The Internet has truly expanded the reach of higher education. When I graduated from high school in the early 1990s, I had to physically attend my classes at Arizona State University (ASU). When I returned to college in 2007, I attended my ASU classes via the Internet. Now, ASU is taking online education a step further by partnering with Germany’s Leuphana University on an educational project that focuses on the topic, “Sustainable Cities: Contradiction of Terms?”

 

Undergraduate students participating in the program will use traditional online learning tools but also meet virtually thanks to the Vidyo teleconferencing platform. Other teaching methods to be employed include intensive writing projects and workshops, peer-to-peer mentoring, online exhibits and even an in-person international exchange.

 

By taking a global approach to the topic of sustainable cities, students will be able to discuss sustainability with added context. Students from around the world likely view the topic slightly differently, depending on where they live and the most pressing environmental issues in their region.

 

Robert Page, vice provost and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, commented on the global aspect of the program.

 

“So we asked, ‘what if as we teach about sustainability, conservation biology, science, humanities and culture, we have students from Europe, South America, China, and the U.S. all talking together? There would be differing views and the sharing of those views might allow students to develop solutions to challenges that none could have conceived of individually. And so was born the concept of a global classroom.” Source: ASU

 

A $900,000 award from the Mercator Foundation is funding the ASU-Leuphana University partnership. The first round of students will begin a three-semester series of courses in January 2013. Once the first participants complete the program, they will then serve as mentors for the second group of students. If the project proves to be successful, it may expand to additional international university locations.

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