The Connect Program—Soliya’s flagship virtual exchange initiative—is an online cross-cultural education program integrated into curriculum that provides students with a unique opportunity to:
- Establish a deeper understanding for the perspectives of others around the world on important socio-political issues and why they feel the way the do;
- Develop “21st Century Skills” such as critical thinking, cross-cultural communication and media literacy skills.
Since 2003, the Connect Program has linked students from over 100 universities in 27 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia, Europe and North America. Through Soliya’s online videoconferencing application, the program allows students to connect to a global community of peers, engage in facilitated, sustained and substantive dialogue, and build respectful relationships across national, cultural, religious and ideological boundaries.
The Connect Program is integrated into accredited university courses across a variety of disciplines, such as media studies, international relations, religious studies and others. Soliya’s program complements university coursework by giving students the opportunity to meet online in small groups of eight to ten students for two-hour sessions each week for eight weeks. Each group has participants from universities around the world and is led by one or two Soliya facilitators trained to engage participants in a productive, respectful dialogue that progresses from discussing culture and everyday life to delving into controversial topics. A group dynamic is developed that enables participants to feel comfortable exploring different perspectives and uncovering biases around potentially divisive issues, ultimately arriving at a better understanding of other cultures and perspectives.
Soliya has developed a full academic curriculum for the Connect Program, including readings and classroom activities that complement the online dialogue sessions. Each semester concludes with a hands-on media project in which students use stock news footage and simple video-editing software to produce short news segments. The video project teaches practical media production and media literacy skills, while encouraging students to consider the impact of media bias on cross-cultural relations.
Soliya conducts extensive evaluation of the Connect Program each semester in partnership with the Saxelab Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at MIT. Results guide Soliya’s ongoing development of the program and improvements to the curriculum. Evaluation results are also shared with professors, enabling them to better assess student participation and learning. Please click here to learn more about the impact of the program.