Global Understanding

The Global Understanding course is GPE’s Signature Program. Bi-weekly, real-time, student led video conference discussions, chat, and collaborative projects provide high-impact, global experiences that help students build the skills, knowledge, and flexibility necessary to thrive in an interconnected world. All GPE members participate in the Global Understanding Course with approximately 1900 students around the world taking the course each year.

The Student Experience

Over the semester, students work with up to three international partner universities for approximately 3 – 4 weeks each. During that time, groups “link” via videoconference six times. On a typical linking class day, half of the students are in group video conference and the other half are in individual text chat with their assigned partners to discuss the topic of the day. Group discussions give students a broader sense of diversity surrounding the topics, while the individual chats give more personal in-depth perspectives. Over the 3-4 weeks working with a particular partner institution, students discuss a set progression of topics and work on collaborative projects together.


Students discuss the same broad topics with each of their sets of partners. This allows students to more easily understand the similarities and differences between the groups they work with. Topics are broad so conversations can be tailored to the interests of your particular students and the associated issues within that topic that may be more relevant for the particular partner country you are working with. Topics build in terms of gravity, so students have an opportunity to build rapport before having to discuss more sensitive topics.

Our Model


After participating in the Global Understanding Course, Students show significant increases in cultural competencies, intercultural communication, and collaboration skills:

  • Students demonstrate significant increases in the ability to function effectively in culturally diverse situations.
  • Students report feeling less anxious and more competent when interacting with strangers from a different culture.
  • Students have lower intercultural communication anxiety scores and a greater ability to consider different points of views.
  • Students have an increase in international awareness and are more interested in international experiences.
  • Students overwhelmingly report being satisfied with the course and recommend it to others.

Essential Details

Centralized scheduling, support, and a defined yet flexible Core curriculum reduces the challenges typically associated with Virtual Exchange.

  • Courses are planned based on your academic calendar, taking into consideration holidays and time zone issues.
  • Classes are kept small to encourage student discussion.
  • “Find your Fit” flexible approach allows the course to be offered in any academic program.
  • Local time before, between, and after working with partners allows local faculty to work with their students to relate what they are doing with their partners back to what is important for their local class.
  • Academically and administratively independent. Each university enrolls and assess students locally. No tuition or credit is exchanged.

Student Quotes

“The Global Understanding course has been both refreshing in its approach to education and immeasurable in terms of the value I have received in becoming a “global citizen.”

- Student from North Macedonia

“This is not a class, it is an experience. Global Understanding put a focus on trying to better interactions between people with differences which is extremely important in our globalized world.”

- Student from USA

“This course can broaden our horizons. It gives us a chance to know how other people in this world live and think. Besides, we can also learn many communication skills.”

- Student from China

“By the end of this class I hope that you consider yourself a part of something much bigger than you. I hope that you make the transformation from student to world citizen!”

- Student from Russia

“After taking Global Understanding, my biases and stereotypes are gone. I learned about diverse cultures which have replaced misconceptions with information on the complexity of cultures, cultural conflicts, and global issues.”

- Student from The Gambia

“In my opinion, if every young person takes a Global Understanding class or participates in a program with a similar goal, the world will definitely become a better place.”

- Student from Algeria

“The Global Understanding course gives an opportunity for students to know how to deal with different cultures…It is very important that people know how to communicate effectively and respect the beliefs of other cultures.”

- Student from Peru

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