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Source: Massey University


University of North Georgia student Maria Bortolucci logs onto her Massey online class, Intelligence in the Security Environment, once a week.


Massey student Jessica Dibben is used to studying online– she has already completed a Bachelor of Business Studies by distance learning. But when it comes to studying her Comparative Security Issues course this semester, it’s a little bit different.

Every week she logs in from the comfort of her home in Gisborne, while her lecturer is at the University of North Georgia near Atlanta, in the United States.

The course is part of the Virtual Exchange programme which enables Massey students to connect and collaborate with global partners around the world. For Jessica, it allows her to have an international student experience without having to leave her house.

“I see the biggest benefit is being able to discuss these topics with a diversity of students,” she says. “The University of North Georgia has a stringent security process to log in and there are a lot more assignments and online group discussions, but the other students don’t differentiate on my location as a Kiwi – they just see me as another student doing the same course.”

Massey is the first, and currently the only, New Zealand university to offer a Virtual Exchange programme. Manager of student mobility Greg Huff says while the programme doesn’t take the place of the Study Abroad programme or an international internship, it does introduce students to an interconnected world while promoting digital literacy.

“The use of Virtual Exchange transforms the whole international student experience, as not every student is able to go abroad,” says Mr Huff. “However, with Virtual Exchange students are given the chance to connect with, and learn about, peers from another country.”

According to Dr Dlynn Williams, Head of Political Science and International Affairs at the University of North Georgia (UNG), the Virtual Exchange resulted from a global partnership between the University and Massey. Dr Williams says the collaboration between the two schools stemmed from a discussion at an Institute for Leadership and Strategic Studies symposium in 2018.

“We started having conversations about where our and Massey’s curriculum overlapped and how we could develop a partnership between our two institutions,” says Dr Williams.

The agreement was approved last year and also allows UNG students the opportunity to enrol at Massey. One of those students is Maria Bortolucci who, along with two other UNG students, are enrolled in the Intelligence in the Security Environment course at Massey this semester.

“When presenting the lecture, the professor offers examples from New Zealand as well as the other countries in the region, which is such a change compared to the frequently Western-centred examples offered in some of my regular classes,” says Maria, a UNG International Affairs student.

“I was extremely excited to virtually meet students from New Zealand and listen to their perspectives on the world during the ‘Introduce Yourself’ forum,” she says. “I was eager to read their insights, which could broaden my worldview and increase my analysis of global issues mainly regarding intelligence-related events.”

Maria also has unexpectedly improved her organisational and language skills through the online class with Massey. Because New Zealand is 18 hours ahead of Georgia, she must pay attention to the time so she doesn’t miss a deadline.

“Knowing the different time zones is an important skill to acquire since most jobs require awareness of the time zone of  partners and co-workers who are located in different parts of the world,” Maria says. “Admittedly, it is also very fun to plan my life around two different time zones at the same time.”

MIL OSI