Northern Essex Community College Professors Join with French Counterparts for Virtual Exchange

Melba Acevedo, director of instructional technology and online education, and Sheila Muller, business professor, at Norther Essex Community College. (Courtesy photographs.)

Emily Gonzalez, Science Professor.

Five Northern Essex Community College professors spent last fall creating partnerships with two French universities that will provide local students with a global experience without the need for travel.

Professors Sheila Muller, Business; Emily Gonzalez, Anatomy and Physiology; Liliana Brand, Calculus II; Habib Maagoul, Differential Equations; and Lis Espinoza, American Literature II collaborated with French professors. They developed joint projects that will be conducted virtually between students and professors in the Merrimack Valley and France, using the latest web technologies. The four- to 12-week projects take place this spring.

Habib Maagoul, math professor.

Northern Essex is partnering with Université Paris-Saclay and the Université de Lorraine. The project offers experiences for students who can’t study abroad because of the global pandemic or work or family commitments, said Melba Acevedo, the college’s director of instructional technology and online education, who is focusing her doctoral thesis on this topic.

“This program is not a substitute for study abroad. It’s designed to expose students who may not have that opportunity, to the benefits of collaborating with students and faculty in other countries,” she advises.

Liliana Brand, math professor.

Northern Essex began to explore the partnerships—called international virtual exchange programs—shortly before COVID became a reality. IVE programs help students build their technology skills as well as their global competency, qualities that are in high demand in the 21st-century workplace.

Muller has been collaborating with an English professor in France to develop a project for her marketing course that compares the shopping experience in France to that of the United States, using mystery shoppers. “The experience has energized my own teaching. We come from different backgrounds but have the same challenges,” she said.

Lis Espinoza, English professor.

In addition to determining learning outcomes and deciding what technologies to use, Acevedo said, faculty will determine how to collaborate in real time while in different international time zones.

To learn more about international virtual education opportunities at Northern Essex, contact Acevedo, at [email protected].

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