Chad Detloff, GEBG Director of Professional Learning and Curriculum
January 22, 2021
Silver-Lining the Lockdown

Case Studies of How Virtual Learning Has Led to Meaningful, Sustainable Global Experiences


There’s not much to like about lockdown: we all miss the sense of community, opportunities to learn off-campus, and educational benefits of being together in person. However, we have innovated in pedagogy, clarified curricular and programmatic goals, built new partnerships, and managed to sustain global learning despite the inability to travel, near or far.

And one of the lasting insights–shared in GEBG PLCs, Microcourses, and Student Dialogues–has been that virtual opportunities for global education are meaningful learning experiences in their own right: while we had pivoted out of necessity, what has been created will last far beyond the pandemic because these virtual experiences provide opportunities accessible to all students; they build explicitly upon preexisting coursework; and they utilize technologies and focus on topics that are familiar to students and, therefore, reinforce student agency. In fact, 52% of student participants (108 out of 209 total respondents) in our final student dialogue reported that prior to the experience, they had not had the opportunity to connect with others outside of their own countries to discuss these types of global topics.

Below are four profiles of GEBG Member-School Programs that realize this vision, making the best of our circumstances and developing opportunities that effectively target global competencies. Our hats are off to these intrepid educators who are developing models upon which we can build for the benefit of all of our students.


Case Study One


St. Louis University High (SLUH) in St. Louis has truly seized the moment and built an extensive array of virtual dialogues to supplement their preexisting curricula, engage student leadership, and build upon their school’s mission and vision.

From Spanish- and Russian-language dialogues with a primarily language-acquisition focus to virtual tours of local museums that are followed by discussions of cultural identity and race; young men at SLUH are regularly alongside their peers from Jesuit partner schools across the world, providing great breadth of perspectives and depth of understanding around global topics. Check out SLUH’s awesome Twitter account here!

Rob Chura, Director of Global Education and Russian Teacher at SLUH, shares his insights on designing virtual exchanges, developing faculty buy-in, and using effective communications–among other general take-aways from his experiences thus far. According to Rob,

“Have essential questions, use backward design…but don’t let perfect be the enemy of good…Any time you can get students together to interact…good things are going to come…” 

Case Study Two


Herlufsholm Skole og Gods in Denmark and Palmer Trinity School in Florida have partnered two of their English classrooms to collaborate on a project that uses the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a platform to build empathy through literature and student intercultural curiosity, communication, and creativity.

Students in both English classrooms have chosen works of fiction that were selected–in part–through crowdsourced recommendations from the GEBG Community for their ability to develop empathy around global issues, represented in the SDGs.

Throughout the fall, participants in the Student Action PLC (some depicted above) have provided feedback on this project, and students will ultimately share their learning–both about the novels they read as well as the intercultural dialogues they had with their partners across the Atlantic–at their February 10th Showcase.

Ann Hansen, Head of International Development with a focus on Global Education at Herlufsholm, explains:

“During these times when students are isolated in their homes, this collaboration is providing opportunities to open themselves up to each other, to be curious and to understand. Surprisingly, we have discovered that the students are eager to delve deeper than the literature and are also exploring themes surrounding Covid, BLM, personal experiences with racism, and thoughts about American politics. It is our fervent hope that the lessons learned in this collaboration stay with them.”

Email Ann if you would like to participate as an observer during their Showcase on February 10th or to learn more about the project!

Case Study Three


Madeira School in Virginia has committed to engaging in online student dialogues to supplement preexisting programming and empower their young women to engage courageously as informed global citizens.

Madeira Sophomore Maylynn Rodriguez participated in GEBG’s student dialogue on “Youth Activism for Global Causes” in December. Since then, she and others at Madiera have launched the “Madeira and MITRE Wine to Water Campaign,” a global initiative to “educate one another on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation.”

Maylynn describes her own growth in this area:

“To be frank, I did not know much about Global Justice until I had the opportunity to attend the Global Student Dialogues, as well as take the first two parts of the 10th grade History Course at Madeira…The Global Student Dialogues amplified the importance of understanding, and acting…When we, as a united humankind, work together to honor our differences, which are opportunities to learn…[it] inevitably creates the framework to become better people, and better leaders.”

Join this initiative by registering yourself, your family, or your students in their virtual Filter Build Experience, during which participants from around the world will learn how to build water filtration systems that will provide access to clean water for communities in need, using a kit that they will assemble alongside their peers during the March 22nd online event.

Case Study Four


Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut is doing exemplary work in developing their own virtual events that unite students from across the globe around a particular topic or challenge. Their ChangeMaker’s Institute brings together young women to “identify a shared vision for a better future.”

Listen to the Director of Miss Porter’s Institute for Global Education, Sophie Paris, share her experience and insights around virtual exchanges, one of the featured speakers from our Virtual Exchange Microcourse.


This exceptional, visionary work requires an awful lot of tenacity, passion, and time; but any of the bold educators above would attest that it is absolutely worth it. Not only are these opportunities the types of experiences that students will remember beyond their experience in your course or program, but they are also memorable because of their direct applicability to the lives of the students involved and the hope that the experiences provide, for both participants and spectators alike.

In our work with educators, the primary hesitation to dive into virtual exchanges is a belief that the task is more complicated or difficult than it ends up being. Please use these models as a platform on which to build your own single exchange, project, or series. One classroom’s connecting with a peer school abroad can be just what you need to share the deep impact of virtual exchanges with colleagues and to get them involved in building their own opportunities, grounded in their own curricula and personal passions.

We know in global education that the best teaching and learning in our schools happens when students feel that their identities and experiences are at the center of their learning and when teachers feel that they are liberated from expectations around content coverage and can use their own passions and love for the students to drive a dynamic learning environment.

While we are all online in some form, there is no time like the present to build exactly this type of learning, which will surely outlast the pandemic due to its unique nature and ability to teach intercultural competencies. Please share what you create with us!

Some Key Take-Aways Across Experiences Developing Virtual Exchanges:
  • While considering virtual exchanges as curriculum can lead to effective and purposeful learning, simply getting students from different backgrounds into the same virtual room will likely lead to more and better opportunities for intercultural learning.
  • Virtual exchanges can take many forms: dialogues on a topic, collaborative project-based learning, and purpose-based summits.
  • It’s beneficial when exchanges are considered as part of a larger curriculum or series of exchanges, but often a program concept evolves out of one or two exchanges and the consequent reflections/interests of the students.
  • Practice your tech, but make sure logistics remain secondary to the learning goals.
  • Providing just one model can be enough to help colleagues see how simple and effective this pedagogy can be across multiple disciplines.
  • Setting program goals with partners can assure that all participants feel valued equally.
  • If possible, leveraging preexisting partnerships often ensures both an ease of planning as well as an essential foundation of common understanding.
  • Virtual exchange can provide new opportunities for equity in terms of both access to intercultural learning as well as students engaging in a dialogue with their peers around the world as equal partners.