International Collaborative Learning at the Robins School

April 20, 2015
The Robins School and IÉSEG utilize new technology to bring students in Richmond and France together

Like many industries nowadays, higher education is changing rapidly. New and affordable technologies make possible activities that we’ve never before been able to execute. Last semester students in the Global Supply Chain Management class with Amit Eynan, management professor and department chair, had the unique opportunity to experience global supply chain management from a truly international perspective. Eynan and Christine Di Martinelly, management professor at Richmond partner university IÉSEG School of Management in Lille, France, utilized the Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) model to allow Robins School of Business and IÉSEG students to study global supply chain management in a broadened learning environment. In order to enhance students’ international experience, teams consisting of two students from each school were asked to analyze and improve various global supply chains.

Eynan suggested, “This long-distance alliance allows students to experience and ultimately overcome cultural barriers such as communication, language and time difference. They also had the chance to practice long-distance group dynamics and leadership. Utilizing web conferencing technology, the teams presented their projects as if they were in the same room and not 3,900 miles apart separated by the Atlantic Ocean. Di Martinelly added, “Because of the multicultural composition of the teams, the presentations exhibited broad insights and perspectives that we might not have seen in a traditional presentation.”

Joe Hoff, interim dean of international education, explained, “COIL is a new approach to internationalizing a course. By having faculty from different institutions in different countries teach a course together and arrange for students to work on projects together, students do not need to leave campus to have an international experience. Now students can gain an international perspective on any subject by participating in an internationalized classroom simply via videoconference technology. This collaboration between faculty at the different institutions also encourages teaching and possibly research collaboration in the future. These efforts deepen the international partnerships the University of Richmond has around the world.”

Sterling Simpson-Johnson, ’15, a double major in international business and German studies, looked back on the class. “I thought it was a tremendous experience getting to partner with IÉSEG. Through the experience, I learned you have to appreciate the collaboration and know what value it brings to you. The challenge was to gain trust within our global team, and in the end, we were able to conduct seamless presentations through the videoconference technology despite the time and geographic difference. Binh Tran, my IÉSEG teammate, already had work experience in information technology, so he was a great resource to the team.”

Tran shared, “It was a unique experience having a joint class with another university from a different continent. We set up our group as if we were a global team in a multinational company. Coordination and communication was the key to our success. Working with Sterling was a pleasure as he strengthened the team with his creative, strategic ideas. Dr. Eynan made the joint work more interesting with his questions, which forced us to approach the problem systematically. He gave us very detailed and concrete feedback as well.”

Eynan concluded, “With this online technology we can explore many important global questions. For example, when classes from Richmond and Lille meet virtually using web conferencing technology, we might ask some students in both classes to place orders for eggs while other students will order chickens. As we observe the orders’ arrival times, we may finally determine for each country which comes first, the chicken or the egg.”