SJSU SLIS Students Pilot Virtually Abroad Course and Gain Global Work Experience


SJSU SLIS graduate students are participating in research, marketing, and strategic planning projects for organizations across the globe in a new elective introduced this Spring, LIBR 298: Virtually Abroad.

Virtually Abroad is a 3-unit Special Studies course designed to give SLIS students an opportunity to develop international work experience and professional contacts in information centers around the world,” said Dr. Paul Christensen, a SLIS faculty member who is the course instructor. “There are many opportunities available to students.  For example, one of my students had a choice of six different international projects this semester,” he said. “She ended up taking on a virtual project with the International Association of School Librarians in Bali, Indonesia.”

Christensen described LIBR 298: Virtually Abroad as an extension of another course he teaches: LIBR 281: International & Comparative Librarianship. In LIBR 281, students participate in a group project affiliated with an international library or information center based in such diverse settings as Peru, India, Ireland, China, and Guatemala. In contrast, students enrolled in the Virtually Aboard course work individually with an organization located outside their own country on a project co-developed with the organization at the beginning of the semester.

Christensen offers students in the Virtually Aboard course leads and sometimes personal contacts at international organizations. “The American Library Association (ALA) and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) have lots of contacts worldwide who are looking for people and organizations to collaborate with,” Christensen explained. “That’s a good starting place for some students. Setting up the project takes some effort, but there’s value in that experience as well.” Once the projects are confirmed, Christensen helps student get projects underway at the start of the semester, and then oversees student progress, offering guidance and support as needed.

“Students who chose to study (virtually) abroad are exposed to work opportunities they may not have known are out there,” Christensen said. “This course broadens students’ horizons as they learn more about what jobs are available.  It also prepares students to work collaboratively in virtual environments in a cultural setting unlike the one they live in every day.”

“There’s an element of adventure to this course,” Christensen said. “Working for an organization based in a different country provides you with important skills in professional networking and cross-cultural communication.” And while all SLIS students graduate with experience in virtual collaboration, students enrolled in Virtually Abroad can put on their resume that they completely international projects virtually. “Not many people have done that,” said Christensen. “We’re living in a different age. Having international work experience is unique and valuable for recent graduates.”

Current SJSU SLIS students may want to consider enrolling in the Virtually Abroad course, which will be offered again in Fall 2013. 

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