November 24, 2015

Borders: An Online Course that Crosses Boundaries

The Global Futures Curriculum Studio supports projects that transcend disciplines and, in some cases, international borders. Among the projects supported by the Curriculum Studio during the fall 2015 semester is “Borders: An Online Course that Crosses Boundaries,” led by Dr. Elizabeth Stephen, associate professor of demography in the School of Foreign Service.

The virtual “Borders” project, currently in development, will offer an entirely online course to Georgetown students, especially those at the GU-Qatar campus and those studying abroad. The topic of the course, international borders will be structured around several core questions: How are borders constructed? How do they affect economic, social and political situations, domestically and abroad? And what are the ethical implications of border construction?

In the syllabus, Stephen addresses the interdisciplinary nature of the course. “We utilize a variety of disciplines—political science, geography, ethics, history, and demography—to examine issues of national, regional, and local identity in relation to the changing international context.”

Stephen is teaching a more traditional, in-classroom version of the course this semester as she prepares to take the class online. Her goal in remaking the virtual course is to make it available to students at the D.C. campus, students at the Qatar campus, and students studying abroad around the globe. Students studying abroad would benefit tremendously from the course, says Dr. Stephen, as they can use the course to deconstruct their own experiences crossing borders and interacting with different cultures during their travel. But students at the Qatar and D.C. campuses would benefit as well by engaging with their peers around the world.

Developing and preparing an online course comes with a unique set of obstacles. Stephen will have to make adjustments to the course’s layout and format to accommodate the online setting. Yet, despite challenges, Stephen is enthusiastic about the prospect of the class and its ability to innovate pedagogical practices around global issues.