Global connections add New Dynamic to History Course

Monday, May 16, 2016

Students across Ohio University’s regional campuses and two students doing a semester abroad in Salzburg, Austria participated in an interdisciplinary – and internationally focused – course during spring semester. Among those students were OU-Zanesville history majors Troy Jones, Jared Keirns and Lauren Williams.


“This course was different than any other course I’ve taken,” said Keirns, a senior. He added that the course incorporated projects with students from different locations and included mentoring by teacher candidates from Austria. “Incorporating technology and partnering with collaborators in other parts of the world adds another skillset to my education.”


The pilot course, taught by Dr. Korcaighe Hale, associate professor of history, and Dr. Jenifer Cushman, dean and associate professor of German (both at the Zanesville campus), was designed to engage students with peers abroad through technology that emphasized student collaboration. Pedagogically, it approximated the benefits of overseas learning without the expense and complications of travel abroad.


Jones, a junior, said, “It was great to see the material and then reinforce it through different perspectives and in multiple ways.” Throughout the module-based course entitled “Europe between the World Wars,” and the associated “Special Topics in Modern Languages,” students were presented with content that blended history and culture, incorporating technology to enhance their learning experience.


“Adobe Connect allowed for one-on-one discussions, which was more comfortable for me,” said Williams, a College Credit Plus junior from Zanesville High School. “I appreciated the Austrian facilitators helping to keep our group projects moving.” 


Jones found the blending of culture, arts and history a unique approach and enjoyed the use of technology. “I liked how the course incorporated new things like Adobe Connect and WebEx so we could experience guest speakers we might not otherwise have in a traditional history class,” he said.


“Having speakers who discussed various aspects of the art or film solidified the historical context and the personal perspective of what the people likely felt, under the Third Reich, for example,” Williams added.


Using web conferencing, Cushman and Hale arranged for experts in art history, theater and modern languages to enrich the discussion of the curriculum, and aid the students in their group projects, which examined the artistic and cultural movements of the period. In one such meeting, Professor Nik Sathe conferenced in from Salzburg and presented a discussion and close reading of the film “The Blue Angel,” which the students had watched for homework.


“The discussion about the archetypes of the characters and how they translate over culture bridged the importance of the downfall of the character that Americans are likely to have missed,” Jones said.


The global and interdisciplinary philosophy used in this course is being expanded to additional courses over the coming year. The courses that will be updated to intensify engagement of cultural perspectives include “American Literature 1918 to Present,” “Introduction to Astronomy” and several communications courses.


For more information about Ohio University’s Collaborative Online International Learning Initiative, contact Cushman at