Team from Penn State Global, Hazleton build partnerships during Norway visit

Four people standing in front of an audience in a classroom with two video projector screens on either side of them.

Penn State Hazleton Associate Professor of Business Sherry Robinson (standing, first from left), Assistant Vice Provost for Global Learning in Penn State Global Brian Brubaker (second from left) and Experiential Digital Global Engagement (EDGE) Program Associate Tracy Coleman (third from left) participate in a VE/COIL presentation in Bergen, Norway, in June.

Credit: Penn State

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. —  An intensive professional development workshop in Norway helped a team from Penn State Global and Penn State Hazleton further their knowledge of global learning and strengthen partnerships that facilitate virtual exchange and collaborative online international learning (VE/COIL).  

Assistant Vice Provost for Global Learning in Penn State Global Brian Brubaker, Experiential Digital Global Engagement (EDGE) Program Associate Tracy Coleman and Penn State Hazleton Associate Professor of Business Sherry Robinson visited Bergen from June 19-20 for the 2023 American Association of Colleges and Universities’ (AAC&U) Institute on VE/COIL. 

Virtual exchange (VE) and collaborative online international learning (COIL) provide opportunities to gain global competencies by linking classrooms around the world through co-taught, multicultural, and blended online course work, according to the AAC&U.  

Regularly seeking out opportunities to leverage their strengths and further pursue their goals, Penn State Global and its EDGE team members were intrigued when they saw an announcement seeking out applicants for the program, according to Brubaker. 

“The AAC&U has a fantastic and leading reputation in the global learning space,” he said. “Our EDGE team has been impressed with their professional development opportunities as well as some of the in-house expertise AAC&U has on staff. What’s more, we actively use the AAC&U VALUE rubrics to assess global learning, so we were keen to learn more.” 

Selected as one of eight universities to participate in the partnership that brought together leading Norwegian universities with counterparts in the U.S and Japan, Penn State and its partner institution, the University of South-Eastern Norway, will work collaboratively through December to promote mutual understanding and educational collaboration between faculty, staff, and students. 

That collaboration has so far included hours of online workshops, breakout groups and other programming on VE/COIL, but more support is expected in the coming months as the partnership grows, such as mentorship and observation from AAC&U representatives. Those representatives are scheduled to visit Penn State Hazleton and potentially the University Park campus to offer further guidance on expanding the EDGE program, Brubaker said.  

“I think one of the real strengths of higher education is that we do share tactics and best practices amongst each other,” Brubaker said. “It’s always useful to hear what others are doing and gauge where our efforts have taken us in relation to other institutions.” 

Because of the program’s ties to Norway, Brubaker sought out Robinson, who had a strong familiarity with the country after spending several months in Hønefoss as a Fulbright Scholar in 2008-09. 

“I was more than happy to join Brian and Tracy for this professional development opportunity and to support the implementation of VE/COIL partnerships that will help facilitate students’ global competencies,” Robinson said. 

Robinson’s role in the partnership is to codesign and co-implement the VE/COIL curriculum with a faculty partner from University of South-Eastern Norway. As such, beginning in the fall 2023 semester, students in Robinson’s international business class at Penn State Hazleton will collaborate online synchronously with students from the University of South-Eastern Norway on various projects. 

"We are very much looking forward to these students working together and learning from each other this fall,” she said. 

Activities at the two-day workshop in Bergen included meeting with peers from around the world to share and discuss equitable global learning practices, such as how VE/COIL is being used in their curricula and the strategic approach to utilizing it.  

Coleman, who helps provide accessible international education for students through EDGE programming, highlighted peer networking as one of her biggest takeaways from the workshop. 

“One of my favorite activities in Bergen was the ‘United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Story Circles’, a facilitated team activity for strengthening critical thinking and listening for understanding,” she said. 

Brubaker said the outcomes from such experiences directly support Penn State’s strategic plan, which emphasizes global engagement.  

“As an institution, we believe that it’s part of our mission to graduate globally aware students who are capable of contributing and thriving in an interconnected and complex society,” he said. “EDGE projects and other forms of global learning are high impact practices that give our students a chance to develop these skills.”