationalization Information Session, November 3, 2021

Stefanidis, Abraham
Global Online Learning Exchange Collaboration Between the Lebanese American University and the Tobin School of Business. - Showcase, Oct. 4, 2021.

Global Online Learning Exchange Collaboration Between the Lebanese American University and the Tobin School of Business (GOLE) Seminar, Mar. 19, 2021.

GOLE Courses 

THE 2320 Introduction to Catholic School Teaching
EDU 7266 Technology for Teaching Literacy Applications in Regular and Special Education Settings
FRE 2030C & HON 2031 Intermediate French Language & Culture
MGT 659 International Business
LIS 258 Museum Informatics
EDU 5555 Data Management & Accountability in Higher Education
HON 1030 & FYW 1000C First Year Writing
HLS 1019 Homeland Security and Counterterrorism
EDU 9719 Principles of Applied Behavior Analysis & PBIS
MGT 601 Managing for Global Success
DNY 1000C The City and Social Imagination
CSD 2760 Language Disorders Across the Life Span
HON 1000C The City and Social Imagination
HON 1000C Urban Development

Contact Information

For more information on GOLE, please review the Center for Faculty Success and Development’s GOLE website, or contact Zoe Petropoulou, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Senior Director for Global Engagement, Office of Global Programs.