I’ve been lucky enough in my 19 years of life to travel to over a dozen countries across four continents and had plans to travel to many more. Unfortunately, like so many others, my plans were disrupted due to Covid-19 rendering me bound to Canberra and only travelling as far as Wollongong every so often. Upon hearing of the opportunity to join the international UGPN collaboration available for BCM212 students, I knew I had to join, and so I did.
To put it simply, the UGPN collaboration is an at home international experience for students at the University of Wollongong (more specifically BCM212 students), North Carolina State or and University of Surrey. Together, the students across these universities are discussing their experiences with Covid-19 and how it has impacted their lives in regards to study and travel whilst focusing on Collaborative Online International Learning, or COIL as it’s more often referred to.
COIL is the co-development of a shared syllabus by two or more instructors from geographically distant locations. It’s a program utilised by many institutions varying across multiple countries and continents that UOW is using to nurture a discussion and develop primary knowledge of the effects of Covid-19 to education globally.
Students across Australia, USA and England have been put into groups together, facilitated on an application called Slack which allows for direct communication, this is extremely useful considering the task ahead requires an international perspective. We have been asked to write an opinion piece based on research we conduct ourselves that has a focus on topics such as collaboration, online communication or equity challenges.
For this task I have paired up with my fellow BCM212 student and friend Issy. We have decided to research the equity issues faced by university students in regards to the shift towards online learning due to Covid-19. By both of us participating in the international collaboration we will be able to gather information directly from students who experienced these issues first-hand.
Pros & Cons
To be honest, at the beginning of this experience I was very confused in regards to assignment submissions and content as there were not set due dates. As someone who likes to plan maybe a little too much, I was unsure of whether or not I should continue the collaboration. After talking to fellow UGPN members and the idea of a collaborative curriculum was explained I felt a lot more at ease and became excited with the independence and responsibility we got through this project. I think in such a time where the entire world is in lockdown, it is more important now than ever to stay connected and this collaboration makes that possible.
There have been a few issues though as the difference in time zones makes it quite difficult to communicate in a time-effective manner. Attempting to set up Zoom calls that work for everyone’s schedule is a bit of a lost cause and most of them end up happening at 2am ET so it’s fair to say I have not been in attendance.
Suggestions & Recommendations
If I’m honest, I would love for this collaboration to be more widely available. I understand that facilitating such a collaboration takes an extreme amount of effort on top of an already challenging situation, but I can’t help but wish for this type of learning and research to become more mainstream.
All in all I’m so glad that I not only joined this collaboration, but decided to stay. I’m learning so much through first hand knowledge and experiences with an international flair. It’s been exciting getting back into the global mindset that is so very easy to shut off when you are confined to one area. I have never been so ready for international borders to open back up, even if it’s just for a weekend away in New Zealand. This project has given me the opportunity to connect with international students with varying life experiences as well as the opportunity to reconnect with fellow UOW BCM students. I’m so glad I get to be a part of this project and I can’t wait to see what we’re able to create and learn!