Screenshot of Dr. Chen's Zoom class, with nine students and faculty on camera

At 8 a.m. in Chicago, when Dr. Mei-Fen Chen’s students opened their laptops and turned on their cameras for class, it was 3 p.m. for their classmates in Germany and nearing 10 p.m. in Taiwan.

In past years, students in the design entrepreneurship course traveled from Germany, Taiwan and the United States to meet in person and work together. The students also got to explore other cultures: the classmates sampled mango shaved ice and soup dumplings in Taipei and bonded on an architecture tour in Chicago.

This fall, during the pandemic, the workshop met virtually Monday through Friday, three hours a day, for three weeks. Dr. Chen, an assistant teaching professor of graphic design, has taught the international course since 2016, but never fully remote.

“We were not 100% certain that everything would go smoothly,” said Dr. Chen. “In all, we learned and gained a very rich experience for future development.”

Learn more about experiential learning at Roosevelt University.

Teamwork across time zones

The design entrepreneurship course walks students through how to turn a creative idea into a practical business plan through design thinking. Each year, the class asks students to solve a real-world problem. In past terms, students imagined apps for and global marketing plans for RoastTing Coffee.

This year’s cohort tackled food waste.

“We started with a team of six, all from different cultures, backgrounds, countries and different majors,” said one student. “Despite the obstacles, we were able to work together as a team very effectively.”

During the fall, 12 Roosevelt students joined classmates from the Berufliche Schule Elbinsel Wilhelmsburg and the School of Plant and Design Technology in Germany, Ming Chi University of Technology in Taiwan, and DePaul University. Notable guest speakers joined the course to help students understand the challenge and spark new ideas.

The workshop is also a chance for students to collaborate with others from different majors: graphic design, computer science, business, marketing and public relations.

Working in groups, students found ways to overcome language barriers, cultural differences and time zones. “I loved working together with other students from different cultures and seeing what everyone had to bring to the table,” one student wrote in their course review.

Student presentation explaining the Instagram for their sustainable catering company

Solving real-world problems for companies

Dr. Chen said that all of the student teams were committed to their projects, many logging extra hours together as the final project came due. “The outcome was surprisingly positive,” Dr. Chen said. “Students presented high quality work at the end of the workshop.”

One group came up with an educational food festival for young adults, called Sustainable Success. Blending their backgrounds in business, graphic design and marketing, they built a whole suite of materials — logo, website, a mobile app and social media marketing — that they can include in their portfolio during the job search after graduation.

“I am very proud of what our team accomplished — not just my team, but all of the teams,” said one student. “This workshop all in all was a huge success.”

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