Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

The Processes of Designing and Implementing Globally Networked Learning Environments and Their Implications on College Instructors' Professional Learning: The Case of Québec CÉGEPs/Les Processus De Conception et De Mise En Oeuvre De Milieux D'apprentissage En Réseautés Internationalement et Leur Influence Sur le Perfectionnement Professionnel Des Enseignants : Le Cas Des Cégeps

Academic journal article Comparative and International Education

The Processes of Designing and Implementing Globally Networked Learning Environments and Their Implications on College Instructors' Professional Learning: The Case of Québec CÉGEPs/Les Processus De Conception et De Mise En Oeuvre De Milieux D'apprentissage En Réseautés Internationalement et Leur Influence Sur le Perfectionnement Professionnel Des Enseignants : Le Cas Des Cégeps

Article excerpt

Introduction

Globalization is a geo-spatial process of interdependence and integration (Assayag & Fuller, 2005) that creates new constraints and opportunities for educational institutions (Levin, 2001). To benefit from these opportunities, higher education institutions have integrated an international or intercultural dimension into their mission, functions and training (Knight, 2004). For instance, various higher education institutions provide study abroad activities that have found to enhance students' intercultural competencies, academic achievement (Peppas, 2005), linguistic skills and employability (Blumenthal et al., 1996). Yet, despite a major increase in students participating in study abroad activities (Dwyer, 2004), participation rates remain overall below 5% (Canadia Bureau for International Education, 2012).

While studying abroad remains the privilege of the elites (Daly & Barker, 2010), internationalization within classrooms appears as an alternative (Gacel-Avilá, 2005) and globally networked learning environments (GNLEs) can be a means to providing access to an international experience. Starke-Meyerring (2010) understands GNLEs as:

Learning environments [...] integrating experiential learning opportunities for cross-boundary knowledge making; that is, these GNLEs are specifically designed to help students learn how to participate in shared knowledge-making practices with peers and colleagues across traditional boundaries. These GNLEs therefore extend beyond the confines of traditional local classrooms, linking students to peers, instructors, professionals, experts, and communities from diverse contexts (p. 261).

GNLEs usually takes the form of an internet-based classroom partnership and shared learning environment in which instructors who are geographically distant jointly develop a learning activity, a course or a program and teach it simultaneously both to their regular (physical) classroom as well as to their partner's classroom (Starke-Meyerring et al., 2008). In these transnational educational settings, students have access to various expertise and opportunities to work with peers from other cultures. Numerous studies demonstrate that GNLEs teach students to adapt their communication style, avoid ethnocentric bias, and develop professional and leadership skills (DuBabcock & Varner, 2008; Fitch, Kirby & Amador, 2008; Kenon, 2008; Starke-Meyerring, Duin & Palvetzian, 2007).

Instructors can also benefit from GNLEs by developing new teaching practices and learning to work with colleagues in other countries (Starke-Meyerring & Andews, 2006; Wilson, 2013). However, most studies do not explain the mechanisms supporting professional learning, especially in the case of GNLEs implemented in colleges.

Background

Working relationships and institutional support in establishing GNLEs

Successful GNLEs seem to be built upon close and equal relationships through which instructors take decisions on important questions such as course content, grading system, pedagogy, schedule and language uses (Wilson, 2013). The intensity of the working relationship refers to the extent to which instructors' classroom decisions are bound to a set of rules previously agreed with the partner. For instance, GNLEs taking the form of joint courses require a close working relationship since instructors communicate regularly to negotiate each other's pedagogical approach, design the curriculum, adapt to the progression of their students and ensure a fair assessment system (Herrington & Tretyakov, 2005). GNLEs taking the form of joint activities can be implemented although the working relationship is more superficial since activities take place in fewer sessions, do not alter the structure of the course and may serve different purposes for each instructor (DuBabcock & Varner, 2008; Mousten, Vandepitte & Maylath, 2008). Using Harman's (1988) classification of collaboration, it can be said that the latter corresponds to the cooperation level (loose and voluntary agreement for a short-term activity), the former refers to the coordination level (members using jointly decided rules to deal with a common environment). …

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