Global Online Learning Exchange in Educational Datasets partners with University College Dublin to create research opportunities

By Katherine C. Aquino, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Administrative and Pedagogical Leadership, The School of Education

Katherine Aquino standing in front of the writing center at University College Dublin.

June 21, 2021

I have started to officially plan our collaboration with Global Online Learning Exchange (GOLE) Seaneen Sloan, Ph.D.Assistant Professor and PhD Research Director in Educational Psychology, and Elizabeth Tobin, Ph.D. Candidate and Researcher in Education, from University College Dublin (UCD) starting in the Spring Semester 2020. The main objectives from our GOLE project focused on comparing American and Irish education datasets and assessing how data collection informs education policy at national and international levels.

The virtual exchange included 25 students: nine St. John’s Educational Leadership Ed.D. students and 16 Irish students enrolled in UCD’s PhD program in Educational Psychology. The virtual exchange experience lasted approximately five weeks in the middle of the spring quarter of 2021. Due to the difference in time zones, the exchange was structured as an asynchronous experience. Additionally, as the two institutions had different learning management systems, we created a central website to house all resources, videos and instructions to ensure learning materials were accessible to all participating students. .

One of the most exciting parts of the virtual exchange experience was the opportunity to collaborate with my colleagues. This collaboration gave me the opportunity to engage with my international peers in the creation and completion of virtual exchange courses and the development of related research projects. GOLE allowed our research group to explore the student experience and the overall role of virtual exchanges in graduate courses. Currently, our group has several research conference proposals and journal manuscripts under review.

Katherine Aquino standing in front of the writing center at University College Dublin.
Katherine Aquino standing outside the student center at University College Dublin.

I recently had the opportunity to visit University College Dublin in March following the successful completion of the Spring 2021 Virtual Exchange. While I had originally planned to travel to Ireland immediately following the Virtual Exchange, the changing travel restrictions and disease outbreaks postponed my trip until almost a year after the educational collaboration.

While in Dublin, I visited the UCD campus and had several productive research meetings to discuss additional collaborations and future publications. As we are still in a world where the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting almost everything we do, I was unable to travel to Belfast in Northern Ireland as one of my colleagues had to self-quarantine to not be exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

Despite planning and carrying out the virtual exchange during a global pandemic, the overall GOLE opportunity has been an incredible experience for my career. COVID-19 has underscored the importance of providing students with holistic learning opportunities through the increased use of technology and innovative online teaching strategies. I commend St. John’s University for promoting virtual exchanges long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward, I will continue to engage in virtual exchange opportunities as I believe in the increased use and need for virtual exchanges in the higher education environment.