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Miami offering new virtual study abroad program

During J-term, Miami University will offer its first virtual study abroad experience, MiamiConnects Virtual Global Learning. With the COVID-19 pandemic surging across the country, organizers hope the program will provide an immersive experience without the travel. 

Virtual global learning is a growing method of education among countries across the world, said Ryan Dye, director of education abroad. 

“It is a great way for faculty to integrate global learning into their classrooms without a travel component, making it affordable and acceptable for everyone,” Dye said. 

Miami’s Global Initiatives office decided to fully develop the MiamiConnects program in order to reach more faculty and students as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. 

“It really wasn’t gaining any traction with faculty or students, [but] COVID hit, and so my staff and study abroad offices had the chance to fully develop the program,” said Cheryl Young, assistant provost for Global Initiatives. “We had planned to have it offered last summer, but the approvals didn’t get through on time. So we got it through for this winter term.”

Even though the program is virtual, Dye said it still emulates the benefits of traditional study abroad experiences.

“[It is stimulated] primarily through developing relationships with students and faculty in these different countries,” Dye said. “Students will have to navigate cultural differences and time zones in order to develop a project as part of the class. This is an important skill for Miami students to develop.”

For example, in the program’s course centered around Malaysia, Miami students will collaborate with Malaysian faculty and students on projects in which they will form teams and, in the process, get to know each other and develop skills of collaboration, cooperation and problem solving.

“The person-to-person connections are still there through small groups and one-on-ones in the classrooms,” Young said. “They do have to overcome language barriers often, so in that way, it is very much like study abroad.”

The program accepts students on rolling admission. Students are able to apply now for the J-term program by registering to the classes offered on BannerWeb.

Students wanting to participate in the program are required to register for Interdisciplinary (IDS) 199F: Becoming a Global Citizen and take one of the other courses offered to register for six credit hours: IDS 199G: MiamiConnects @ Religion in Malaysia, IDS 199J: MiamiConnects @ Immigration in Central America and the US and IDS 199I: MiamiConnects @Tech in Kenya.

Some students have already registered for these classes for J-term, but Global Initiatives can accept up to 150 students.

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“This is a program that is new and was launched a little bit later than some of the winter term programs,” Dye said. “We hope that we can get more [students].”

The MiamiConnects study abroad experience is the same price as classes students take on Miami’s campus. According to Miami’s One Stop, during the winter and summer terms, the rate per credit hour is $619.78 for Ohio residents, and $1,470.89 for non-Ohio residents. 

“All of our study abroad experiences are the same tuition rate, [which is] the same tuition rate you pay on campus,” Young said. “But for these courses, there is no program fee or travel [fee]. So, it is less than ‘feet on the ground’ study abroad.”

The program will also be offered in the summer.

“These experiences [in these classes] were developed with inclusivity in mind,” Young said. “Getting all students an immersive experience that allows them to connect with students and universities across the world to share their perspectives.”