2020 Conference on Global Learning

AAC&U Conference on Global Learning: Transforming learning, life, and citizenship through equitable global learning practices

Virtual Event

The 2020 Conference on Global Learning was held virtually due to public health concerns and higher education's prevailing travel restrictions connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the virtual format, AAC&U is committed to the goals that have always guided our conference planning: engaging and informative sessions, networking with colleagues from across the broad spectrum of higher education roles and institutions, and opportunities to reflect on professional practice and aspirations.


The worldwide spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically heightened awareness of the importance of global learning for all. The methods, mindsets, and interdependent nature of global learning have become increasingly relevant and, indeed, critical for institutions of higher education—and for society at large. As the world faces an unprecedented halt in mobility, and as COVID-19 continues to affect the lives of individuals everywhere, the need to address the crisis holistically, within and across nations, is readily apparent.

Educators across the globe have had to adapt rapidly in order to accommodate the sudden transition from place-based to virtual learning. Those with experience in the dynamic spaces of global learning are especially well positioned to support their students and colleagues. At many institutions, those leading the response to the crisis have drawn on best practices from global learning structures at colleges and universities across the globe. These practices include virtual learning, designing curricular and cocurricular activities around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to address global challenges, and connecting student learning to communities near and far.

The reality and impact of COVID-19 serve as a powerful reminder that global learning does not require a passport or a plane ticket. As international travel has been severely disrupted and restricted, it has been critically important that educators be aware of what is happening in other countries. It has also been critically important that ideas continue to flow across boundaries and borders, informing public health professionals, policymakers, and others.

The connected flow of knowledge, in many cases through institutions of higher education, has helped guide responses to the pandemic across multiple contexts. As anchor institutions, college and universities have stepped up to meet a wide array of societal needs resulting from the stress of COVID-19 on communities around the world. In many cases, students have also engaged in this work. Educators across disciplines, already adept at bringing the world into their courses, have addressed issues emerging from this global crisis—in learning spaces, through project-based learning, or as case studies to prepare students for future global crises.

The urgency of steadily building calls for global learning has been sharply increased by our collective experience of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAC&U Conference on Global Learning will highlight and explore practical and theoretical approaches to global learning across institutional types, disciplines, and departments. Participants will have opportunities to share examples of integrative designs for global learning assignments, programs, and assessments; models for embedding technology in meaningful ways that advance student learning; frameworks for ethical engagement, both in person and from a distance, with community organizations of all types; and strategies to ensure that global learning is connected to broader disciplinary and interdisciplinary learning outcomes and that it can take place at home, in local communities, across the nation, and in other parts of the world.

Conference Themes

  1. Connecting the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Global Learning
    The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a blueprint for responding to global issues facing our world, nations, states, regions, and local communities. They can be used to frame disciplinary and interdisciplinary investigations and, thereby, to create opportunities for students to draw on a diversity of approaches as they engage in real-world problem-solving. How are you using the SDGs to shape curricular and cocurricular experiences for your students? How do the SDGs inform the learning outcomes of your course or program and the activities you design to prepare students for responsible citizenship? What opportunities to synthesize learning across the educational experience have the SDGs provided for students in place-based or virtual learning environments? How is your institution using the SDGs to ensure that student learning is focused on addressing global challenges in meaningful ways?
  2. Ethical, Meaningful Civic Engagement
    How is your institution fostering students’ civic mindedness and ethical reasoning across majors and through curricular or cocurricular experiences? How are you measuring civic participation in a global context? How have you engaged the federal government and the State Department to support global learning on campus and in the broader community?
  3. Engaging Industry and the Workforce
    How do curricular and cocurricular learning experiences provide students with opportunities to apply their learning in ways that anticipate future professional practice? How are you engaging current practitioners in diverse fields to guide global learning initiatives? What types of activities are you designing to prepare students to engage in meaningful work throughout their professional, personal, and civic lives? How can experiential learning in digital spaces help prepare students for careers or future study in global contexts?
  4. Embedding Global Learning
    How is global learning being embedded in the curriculum and cocurriculum? How is global learning being integrated into student learning outcomes or goals at the programmatic or institutional level? How is global learning being assessed in courses and activities? How are students gaining global learning experiences outside of area studies or education abroad? What strategies have been most effective in maintaining institutional commitments to global learning amidst the stresses of the current sociopolitical climate.
  5. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
    How is your institution ensuring that all students have opportunities to participate in global learning? How are educators and leaders in the fields of global learning and diversity, equity, and inclusion partnering to combat COVID-19-racism and discrimination? What programs, polices, or strategies have you implemented to increase participation in global learning? How has global learning been integrated into the institutional fabric to promote the inclusion of all students? How are you assessing global learning activities to ensure a quality experience for students? How are you using online collaborative international learning to provide global learning opportunities for more students?
  6. Global Learning Adaptations
    How can we continue to provide meaningful global learning experiences even as we respond to disruptions like the COVID-19? How is your institution adapting and operationalizing planning to support engaged student learning and maintain commitments to global learning outcomes, activities, and partners? How are staff and administrators meeting the changing and intensifying needs of students and faculty at your institution—including addressing the decline in international students? How are you adapting learning experiences to meet physical distancing requirements? What proven practices in online global learning can be scaled up to provide quality experiences for students across disciplines? How are you transitioning from place-based collaborations to virtual platforms?

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If you have questions about the conference, please e-mail [email protected]