Students connect in global classrooms

Global news

A student who collaborated with peers on the other side of the world, all while remaining on campus, says the “special” experience has prepared her for a move abroad.

Hannah Walker, who will graduate in Chinese in July, took part in a COIL (Collaborative Online International Learning) activity with students from Southwest Jiaotong University. Undergraduates from both universities worked together to translate texts during online meetings, discussions and break out groups.

Hannah formed such a good bond with the students in her group that they have invited her to visit when she moves out to China to teach English for a year.

“I’m moving to China after graduation to teach English and the module has really helped me to prepare for the move.

Hannah Walker

Hannah said: “It’s so important to get the context when translating something. Sometimes we can’t pick up on the vibe of the text, so it’s really helpful to have input from a Chinese speaker, so they can give us the feelings and emotions in something.

“Bringing a lot of people together just makes the process a lot more interesting. You discover things you wouldn’t have without that opportunity. 

“The text we were translating contained a lot of idioms, cultural-specific terms and social online movements such as dance movements, which we had no idea about. 

“It’s hard to translate this literally into English – as it wouldn’t make sense. Learning the nuances of a different culture, especially as I’m moving there, is pretty special. 

“I’m moving to China after graduation to teach English and the module has really helped me to prepare for the move. The group I was in was really lovely. We’ve kept in touch and they’ve invited me to visit them when I move to China.”

Enlightening experience

Hannah explained that the sessions, led by academics from both the University of Leeds and Southwest Jiaotong University, were bilingual. “Everyone who learns Chinese at Leeds has language exchanges with a Chinese speaker, but this module added a new dimension to it. 

“It’s so enlightening to learn that there are students doing the same thing as you on the other side of the world. They have a similar uni life, they study similar modules, we’re translating similar texts.”

The module was developed by Dr Martin Ward, Associate Professor of Chinese and Japanese Translation in the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies, who said: “My dream is that one day, every student at Leeds will have at least one opportunity to learn collaboratively with their peers in another country – to become a global citizen.

“COIL is so versatile, it’s inclusive and it gives students the opportunity to find out how other people learn - what are their assessments? what are their career prospects?

“Students can engage with their peers around the world, from the convenience of our own campus and without costing them a penny extra.”

Martin developed his COIL activity with Southwest Jiaotong University thanks to funding from the university’s International Strategy Fund.

“I’ve had the privilege of running two-week long COIL± collaborative activities for students on my Chinese and Japanese translation modules, both undergraduate and Masters, with Southwest Jiaotong University and Monash University in Australia over the past few years, and have been encouraged to see how it has broadened students’ minds and horizons, helped them develop new skills, and engage proactively with the world.”

Martin aims to build a support structure for COIL modules, including training, networks and resources on Sharepoint. He, and fellow Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence colleagues Ayako Yoshino and Eve Smith, led academics at a COIL Showcase event, where speakers talked about successful modules they had run and networked to share insights and best practice.

“We have the international partnerships, we have the digital resources, we have experience of delivering learning online and the expertise around us to support successful delivery. There is no need to delay the intentional scaling up of COIL±,” Martin added. 

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Image credit: Alexandra Atkinson