by Stephen Hager
At Gazelle International we try to bring everything back to classroom outcomes: they are the common denominator of our efforts and our reason d’être. And so it’s crucial to keep in regular touch with our partners to hear about successes as well as obstacles; goals as well as practical realities. Yesterday morning I had an instructive conversation with Melody Reichoff, Global Education Coordinator at Waukesha County Technical College — one of the early adopters of CLICK Virtual Exchange. Over the course of our call she reflected on her aspirations for a comprehensive institutional adoption of CLICK at Waukesha as well as the realities of our virtual exchange system in action.
“[At Waukesha] we have 180 programs and technical diplomas,” Melody said. “Our goal in working with Gazelle is to have a CLICK virtual classroom in each one.” And while there’s a long way to go in achieving this, Melody sees CLICK as a way to democratize study abroad and add a great deal of value from a professional development standpoint: “We have about 50 students who go abroad each year and these abroad experiences tend to be relatively short — on average around 10 days. Right now we are hitting such a specific group of students. CLICK allows us to reach so many more.” And, as she points out, “Even if [students] are finishing school here and going directly into the workforce they are always going to interact with different people.” This, for Melody, is where CLICK can make a huge difference in preparing students for the realities of 21st century employment.
Melody likes that CLICK allows students and teachers to embark on a learning experience together. Not only are students benefitting from new cultural experiences, connections and perspectives, but so are their teachers! In Melody’s words, CLICK provides the venue for “a mutual learning outcome.” The fact that these international connections can be established during a global pandemic is a testament to the unique benefits of Gazelle’s Virtual Exchange system.
Over the course of the call I wanted to hear about some of the challenges that Melody has encountered at Waukesha in her efforts to raise awareness about the power of Virtual Exchange. The two primary obstacles she pointed to were the “fear of the unknown” and worries about finding a teaching partner. Educators come in with varying levels of tech-savviness and some fear that incorporating CLICK will require them to fundamentally reorganize their course. “I frame it as taking a course you have and reworking it. It’s not like you have to come up with a whole new course. It’s about making it collaborative.” And, while for some it may sound too good to be true, teachers need to understand that they don’t need to have international connections: that’s what the CLICK network is here for! Once she gets her teachers to sign up, “There are international partners waiting to meet them.”
Here Melody lands on a crucial aspect of our services and value: we match compatible teachers with one another through the global CLICK network. Not only that, but we provide ongoing support to ensure the success of the international collaborations (a level of support that Melody identifies as both “helpful” and “useful”). She even gave a shout out to the dedicated support of our Virtual Learning Liaison, the indomitable Grace East!
Finally, Melody emphasized the potential for course improvements over time made possible by teacher training, support, and the wealth of data and analytics that teachers have at their disposal following their CLICK run. Educators have the resources they need to iterate, adapt, and optimize their collaborative courses. With these features in place, Melody notes, “You can continue reflecting and improving. It’s really exciting to see the changes over time.”