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    Global summer schools: developing multicultural competencies staying at home

    Hidalgo-Bastida, Araida, Cullen, Rod, McAllister-Gibson, Colin, Ramirez Sotelo, Maria Guadalupe, Boccafoschi, Francesca and Giordano, Magda (2022) Global summer schools: developing multicultural competencies staying at home. In: 16th International Technology, Education and Development Conference, 07 March 2022 - 08 March 2022, Online.

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    International summer schools are a well know approach to improve technical skills as well as to develop multicultural competencies (Lerke, 2020). University students benefit particularly from these as they can also learn specialist knowledge which might inspire them to pursue a specific research topic or to consider options abroad for further education or employment after graduation. The global disruption of COVID-19 prevented international summer schools in 2020 and 2021, and continues to restrict international travel, with some higher education institutions holding a stricter policy to protect students and staff, limiting travel until further notice. A virtual alternative global summer school was coordinated by an international team of universities: Unidad Profesional Interdisciplinaria de Biotecnologia (UPIBI-IPN, Mexico), Escuela Nacional de Educacion Superior-Juriquilla (ENES-Juriquilla, Mexico), Universita de Piemonte Orientale-Novara (UPO-Novara, Italy) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU, UK) to enable students in biomed/biotech/bioeng areas, to experience a virtual summer school, supporting their employability while fostering international academic collaborations between departments. The aim was to deliver an online summer school that would provide an insight into the latest research projects, as much as, allow students to learn about other cultures. The programme was planned for 66% for scientific talks, and 33% cultural talks, the latter including virtual tours of cities, live food sessions, recorded videos of participants performing folkloric dances and introduction to languages. The programme ran over four days, each hosted by a different institution. Prior institutional experience on blended teaching and virtual collaborations allowed the team to run the online school with appropriate technologies to coordinate questions and polls to monitor students’ experience and assess their learning. The official language of the programme was English; speakers, chairs and coordinators connected via zoom, with sessions being watched by 200long-term viewers in Facebook live and Youtube live. Sessions were interactive with quizzes and polls using Kahoot and Vevox, the latter, allowed real time data analysis to compare the perception of students about their multicultural and scientific experience. Finally, students were assessed on the scientific content with a final VLE MCQ, which also allowed one institution (UPO) to award credits for a module, and another institution (MMU) to provide extracurricular points for their RISE Award. Student engagement was constant and feedback showed their satisfaction for attending a summer school that not only exposed them to high-quality international research, but also to other cultures; with data showing 66% of students enjoyed cultural sessions as much as scientific talks (n=35±10). In addition, 95% of students confirmed that they were more likely to travel to one of the hosting countries, and 93% more likely to learn one of the hosting languages after the global summer school, indicating a strong correlation between a virtual international activity, and an inclusive attitude and new-found multicultural proficiency. Despite the success, our current structure should evolve to include virtual spaces to facilitate group work and students’ interactions (de Hei, 2020) to assist intercultural learning and complement the high-quality scientific engagement and the rich cultural exchange.

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