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Beyond the classroom: An international cooperation experience through the Columbus Hub Academy

University of Aveiro

Major Objective

Develop communication and collaboration skills within international teams


“Cuyutlán salt in search of the European market” was the theme of a 4-week international collaboration initiative held in Oct/Nov 2016 through the Columbus Hub Academy platform (, which aims to stimulate the design and implementation of online international teaching-learning projects. Both Belem Barbosa (University of Aveiro) and Claudia M. Prado-Meza (University of Colima) volunteered to participate in an international collaboration activity. Columbus staff did the matching. The project took place in September and October 2016 and lasted 4 weeks.

The participants were 23 students from University of Aveiro’s Digital Marketing (BA in Marketing) and 10 students of University of Colima’s Integrative Business Management Workshop (BA in International Business). The Integrative Business Management Workshop features a set of case studies. One of them was about the development of an internationalization plan for Cuyutlán salt, whereas the assessment requirements for Digital Marketing included the development of a small website following optimization and content development procedures. These two regular activities were combined in the collaboration project. The Portuguese students acted as digital marketing consultants, assisting the Mexican students in their internationalization plan assignment, and developed an essential digital tool for that strategy: a website.

Team collaboration was processed using digital media, such as online conference calls, e-mail and online chat, presentation videos that were shared online, and recordings of class presentations. The Mexican students participated in the assessment of the Portuguese students by voting on the best website. They were also able to present the Xnal results to the managers of Cuyutlán salt (los Salineros), whose opinions were also taken into account in the assessment of all the teams that participated in this project.

Major Outcomes

According to three focus groups that were conducted after the project, amongst its main outcomes were:

  • High level of satisfaction and enthusiasm associated with the novelty of the activity
  • Students felt more responsibility, as they wanted to impress their international partners
  • Teams worked more closely together and they met more often as compared to regular activities
  • According to the students, the soft skills developed during the activity included language skills and being able to work together with people from different cultures, but also: teamwork, tolerance, negotiation, giving in, compromise, time management, adapting to constraints and dealing with pressure.

Lessons about Innovation

  • Success depends on a good working relationship and the commitment of both teachers.
  • It requires a lot of planning and preparation. But it pays off.
  • It is hard for students to break the ice and interact spontaneously, so the role of teachers is to lead and facilitate, deXning several moments for teams to meet, discuss the project, and share information.
  • The outcomes were much wider than the expected learning objectives and outcomes.

How it Challenges Conventional Thinking

Collaboration is a great tool for rethinking what we do, why we do it, how we could do it differently. Without compromising the normal functioning of the course unit, and using incremental innovation strategies such as the one presented in this case, it is possible to incorporate new and challenging learning outcomes such as those related to soft skills – linguistic, intercultural, international, digital, team work, etc.

Digital tools enable “real” communication with students elsewhere in the world, breaking the classroom walls and linguistic and physical borders, as well as collaboration with the community and businesses.

Name of Authors

Belem Barbosa
Claudia M. Prado-Meza

Name of Main Contact Person

Belem Barbosa, +351234380110

Other Institutional Partners

Columbus Hub Academy

University of Aveiro


Created in 1973, the University of Aveiro quickly became one of the most dynamic and innovative universities in Portugal. Now a public foundation under private law, it continues to develop and implement its mission to provide undergraduate and postgraduate education, to generate research and promote cooperation with society.

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