Thanks to a virtual collaboration with a top-ranked European university, 22 UVic business students in the International Business (IB) specialization at UVic’s Gustavson School of Business have joined fellow classmates from another continent this term to participate in learning opportunities despite a global pandemic.
It’s all due to a Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) program with Kozminski University, a Triple Crown-accredited school in Poland’s capital city. Although our BCom students went into the fall term knowing the standard academic exchange program will not be possible this year due to COVID-19 and international travel restrictions, UVic’s business school had announced its intention to continue the online learning.
The COIL program is the latest endeavour in a 13-year partnership between Gustavson and Kozminski University in Warsaw.
And it’s how our IB students are experiencing international exchange this term.
One of three specializations for BCom students
IB is one of three specializations available for BCom students at Gustavson. It prepares students for careers in the global marketplace and provides them with language training, cross-cultural knowledge and in-person international experiences. Typically, these international opportunities take the form of a co-op placement, a work term or an academic exchange with a partner university.
Gustavson’s International team and BCom program introduced the COIL program this term as an innovative way for IB students to gain international experience despite the global travel restrictions.
The two institutions have collaborated so that students from both schools enter the same cohort and participate in the same online classes.
This fall’s cohort is currently comprised of 35 students, including 13 from Kozminski. The five dozen students will complete five courses together: three taught by Gustavson faculty and two taught by Kozminski faculty. Classes are in English, and due to the schools’ different time zones, they run in the morning for students on the west coast of Canada and in the evening for students in Poland’s captial.
Shawn Xiao, a current Gustavson IB student in the COIL program, says he starts his morning at 7:30 a.m. to prepare for the morning’s classes: “It was bit difficult for me to get used to the schedule at the start,” he admits, “but [lately] I feel better.”
Meanwhile, Kozminski COIL student Krishna Kant Mohan Raj finds the synchronous learning beneficial to his busy schedule: “A great thing about… being situated in Poland [is] I could work in the morning and study in the evening due to the [nine-hour] time difference.”
At 8 a.m. Pacific time (5 p.m. in Warsaw), Xiao and Mohan Raj join the rest of their international cohort for online classes through Zoom and Microsoft Teams. While classes vary day to day, each one typically includes group work in breakout rooms, collaborating on presentations, doing quizzes and engaging with discussion topics.
In addition to participating in online classes together, the students have connected through a virtual orientation and will have the chance to attend workshops tailored to their experience of international—yet virtual—collaboration. They have also been getting to know each other outside of class through social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook.
By encouraging collaboration and group work among the students and allowing them to work with international faculty, the program will remain faithful to the IB specialization’s most experiential component—studying abroad.
Xiao, for instance, decided to sign up for the opportunity because he felt that it “[would] be a good experience to have lectures with people from a different culture”; he says that the COIL program is a “great chance to understand how to cooperate with people from different cultures”—an important skill to have as an IB student and one fostered by Gustavson’s exchange programs.
[The best part of COIL] has been discussing…different cultures [and seeing] different opinions, especially when we are talking about some [of] Poland[‘s] culture… it feels great to have people who [are] actually living there to explain your questions.
—Shawn Xiao, BCom student in IB specialization of UVic’s Gustavson School of Business
Strengthening skills and growing as global citizens
Through the opportunity to work with students and faculty from both Kozminski and Gustavson, COIL students will expand their knowledge of European and Canadian business practices, strengthen their cross-cultural skills and ultimately grow as global citizens.
Furthermore, the COIL program will prepare its students for careers in multinational organizations and businesses. Mohan Raj, for instance, is hoping to gain insight into “Canadian markets and opinions from Canadian students about international business topics.” He is excited to learn through UVic in preparation for future job opportunities in BC and elsewhere in Canada.
When international travel and in-person exchange programs are possible again, students in this innovative virtual collaboration will be equipped with a unique perspective on global business and a growing international network of peers.
In fact, both Mohan Raj and Xiao hope to maintain their connections from the COIL program once it is safe to travel abroad. Mohan Raj has always wanted to visit BC and study in Canada, as “life in Canada feels amazing and joyous.”
Xiao, meanwhile, has his sights set across the Atlantic. “I have been [longing] for [travel] in Europe,” he says, and the COIL program is “a great chance to know some friends from there!”