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May 15, 2021

People & Society

Collaboration - Online and Across Borders

Prof. Dr. Simone Roth

What is Butterfly 2021?

Trying out digital and international teaching and learning formats and gaining experience, plunging into digitally new things with the courage to make mistakes - that was the motto of a COIL project called 'Butterfly 2021'.

Behind this concise name is an international student project of the Business Institute of the Ruhr West University of Applied Sciences. The project 'Butterfly 2021' was carried out in April under the supervision of my colleague Prof. Dr. Michael Römmich and me within the initiative "HRW Goes COIL".

COIL stands for Collaborative Online International Learning. In this learning format, international student teams from several universities work virtually on one topic. Teams from four partner universities from Denmark, Chile, Russia and Germany examined the central theme of 'sustainable innovation' from a variety of perspectives.

The highlight of the project was a project week in which each day was designed by a different university. The HRW put its day under the motto: 'Sustainability from an economic perspective - An analysis under marketing and energy management aspects'. Intercultural breakout sessions, corporate social responsibility workshop and an energy trading game took place. The results were then elaborated via a digital conference platform (called Plazz) with over 80 participants and linked to the results of the previous day and put up for discussion. In this way, a professional as well as intercultural exchange between teachers and students could take place in international subgroup sessions and workshops.

Virtual conference for 4 universities from 4 countries on Plazz

What was the feedback from the participants?

"Regarding the intercultural experience, it was very interesting to see the working methods and readiness for completely new tasks among students from all countries. It was a super feeling to come up with a common result - even though it was online," said Vanessa Biedermann, a student at HRW.

Originally, the project week was to take place for all participants at the partner university in Denmark. The project week impressively demonstrated that a purely virtual form of collaboration is different, but nevertheless just as enriching. Preparations will soon begin for the follow-up project 'Butterfly 2021'

What were my main lessons learned?

So much for the description of facts and feedback from participants. What were the essential learnings of a project week like this for me as a teacher? There are learnings on different levels. I will summarize three essential ones:

Digital vs. analog teamwork:

Didactic learning:

Didactically, the project week was designed as problem-based learning and consisted of a combination of workshops, lectures, and teamwork phases in which the problem was defined by the individual groups themselves.

Cultural learning:

A great example to experience various factors in cultural challenges for group work. For example, before the week was kicked off and even on the first day it was not a concrete task given on one piece of paper. Rather it was a problem-based learning concept which implies that groups define the problems for themselves. It was marvellous to see that different expectations towards task-orientation created different expectations about availability of a concrete task for the whole week.

Prof. Dr. Simone Roth
Digitalization is not the destination. It is the journey. I want to do my part in supporting this journey.
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