This paper will discuss the design and delivery of an international student-centered online graduate course in New Media, engaging students in Italy and the United States. The graduate course in New Media served students at Appalachian State University (United States) and University of Cagliari (Italy). The design of the learning environment was based upon a learning community concept, positioning the two faculty members and the students in a student-centered, flattened, learning environment. Students were expected to take responsibility for their own learning as well as their colleagues. The design of the course required a shift in power and control. Faculty members no longer took the traditional position at the “center of knowledge”, but moved to the margins, thus decentralizing themselves as voices of authority. Students, who worked in self-determined teams, took the lead in identifying issues, literature (text and video), and questions. The faculty members assumed the role of moderators or facilitors, steering the inquiry and discussions. The course experience may be viewed as a dance of sorts. Faculty had to sense when to come in and step out, when to have a voice and when not to. Students on the other hand, needed to redefine themselves as students. Traditionally students are socialized to be passive receptors of knowledge and information, fulfilling the pre-defined requirements of the course. In this design, the students had to re-define themselves as active engaged learners, sharing their questions, ideas, and insights with the collective. It was more than a symbolic shift of roles for the students and the faculty, but a social and epistemological one as well. We will present in this paper one example an approach to collaborative learning, leaving behind the traditional idea of teaching and learning as a transfer of knowledge from a single expert (the teacher) to a passive receiver – the student.
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