UIC to launch virtual teaching collaboration with French universities

International education is one of many scholastic areas that has had to adjust during the COVID-19 global health crisis.

A University of Illinois Chicago program aims to address the matter during the spring and summer 2021 semesters through a virtual international exchange that brings together students and scholars from three universities, with the potential for a post-pandemic partnership when international travel resumes.

Kathryn Engel; Silver Circle Award Winner
Kathryn Engel, UIC senior lecturer in the department of psychology and director of internships in the applied psychology program. Photo: Jenny Fontaine

Backed by a $7,500 grant, which comes from the FACE Foundation in partnership with the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., and the American Embassy in Paris, UIC will team with Université Paris-Est Creteil Val de Marne and the Ecole pratique de service social.

The project is led by Kathryn Engel, UIC senior lecturer in the department of psychology and director of internships in the applied psychology program.

“It is an exciting synergy of three universities bringing three different fields together to address the best innovations discovered in the social services during COVID-19,” Engel said. “It will be amazing to see what social work, psychology and international management students will accomplish together on their team projects.”

Approximately 10 students from each university are expected in the initial course. The new initiative is based on the successful social services internship program at UIC, which is founded and led by Engel, that places UIC students in positions with various Paris-based organizations.

“All three universities are a part of the Mission Interuniversitaire de Coordination des Echanges Franco-Americains partnership and plan to build this out as a continuing and sustainable program going forward to continue to address important social issues,” Engel said.

The course is based on a pedagogy called Collaborative Online International Learning, or COIL, which embeds a virtual collaborative learning activity, project, or module in a course, connecting students and faculty with their counterparts at another institution abroad.

It also is part of UIC’s wider efforts to deliver virtual programming options that offer students impactful intercultural experiences during the pandemic as many study abroad programs are being put on hold.

“While some faculty surely may have incorporated COIL-like elements in their courses before, Kathryn’s project represents the first of this new initiative which the Office of Global Engagement and Study Abroad Office are now looking to strategically include as part of our broader campus internationalization plans,” said Kyle Rausch, executive director of the UIC Study Abroad Office.

Neal McCrillis, UIC vice provost for global engagement, praises Engel’s passion for student mobility and study abroad experiences.

“She is deeply committed to providing important international education opportunities which enrich and advance her students’ academic and professional lives. She genuinely cares about building bridges between cultures and producing UIC graduates who will be successful in international careers and working with diverse populations,” he said.

More details about a formal UIC COIL initiative, which will feature resources for faculty interested in developing similar virtual learning projects, will be announced by the Study Abroad Office at a later date.

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