CORONAcredits: Interdisciplinary Innovations to Aid Student Fieldwork Completion Due to Abbreviated Time Abroad in a Global Pandemic

Session We1: Nov 10, 11:00 AM


The Spring 2020 semester provided unique challenges for global experiences of all types to meet the intended learning objectives for students due to the COVID-19 pandemic disruption. This was especially true for experiential language and cultural immersion programs where engineering students were in the midst of their fieldwork experience abroad. The COVID-19 disruption presented unique challenges to recreate language and cultural understanding within international engineering fieldwork experiences in the US.

This article outlines the response to the COVID-19 pandemic by the Interdisciplinary Global Programs (IGP) at Northern Arizona University (NAU). The IGP response was an innovative interdisciplinary and cross-institutional collaboration between NAU’s international office and faculty across three academic colleges to assist students in completing the interdisciplinary engineering, language, and cultural understanding objectives, absent direct immersion abroad. IGP developed “CORONAcredits”
focused on exploration of the worldwide impact of COVID-19 to help students complete their
fieldwork experience.

The CORONAcredits engaged students in exploration of their personal experiences within the greater context of how different cultures handled the worldwide pandemic, enabling students to continue to build their global understanding from the US.  Students analyzed the worldwide response of the unfolding pandemic across cultures and engaged in a mix of assignments that included discussion contributions where students shared their personal experiences abroad. CORONAcredits exposed students to a diversity of approaches to highlight cultural differences and deepen understanding of global, economic, environmental, and societal contexts present in the way that each student navigated the pandemic both domestically and abroad.

Findings highlight the importance of flexibility and an interdisciplinary design, guiding students in their intercultural reflections, and incorporating new materials into module design. CORONAcredits can provide a “break in case of emergency” navigation plan that can be employed when unforeseen circumstances arise in engineering study abroad contexts.