Broadway and 7th Avenue, NYC Photo by Jim Teskey

Broadway and 7th Avenue, NYC
Photo by Jim Teskey


Last week two members of our CBU community, student Jim Teskey and professor Marcia Ostashewski, along with student Pamela Tabatabai and professor Mahlon Grass from Lockhaven University (LHU) in Pennsylvania, went to New York City to share their collaborative ‘virtual classroom’ partnership with the rest of the world via the 10th Annual SUNY COIL Conference.

What is a SUNY COIL, you might ask? It’s an acronym for, “State University of New York Collaborative Online International Learning.” And what does a “SUNY COIL” have to do with us here at CBU or any other forward thinking institution of higher education? Before you read about CBU’s contribution to “Collaborative Online International Learning” here are a few words from Jon Rubin, Director, SUNY COIL Centre,

“…this modality of internationally networked higher education is still emerging…One of the COIL Center’s goals has been to share our experience with others in order to more widely disseminate and promote the COIL model….because collaborative online international learning is a networked model of education. It cannot function within the confines of a single institution – it thrives on the connections it makes with others.”

CBU’s contribution began last fall when Dr. Marcia Ostashewski, Canada Research Chair in Communities and Cultures at CBU and Dr. Mahlon Grass, Associate Professor of Music at LHU, created a virtual classroom experience for their students. While CBU and LHU may be 600 km apart, as the seagulls or VoIPs fly, both classrooms were virtually in the same room.

Utilizing SKYPE and D2L (Desire 2 Learn, similar in function to CBU’s Moodle) platforms our classes were able to visit with each other over a 4 week period between October and November 2015, sharing responses in dialogue with the course readings and assignments at hand and our individual ‘bios,’ including:

  • individual backgrounds
  • hobbies & activities
  • academic interests
  • exciting moments
  • future plans
  • stresses
  • values

Over a four week period, our virtual class explored selected units of Dr. Ostashewski’s Mi’kmaq Studies/Music/Anthropology 2106, “Indigenous Musics of North America,” and Dr. Grass’ “Introduction to World Music.” Throughout those four weeks the two professors co-facilitated the delivery and subsequent discussions realized through our:

  • Flow Chart for Success
    • Reading the Assignments Related to …
      • Studying Videos, PowerPoint Presentations & Audio Examples
    • Reviews Prior to Tests &
    • Taking Unit Assignment Tests
  • Rubric for Threaded Discussions
    • Submitting Compositions for D2LThreaded Discussion
    • Engaging in dialogue with other students, in response to their writings
  • Online World Music Course Syllabus
  • Online World Music Weekly Schedule

One of the highpoints was our two classrooms dancing together a ‘Heel & Toe Polka’ to the music of Arnie Strynadka, The Uke-Cree Fiddler and his “Finely Functioning Fiddle” (based on Ostashewski’s ethnography research with Strynadka, who grew up in the Saddle Lake Reserve area of northeastern Alberta).
What brought our two classes together and on track to SUNY COIL? Drs. Grass and Ostashewski submitted a proposal in response to the conference’s Call for Papers, for a presentation entitled, “The Moving Force to Global Communication Made Easy.” The CBU/LHU collaborative “Step by Step Process,” as outlined in our proposal, which assisted in securing an invitation from SUNY COIL to attend the conference included:

  • Welcoming the Initiative
  • Beginning the Dialogue
  • Valuing Collaboration
  • Establishing a Relationship
  • Sharing Class Photos, Bios & Email
  • Integration of Course Materials
  • Additions of Complementary Materials
  • Valuing of Activities
    • Reading Assignment’s Content
    • Research
    • Complementary Student Perspectives

The presentation – in which students and professors were both involved – was enthusiastically received. Inspired by the success of our cooperative endeavour, several conference delegates asked questions of and engaged in one-on-one discussion with our team of presenters afterward – interested in ways in which they, too, could facilitate such productive teaching/learning collaborations. A scholar from The University of the Hague also requested an opportunity to work with Dr. Ostashewski and CBU students in the future, in courses such as ones that explore innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism.

 As a CBU student visiting New York City, Jim Teskey says, “I found the New Yorkers themselves far exceeded my anxious expectations, as did the sunny & warm weather. You’ll find, whether it’s in the street (we walked a great deal), hotel, restaurant and shops, remarkably hospitable, kind and generous people. If a “New Yorker Attitude” does exist I’d humbly submit it’s a “Live & Let Live” outlook. You’ll find an ethnically diverse mingling of strong, proud and loyal people with an inclination to serve & protect.” May your eyes too Happen to find the best in people, places and points of interest!

-Jim Teskey (April 2016)