Decolonizing and Opening the Academy via Study Abroad

Chapter image for Decolonizing and Opening the Academy via Study Abroad.
Authored by

Kristine Dreaver-Charles and Dr. Michael Cottrell

Featured Image: Kindred Spirits monument in County Cork Ireland commemorating the Choctaw Nation and their donation in 1847 to the Irish during the great famine.

kīyohkēwin is the Cree word for visiting. It is always good when we can make the time to visit, find our laughter, share our stories, and remember. Often there is food, learning, and inspiring conversations. So I’ve named our podcast to honour this.



In 2018, I had the opportunity to take a study abroad class going to Ireland with Michael and a group of graduate students from the University of Saskatchewan. I can remember standing at by a fence looking out over the ocean near the Giant’s Causeway, visiting with Michael, and responding to his questions as I rambled off ideas about study abroad and using the tools of distance education. That conversation has taken us on a really good journey. It’s where we began.

Press play and listen to our podcast.

(pdf transcript)
The Giant’s Causeway.

Reflective Questions

After listening to the podcast, what more do you need to explore or learn about based on our visit?

What questions do you have and where can you find answers?


Miliante, J. (2020). Kindred Spirits: Solidarity Between the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and Ireland.  IJAS Online, 9, 45–48.


Press play to listen as I share a brief overview of some of the design work Michael and I have done together.

(pdf transcript)
Website showing a hand holding a pen next to a laptop. Two beverage glasses are on the table too. The title of the web page is EADM 892 Reflections.

The WordPress site was created for students to share their reflections of their learning with the whole class.

Reflective Questions

Why is it important to share stories about the work we have done to design learning?

Who benefits?


The challenge in moving from study abroad to virtual study abroad is in finding those obvious places to gather online. In the literature and blogs, we see connections to topics like building online communities in higher education. It is essential because too often relationality is lost or dismissed online. In 2020, just before the pandemic, we went to Jamaica for a study abroad class. We stayed at the University of the West Indies campus and just outside our accommodations was this beautiful mango tree that became our central gathering place. We also spent a lot of time together on the bus as we traveled throughout the island. In those moments of being together, you learn about people and you swiftly lean toward ones you hope to establish bonds with.

Reflective Questions

How do we intentionally design for a community in a virtual study abroad class?

Where can students gather online to establish their own mango tree or virtual bus so they can build those good relationships and learn to support each other beyond the class?


DiRose, J. (2021, August 31). What is Online Community? Discourse blog.

O’Malley, S. (2017, July 26). Professors Share Ideas for Building Community in Online Courses. Inside Higher Ed.

Pedersen, A. (2021, August 27). What is Virtual Study Abroad and Why You Should Consider It. GoOverseas.

Wehler, M. (2018, July11). Five Ways to Build Community in Online Classrooms. Faculty Focus.


When we hear of the hidden curriculum we can tend to connect it to those negative messages and inequities that too often exist in higher education. But what if we could shift that perspective and decolonize it. What if, instead of focusing on perceived gaps and missing privilege and all of the connected implications, we considered the hidden curriculum in terms of the beneficial learning and interactions that we see take place outside of the lectures and formal learning during study abroad.

In Cree, the word for this is kīmōc (pronounced kē’mooch); it is when you are doing something on the side or on the sly. In study abroad we can see this hidden curriculum emerge on the kīmōc and it is inspiring to be a part of.

It is where building good relationships are prioritized, reconciliation grows, and decolonization thrives on the kīmōc. It is centred in the discourse of internationalization, when students and their professor leave their country and established norms of their places in society. Those higher education priorities that exist in the policies, as flat words on our university websites, come to life in study abroad when we bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and they are able to find those opportunities and experience the disorienting dilemmas of Meziro’s transformative learning theory.

At its most radical, decolonization means “resisting and actively unlearning the dangerous and harmful legacy of colonization, particularly the racist ideas that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) people are inferior to White Europeans.” It entails interrogating and dismantling “power structures that carry legacies of racism, imperialism, and colonialism.” But more commonly, it calls on faculty to address a series of curricular, pedagogical and evaluative challenges.” (Mintz, 2021, June 22)

Reflective Questions

How do we design with intentional space for students to incorporate those transformative learning experiences that can happen outside of the formal learning that takes place in study abroad?


What is transformative learning theory? (2020, July 17). Teaching and Education.

Mintz, S. (2021, June 22). Decolonizing the Academy. Inside HigherEd.


Truly the best part of my position as an instructional designer in higher education is working with faculty who come back with more ideas for what we need to work on next. As Michael and I were visiting, there was a point where I mentioned an idea that I told him I would cut out. But as you listen, you can hear our spirit of collaboration for our next potential project take hold. Who knows if we will actually work on this, but it made for a great conversation.

Press play and listen as we discuss what’s next.

(pdf transcript)

Reflective Questions

As you consider your own design practice, in what ways could you build onto existing projects or extend them in new directions?

Think about the relationships you will build in your own design practice as you work with faculty. Why are those good relationships essential?


That first conversation, looking out over the ocean together, has taken us quite far and I have been really fortunate to have been a part of this journey. ēkosi.


Images and writing by of Kristine Dreaver-Charles, licensed under CC BY-NC 3.0.
Podcast audio recordings by Kristine Dreaver-Charles and Michael Cottrell, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Thanks to Professor Randy Morin of the University of Saskatchewan and member of the Big River First Nation, for sharing his Cree language expertise.
Thanks to Devin Kyle, member of the Thunderchild First Nation and student at the University of Saskatchewan, for his help editing our audio podcast files and producing transcripts.


Mintz, S. (2021, June 22). Decolonizing the Academy. Inside HigherEd.

We want your voice. Add Issues.

We want your voice. Add Role Perspectives.

We want your voice. Add Lenses.

We want your voice. Add Settings.


Textbooks, scholarly literature, and even current events reflected in venues ranging from social media to journalism, all present a continuous roll of issues that have topical relevance in a course setting. To use this lens dentify one or more issues that are relevant to the topic in this chapter. Issues can range very widely, from ongoing debates about privacy to public health to emerging stories about climate events.

Role Perspectives

Different roles can have an impact on interests and perspectives. For example, being a student is in itself a role – including domestic, international, full time or part time, newly matriculated or mid-career professional, along with such other possible roles as parent, administrator, educator or other areas within life outside of the educational milieu.


You may choose or be assigned to research the chapter topic from a particular lens, such as decolonization, historical justice, anti-racism, and other such anti-oppressive perspectives that centre on alternative narratives to those that present in dominant cultures. By working with a specific lens, you can research issues from a social justice perspective. In addition, the use of lenses can also encourage a focus on transdisciplinary approaches.


Many learning experiences in higher education include various forms of experiential learning intended to integrate workplace or community-based learning with formal education. Focusing on a specific setting can help focus the learning on specific settings. You may come to your studies from, or with ambitions toward, a particular industry or workplace, community setting, within education or a profession, corporate or public sector, or any of many possible disciplines. For instance, learning design in higher education is often quite different from the corporate world or within government. These settings may have an influence on the perspectives you bring and/or would like to bring to your research and course work.

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