A blonde woman wearing a dark jacket stands to the left of a screen displaying information about Kazakhstan.

Professors, students have EDGE on remote learning

Since it's inception at Penn State Beaver, the EDGE (Experiential Digital Global Engagement) program has relied on technology to connect students and faculty across the globe.
Technology key in Experiential Digital Global Engagement program

While remote learning and working has been a new challenge for many this spring, talking online with colleagues across the globe was already part of every-day life for some Penn State students and faculty members 

The EDGE program – Experiential Digital Global Engagement – partners faculty from Penn State with their counterparts at universities in other countries. The two classes create a project, and the professors and students work together throughout the semester using technology, such as Zoom, to interact.

EDGE began at Penn State Beaver with just a few faculty members participating in the program. Eleven faculty from five Penn State campuses have delivered a total of 13 EDGE courses between Spring 2018 and Spring 2020. Now, there are 47 faculty from 16 campuses either preparing to EDGE a class or learning more about the program for future involvement.

Penn State has 14 international partner institutions in various countries, including Croatia, France, Morocco, Israel and Khazakhstan. 

“I am certain our EDGE-ing professors in the spring semester encouraged their students to consider the long-term impact of COVID-19 on both their local communities and the broader world,” Penn State Beaver Chancellor Dr. Jenifer Cushman said. “This crisis has brought into relief how interconnected we all are, and also how technology can cultivate connectivity.”

Tiffany MacQuarrie is an assistant teaching professor of English at Penn State Beaver and the professor in charge of EDGE. She sees great potential for EDGE going forward.

“With travel restrictions in place, the value of project-based international virtual exchange such as EDGE has garnered much attention within the University and across the world stage,” MacQuarrie said. “The opportunity to partner with students from around the world to complete a collaborative project showcases the skills our students gain: digital skills, intercultural communication skills, collaboration skills, technology skills, intercultural competence, problem-solving skills, and negotiation skills. We are on the cusp of EDGE’s explosive growth.”

Recent projects have allowed students to use their skills while learning about life and culture in the partner country. 

During the 2018-19 school year, a group of Information Sciences and Technology students at Penn State Beaver worked with students from Saken Seifullin Kazakh Agricultural Technical University (KATU) in Kazakhstan to develop an app that would track weather and climate. The app helps Kazakh farmers know the best times and places to plant crops. 

Before the project began, professors from KATU visited Penn State Beaver. They spent time not only discussing the project, but teaching students, faculty and staff about life and culture in Kazakhstan. The visit created a broader knowledge about life in both countries and deepened the relationship between the two universities.

In the Spring 2019 semester, Professor Talha Harcar’s Global Marketing course paired with Al-Akhawayn University in Morocco to develop an IT product that does not already exist there. 

The students worked in different groups creating plans for apps that would be similar to popular American services such as food deliver, money payment/transfer, and point-of-sale products.

And earlier this year, Claudia Tanasovich, assistant teaching professor of chemistry, guided her class and and a class from the Univeristy of Split in Croatia through a project to create soap using essential oils.

Split student Josipa Lovric said, “With this project we got the opportunity to meet young people from the other side of the world from our field of interest and to exchange experiences and knowledge both in the field of chemistry and social life. I hope that in the future there will be more projects like this.”

Cushman looks forward to seeing what new projects are developed in the coming year. 

“Because it fosters both global and digital learning, EDGE — now more than ever — is essential to guide our students toward an understanding of their place within, and relation to, the rest of the globe,” she said.