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Project Title:International Education Resources in Connecticut Institution Name:Central Connecticut State University Innovation Category:International Education Project Director:Nancy Birch Wagner, Director, The George R. Muirhead Center for International EducationContact Information:860-832-2050, wagnernab@ccsu.eduWebsite:http://www.ierconn.net
Project Description:Working with other institutions across the State, CCSU has developed the International Education Resources in Connecticut website (www.ierconn.net) to share the international resources of 11 participating institutions.  The website provides information and comparative statistics about overseas programs, the global expertise of faculty, international events, and locations where English as a Second Language is taught.  The site provides an interactive map of program locations, as well as details about short- and long-term study abroad opportunities.  IERConn can display information by country, faculty discipline, student major, semester, and institution – making international information readily available to both the academic community and the public at large.   
Objectives:

Prior to this project,Connecticut had no centralized, collaboratively produced source of international education information for students, faculty, or administrators.  Each school sought to enhance international understanding and strengthen the global dimensions of learning, community service, teaching, and research – but each did this separately, not in partnership with each other.  Each campus acted alone when planning study abroad recruitment, affordable pricing, on-site housing, etc.  Each campus grappled separately with challenges, such as departmental sponsorship and sufficient attendance, when planning international events.   International students rarely came to know or communicate with their counterparts at other Connecticut universities.  And, the international expertise of Connecticut’s faculty was seldom shared or generally known across campuses.   The website www.ierconn.net, which shares information in these essential areas, has already begun to foster collaborations that have the potential to increase student enrollments abroad, promote funding and attendance at international events, and enrich the engagements of Connecticut faculty and students.

Outcomes:

When the site went “live,” it had Google Analytics, a function that not only counts, but also analyses each visitor to www.ierconn.net.  At the end of this first year of our initiative, we shall be able both to tally those indicators of interest and analyze them in sophisticated detail.  Such information will enable us to plan necessary alterations and expand services, e. g. adding cross-registration and/or the use of standard forms in the future.

The analysis of the data will also allow all participants to see which programs, country locations, institutions, etc. are most sought and which are neglected.  We shall also be able to address issues relating to under-represented majors and under-utilized regions of the world.

Challenges/Problems Encountered:The challenges of this project can be summarized as financial and temporal.  From the beginning, it was clear that CCSU would need to take the lead in staffing and funding the project.  To that end, 3 students were hired to work with the Director of the CIE on the project; the University’s Webmaster was also assigned to the initiative.  One graduate student worked on programming, one on the site’s design, and another was dedicated to the management of content.  Once the participating schools saw that CCSU would contribute this level of support, it became relatively easy to move the project forward.  Since the planning group was very large, the timing of the regular meetings was an issue, but that problem was alleviated when we set up a schedule that involved the lunch hour -- with Central providing a simple lunch. 
Evaluation Approach:The project has not yet completed its first year – it went “live” in Summer 2010 – but assessment will be a key component of its success.  In June 2011, we shall hold the first of our annual meetings to evaluate the site and address problems relating to content, scheduling, and communication.  The Director of the CIE will head the annual evaluation, but all 11 institutions will participate in the process.  As noted above, the selection of data elements was never an issue, since key components were drafted by the CCSU team and approved unanimously by the representatives of the participating institutions.
Potential for Replication:

Were we to show another institution how to build its own collaborative web site, this would be our advice:

  1. Before determining the design, scope, and content of the project, research what other states have done.
  2. Bring all representatives to the table and engage in frequent face-to-face planning meetings to come to know strengths and weaknesses – before designing the project.
  3. Include appropriate web experts on the team and make sure they have a major role in the project.
  4. Plan the protocol for annual updates when designing the original project, not after the fact.
Additional Resources:Throughout the IERConn website, there are hyperlinks to the international resources of the 11 colleges and universities.  These links are updated on an on-going basis and proofed formally on an annual basis, as are the statistical charts that the site contains.
CEO-to-CEO Contact:John W. Miller , Presidentmillerjw@ccsu.edu
(860) 832-3000
Date Published: Monday, April 25, 2011