Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Working in a Group before Meeting Face-to-Face a Case of International Student Online Project

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Working in a Group before Meeting Face-to-Face a Case of International Student Online Project

Article excerpt

Introduction

The European Union has launched a number of programs for the integration and cultural understanding between EU members, none members and associated members. The Program Socrates is the one that focuses on the international staff and student exchanges between the educational institutions in Europe. Two of European educational institutions, Ostfold University College of Norway and University of Wismar of Germany, joined this program. The staff cooperation and regular exchange program between these two institutions has initiated and continued since 1995, and the benefits were received for both sides. There are activities like staff visiting annually and visiting lectures have been thematically focused on many fields, among these, online teaching and learning. This paper describes a case of online cooperation applied as preparing work before exchange students started their visits to the host institution.

An International Student Exchange Project

This project was initiated to combine an online solution into a student exchange program. Both institutions have had a number of exchange activities, both for teaching staff and students. A group of three Wismar students planed to stay at Ostfold University College in autumn 2003. It was then initiated an idea to introduce and guide the visiting students to Ostfold University College online. In this way, the students would be better prepared before their actual visit to Norway. This online introduction was accomplished through the students' participation into an online course, held by Ostfold University College. The Germany students were arranged into a working team together with Norwegian students. The objectives of such an arrangement are:

For German students from University of Wismar:

* Getting familiar with host institution and its systems

* Getting familiar with host country and local information

* Getting familiar with working methods at host institution

* Being well prepared for cultural shock or uncertainties

For Norwegian students at Ostfold University College:

* Developing international competence and skills

* Learning communications to other people, especially people with different cultural and educational backgrounds

* Learning different working methods and other scholar philosophies

* Learning team work and international project skills

The arrangement was fulfilled through an online course in "Communication, Environment and Project (CEP)" held and conducted at Ostfold University College. The CEP course is a general and entry leveled course for engineering students. It has an objective to teach the students' communication skills with focuses on project-based learning. Students are organized into groups to work with environment related case projects. These cases are usually picked up from local industrial companies. CEP is estimated as 15 ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) points.

The course is linked to textbooks and practiced in cooperation with nearby companies. Student groups shall address company situations relevant to chapters in the textbook, describe, analyze, compare to theory and recommend for the company in small reports (3-5 pages). Second half of the course they shall make a project work on an environmental task for the company. For the project they are asked to act as consultants, make plans, budgets, accounting, and they shall report and present their work, result and recommendations. The intention is that this shall be valuable for the company without any direct payment.

Though the course is developed primarily for engineering students, it also has relevance for all other professions. Communication and cooperation are basic skills for everybody, and all active society workers should be conscious of the impact of their decisions and actions to our common environment. It is necessary to have attitudes to the environment and basic project management skills are required for any professions in the future. …

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