Global Online Learning Exchange in Educational Datasets Partners with University College Dublin to Create Research Opportunities

By Katherine C. Aquino, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Administrative and Instructional Leadership, The School of Education

Katherine C. Aquino, Ph.D. posing for a picture in Dublin, Ireland

Katherine Aquino standing in front of the Writing Center at University College Dublin.

June 23, 2022

I began formal planning of our Global Online Learning Exchange (GOLE) collaboration with Seaneen Sloan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor and Director of Research on the Doctorate in Educational Psychology, and Elizabeth Tobin, Ph.D. candidate and educational researcher, from the University College Dublin (UCD) beginning in the Spring 2020 semester. The overarching goals of our GOLE project focused on comparing US and Irish educational datasets and evaluating how data collection informs educational policy both nationally and internationally. 

The virtual exchange included 25 students: nine St. John’s educational leadership Ed.D. students and 16 Irish students enrolled in UCD’s educational psychology doctoral degree program. The virtual exchange experience lasted approximately five weeks during the middle of the spring 2021 term. Due to the difference in time zones, the exchange was structured as an asynchronous experience. Additionally, as the two institutions had different learning management systems, we created a central website to house all resources, videos, and directions to ensure learning materials were accessible for all participating students.

One of the most exciting elements of the virtual exchange experience was the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues. This collaboration provided the opportunity to engage with my international peers in the creation and completion of the virtual exchange coursework and the development of related research projects. GOLE allowed our research group to explore the student experience and the overall role of virtual exchanges in graduate coursework. Currently, our group has several research conference proposals and journal manuscripts under review.

Katherine Aquino standing in front of the Writing Center at University College Dublin.
Katherine Aquino standing in front of the Student Center at University College Dublin.

I recently had the opportunity to visit University College Dublin in March, following the successful completion of the Spring 2021 virtual exchange. While I had initially planned to travel to Ireland immediately after the virtual exchange, shifting travel restrictions and outbreak surges postponed my trip until nearly a year following the teaching collaboration. 

While in Dublin, I toured the UCD campus and had several productive research meetings to discuss additional collaborations and future publications. As we are still in a world where the COVID-19 pandemic impacts nearly everything we do, I was unable to travel to Belfast in Northern Ireland as one of my colleagues had to quarantine from exposure to the COVID-19 virus. 

Despite planning and delivering the virtual exchange during a worldwide pandemic, the overall GOLE opportunity has been an unbelievable experience for my career. COVID-19 highlighted the importance of providing students with global learning opportunities through the increased use of technology and innovative online instructional strategies. I commend St. John’s University for promoting virtual exchanges well in advance of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving forward, I will continue to engage in virtual exchange opportunities as I am confident of the increased use and need for virtual exchanges in the higher education environment.