Global Online Learning Exchange Selected for AAC&U Initiative through Norwegian Panorama Partnerships

GOLE and VID Partners sitting at a table

From left: Zoe Petropoulou, Tobias Tungland VID Instructional Designer, Heidi Upton, and Cynthia Philips; from right: Benedicte Kivle (VID faculty), Hanne Liv  Østtveit-Moe (Senior Advisor Internationalization), Ian August

October 19, 2023

The Global Online Learning Exchange program (GOLE) at St. John’s University is proud to announce it was selected as one of the international partners in the Norwegian Panorama Virtual Exchange (VE)/Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) Partnerships Initiative, a collaboration sponsored by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and the government of Norway to strengthen higher education ties with the United States and Japan.  

This prestigious award, won through a competitive application process, requires St. John’s GOLE administrators and faculty and their Norwegian partner university colleagues to participate in a year-long intensive training course to cocreate, coteach, and co-implement best VE/COIL practices. The training sessions are led by VE/COIL experts from the AAC&U Institute on VE/COIL and Institute on Innovative Global Education, Kansai University (Japan). 

“Virtual exchanges play an important role in serving St. John’s global mission by increasing access to international education experiences through the removal of barriers associated with traditional mobility programs,” said Christina Quartararo, Assistant Provost for Global Initiatives. “VE programs allow students and faculty to engage in meaningful cross-cultural interactions, promoting empathy, tolerance, and cooperation—and ultimately contributing to a more peaceful and interconnected global community.”

The four GOLE team participants are Ian M. August, Assistant Director of Digital Learning; Zoe Petropoulou, Ph.D., Senior Director for Global Engagement, and Associate Professor, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Cynthia R. Phillips, Ed.D., Executive Director, Center for Teaching and Learning, Office of Online Learning and Services, and Associate Professor, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business; and Heidi Upton, DMA, Associate Professor, Institute for Core Studies and Department of Art and Design, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

“Since the AAC&U’s High-Impact Practices align with the University’s commitment to creating global citizens, the global and intercultural appreciation learning goal of the new core curriculum, and the University’s strategic plan, this initiative is a wonderful opportunity for St. John’s to develop a model for equitable global learning practices,” emphasized Dr. Petropoulou, a GOLE administrator. 

The GOLE program, in collaboration with the Center for Teaching and Learning and Office of Global Programs, began in 2018. The program provides students who are not able to study abroad an opportunity to engage in a multiweek project with students from another country to cocreate knowledge and develop or enhance their intercultural competencies. To date, 37 courses have incorporated a virtual exchange project and more than 712 students have benefited from this experience. 

The Norwegian Panorama Initiative launched in March 2023 and the GOLE team has been working hard ever since to complete the robust training sessions alongside their Norwegian partners from VID Specialized University, the AAC&U, and other partner institutions. In June, the GOLE team traveled to Norway for a week of seminars with participants and experts in the field.  

The training sessions have involved many hours in addition to participants’ typical workload. Despite the schedule crunch, Dr. Upton has expressed she is “honored and energized to be part of this innovative program. The overall process asks us to scrutinize and develop our teaching practice and learning goals in a globally collaborative context for faculty and students alike that foster personal and civic responsibility.”  

Dr. Upton and her faculty partner from VID, Benedicte Kivle, have been collaborating to implement a GOLE project in a St. John’s core course during the fall semester. The partnership brings together faculty and instructional designers who are integral to the development of VE courses. 

For Mr. August, St. John’s Assistant Director of Digital Learning, the partnership means he not only works with “the amazing faculty from St. John’s, but with faculty from around the globe to design collaborative learning experiences for St. John’s students and international students.” 

He added, “The AAC&U Institute really helped me grow my skill set to improve the work I do, and my office does, for the St. John’s community.” 

The GOLE team and their colleagues from VID Specialized University will continue the training virtually throughout the rest of the year. However, according to Dr. Phillips, “The impact of this experience will not end there but will continue to shape and enhance our GOLE initiatives and assessment strategies into the future.”