Professors from Northern Essex Community College join their French counterparts for a virtual exchange

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Emily Gonzalez, science teacher.

Five professors from Northern Essex Community College spent last fall creating partnerships with two French universities that will give local students a global experience without the need to 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 have developed joint projects that will be carried out virtually between students and teachers from the Merrimack Valley and France, using the latest web technologies. The four- to 12-week projects take place this spring.

Habib Maagou, math teacher.

Northern Essex is a partner of the University of Paris-Saclay and the University of Lorraine. The project provides experiences for students who cannot study abroad due to the global pandemic or work or family commitments, said Melba Acevedo, the college’s director of instructional technology and online education, who focuses his doctoral thesis on this subject.

“This program does not replace studying abroad. It is designed to expose students who may not have this opportunity to the benefits of collaborating with students and faculty from other countries,” she advises.

Liliana Brand, math teacher.

North Essex began exploring partnerships – called international virtual exchange schemes – shortly before COVID became a reality. IVE programs help students develop their technology skills as well as their soft skills, qualities that are in high demand in the 21st century workplace.

Muller collaborated with an English professor in France to develop a project for his marketing course that compares the shopping experience in France to that in 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 teacher.

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

To find out more about international virtual education opportunities in North Essex, contact Acevedo, at [email protected].

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