University News

Global Social Networks Course Gives Students Fundamentals for Digital Collaboration

June 11, 2010


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MACOMB, IL -- Communicating across cultures may seem to be easier than ever in an age of online social networks. But making the most of digital social networking tools -- for success in both personal and professional endeavors -- encompasses much more than just updating your status on Facebook or tweeting what you had for breakfast on Twitter. According to Doug Druckenmiller, associate professor in Western Illinois University's College of Business and Technology's Department of Information Systems and Decision Sciences, professionals -- whether they work in the private or public sector, for a government agency or for a non-profit organization -- need to understand the fundamentals of digital environment collaboration in today's globalized society.

To address this need for future professionals who will one day call WIU their alma mater, Druckenmiller has designed and developed a new course called "Information Sciences (IS) 325: Global Social Networks," which will be offered for the first time in Fall 2010. Druckenmiller noted that IS 325 will not only teach students about the digital tools available for global societal networking, but it will also help them develop adaptable and flexible cross-cultural collaboration skills, as well as develop leadership and management skills that are facilitative in nature.

"If you ask yourself, 'What is it that any well-prepared college student needs to know in order to effect change in today's globalized
environment?', framing an answer to that question is what this course is all about. In short, any well-educated person in today's world needs to understand the fundamentals of collaboration in a digital environment. This is foundational to responsible engagement in society," Druckenmiller explained.

In addition to helping students develop their digital collaboration skills, IS 325 will provide them with a course that qualifies for general education credit, multicultural credit and global issues credit, which is a new WIU requirement. Druckenmiller noted the course will feature a "collaboration lab," through which he will combine the theory of global collaboration for positive social change and pair it with a service learning opportunity.

"The practicum partners student teams with leadership and management trainees at the Institute of Cultural Affairs - Nepal (or ICA-Nepal), a non-governmental development organization. These virtual teams will be charged with developing practical proposals for development projects in Nepal," he said.

According to the ICA-Nepal website (www.ica-nepal.org), the organization's vision is to "create self sustained communities in Nepal through empowered people." The website also notes: "Since 1998, ICA Nepal has grown rapidly, focusing on training and facilitation, community development activities and research. ICA's activities are based on participation. The organisation is dedicated to building people's capacities whether they are rural village inhabitants or business executives in public training courses."

Druckenmiller noted that the collaboration with ICA-Nepal for the course is based, in part, on his relationship with the organization, for which he served as a project director from 1970-1982.

"My connection started with the organization at its inception. I am currently the chairman of the board of directors of ICA-USA," he said. "ICA offers us a unique partnership opportunity for this course. The organization overall has a long track record of involvement in international development of civil society at the local level," he said.

The first sections of IS 325 will encompass a hybrid course design, using face-to-face instruction and video-conferencing technology, as well as virtual communications in the online collaboration lab. Druckenmiller said the digital tools that he'll utilize for the instruction include blogs, wikis, social-networking tools (i.e., Facebook) and other online collaboration tools (Skype, electronic-meeting tools, etc.).

"Global social networking is based on using Web 2.0 tools, and working in collaborative global environments necessitates understanding of both the technical and social aspects of collaboration in a digital environment. While most of us have some experience in using these tools for networking and connecting with our friends, these same tools also allow us to engage in social-responsibility projects. This is a necessary skill not only just for us, but it is also fundamental to development in international situations. One of the major social issues of our times is the digital divide, and utilization of these tools for collaboration is fundamental to participation in civil society in the 21st century," he noted.

Druckenmiller is also in the process of designing an online-only iteration of the course, but he said it is offered via the face-to-face and video-conferencing method only in Fall 2010. He also noted that one of the key sources of Western's new IS 325 course has been John Deere Corp.'s Global Education Program.

"Much of the basis of the course has come out of John Deere Corp.'s experience and insight in training managers for their globalization initiatives," he added.

For more information about the course, contact Druckenmiller at DA-Druckenmiller@wiu.edu. Students can also contact their academic advisers for more information about IS 325 and about the new University global issues credit requirement.

Posted By: Teresa Koltzenburg (WIUNews@wiu.edu)
Office of University Relations