IUP Business Students Go Abroad, Virtually

Posted on 4/15/2016 9:07:55 AM

Students in John Lipinski’s Introduction to Entrepreneurship class regularly link up with classmates over 4,000 miles away. Along with Kia Golesorkhi from the University of Pecs in Pecs, Hungary, the two professors link their classes to deliver joint lectures, share guest speakers, and encourage student interaction. 

Dr. Kia Golesorkhi, University of Pecs, HungaryTo help solidify the link, last year Lipinski journeyed to Pecs on a faculty exchange to deliver a live lecture to the Hungarian students, and this year Golesorkhi returned the favor and visited with our students live in Indiana. In this day and age of ever-growing globalization, both professors agree that this adds a unique dimension to the course and exposes students to an international perspective that a news video, article, or simple lecture about what is happening abroad cannot convey.

Ryan Greene, a student in Lipinski’s class, commented on Golesorkhi’s visit: “Dr. Golesorkhi is a great, well-spoken individual that helped us learn more about his country and culture. He also brought great opportunities for our students here in the states with his Gyro Management Program happening this summer in Pecs. Aside from the opportunities he brought, he also gave great insight on the type of economy he has in his culture compared to our economy in the States.”

Lipinski and Golesorkhi have been using teleconference technology to link their courses for the past three years. It was an evolution of Lipinski’s idea that, given modern telecommunications, there has to be a way to link students from around the world, in real time. International students and students in exchange programs add a lot to the educational experience of students when they take the time to get to know the students visiting their country. Lipinski also believes that studying abroad can be a transformative experience for students. However, even when exchange students are present, often students miss the opportunity to form relationships. Nationally, only about 1 percent of U.S. college students have the opportunity to study abroad. Using teleconference technology, the goal of the experiment was to create a Virtual Study Abroad program—even if it was only for one course.

Lipinski has seen an impact, indicating that “students quickly see that their Hungarian counterparts are learning the same core business concepts that are taught in the U.S. They are every bit as capable as a U.S.-educated student and view the world economy as a global opportunity. It really solidifies the concept to our students that they have global competition. The technology also exposes students to the idea that business goes on real time around the globe.”

Students in Indiana are in a late morning class and the Hungarians are in an evening class. Lipinski commented that during his corporate days, it was not uncommon to have virtual meetings across four continents simultaneously—with some participants joining around midnight their time. “It is the way that business is done in the 21st century.”

Hillary Creely, IUP’s assistant dean for Research, was invited to deliver a guest lecture to the classes. Her professional background and responsibilities at the university include intellectual property, patent law, and technology transfer. Golesorkhi commented that her real-world experience and knowledge of technology transfer (a major program direction at the University of Pecs) were not only valuable to the students, but valuable for him. Including experts such as this add a unique dimension to both classes. Creely commented that it was a wonderful experience to be able to speak with students in the U.S. and Hungary simultaneously about intellectual property law, adding that, “the students were so insightful, I’m excited to see how they use IUP to further their entrepreneurial plans.”

In another example, John O’Connor, IUP class of ’91 and founding team member of the Budapest Business Journal (the premier business magazine in Hungary), joined the class later in the semester for his second visit and talked about how his experience at IUP led him to pursue this global opportunity, and how his formative experiences in Hungary led to his continued professional success, his entrepreneurial spirit, and his success in running his own business today.

The classes are not without their challenges. On occasion, the videoconference equipment does not cooperate and the classes are not as seamless as the professors would like. There are other challenges like linking academic calendars (Hungary does not start their spring semester until February, and both schools observe different weeks for spring break), and the U.S. and Europe throw a wrench into the system as daylight savings time shifts the meeting time by one hour for three weeks. However, the professors have been able to link up and share nine to 10 lectures each year. Both professors agree that this is something that they want to refine and continue to offer for years to come.

Eberly College of Business and Information Technology