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Global Campus

Keeping global learning alive in an age of remote course delivery

Initiatives like Globally Networked Learning are a response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 to international mobility.


Inspired by the collaborative online international learning model, Globally Networked Learning (GNL) invites students and teachers to experience the “international” through collaborative experiences with peers from other parts of the world. Students and faculty members can integrate collaborative activities within courses, such as joint lectures, talks, presentations and projects. They can then help build global competencies, intercultural and communication skills, as well as expand their knowledge by integrating international perspectives and insights. GNLs at York University are, therefore, often referred to as GNLEs, which can stand for both experiments and experiences.

Potential for global learning

In the Fall/Winter 2020-2021 semester, York supported eight pilot projects from the faculty of liberal arts and professional studies, the faculty of health and Glendon College. After the completion of these eight pilot collaborations, participating faculty members could see the impact of GNLs on their students’ learning and intercultural development. Mathieu Poirier, course director for Global Health Policy: Power and Politics, found that “students were very easily convinced of the unique opportunity in virtual ‘mobility’ and intercultural development that was offered by the GNL process.”

While online collaborations began as a solution after the pandemic sent everyone home, feedback from students and professors alike is showing there is untapped potential of the GNL approach to create opportunities for global learning and intercultural development independent of the ability to travel.

“GNL environments are excellent collaborative spaces, bringing instructors and students together to experiment with and imagine more inclusive forms of international exchanges with the idea of global engagement,” said Dominique Scheffel-Dunand, an associate professor of French studies who started York’s GNL initiative in 2015 with an academic innovation fund grant that explored how to scale and institutionalize this approach to internationalizing the curriculum. “It’s a pedagogical approach digitally designed to foster community building across internationally networked educational and academic cultures.”

A great example of this happened at the inaugural sustainable and inclusive internationalization virtual conference hosted by York in January 2021. Collaborators on the Refugee Protection Regimes GNL pilot project presented their findings about assessing intercultural development and leveraging digital technology. Faculty members surveyed their students after completing the course and found that nearly 84 percent of students felt more motivated to learn about people from other cultures after socializing and working together.

Building new faculty connections

The flexibility of the GNL model creates a space for professors to break the mold of the Zoom university experience and helps build international collaborative networks amongst faculty. The team at York International helps to connect professors with potential partners and build collaborative relationships to accomplish their joint learning goals. Faculty members are also supported by the teaching commons, where they can get help in designing various synchronous and asynchronous activities and tools.

“GNL was a great opportunity to meet like-minded faculty members,” said Charles-Antoine Rouyer, a course director for Glendon College’s department of multi-disciplinary studies. “It was like a mini-conference, with a focused hands-on deliverable – in this case, collaborating on an online workshop about health and well-being.”

James C. Simeon, course director for the GNL course “International Refugee Protection Regime I: Critical Problems,” agreed. The GNL experience is a lesson in true partnership, which means that we are all working hard to ensure that our partners are happy and pleased with the results and see the clear benefits of not only continuing the partnership but building and sustaining it.”

Learn more about the Globally Networked Learning initiative and how to get involved.

This column is coordinated through the Internationalization of Student Affairs Community of Practice of the Canadian Association of College & University Student Services (CACUSS). For comments or questions please contact [email protected].

Marierose Talla is the Global Learning coordinator at York University. Helen Balderama is the associate director of international partnerships at York.
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