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Students on two continents explore African issues, virtually

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Meet one of my students: Hasan Ozturk is from Istanbul, Turkey, and is an international-relations major at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

This past semester, he and several Tanzanian classmates were enrolled in an online course about African international relations. The course is based at Makerere University in neighboring Uganda.

Along with 70 other East African students, he debated the war on terrorism and its implications for US policy toward Africa. Little did we know when we started that we'd eventually bring a high-level Bush administration official into our virtual chat room.

Mr. Ozturk is one of more than 500 students I have mentored through technology-enhanced courses in Africa.

I first came to Africa in 1968 as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger. Later, I spent six years as director of the undergraduate International Relations Program at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. Three decades after my introduction to Africa, I went to Uganda as a visiting professor. And now, I'm training people in information technology (IT) in Dar es Salaam and helping develop content for use in interactive websites.

It was not until I started this online collaboration that I began to recognize the possibilities of a truly global teaching approach.

Curriculum co-development (CCD) involves people working together across the barriers of distance to improve the quality of educational programs at their home institutions.

Unlike traditional distance learning, a basic tenet of CCD is that knowledge receivers should also be knowledge senders. The primary teacher for the course is on the ground with the students. And through a variety of online exercises, the students participate in the process of creating new knowledge.

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