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Program Model and Design

This section focuses on an introduction to Global Learning Education; a model typology including key defining features of Global Learning Programs Abroad (GLPAs); an outline of the roles and responsibilities of key Ryerson stakeholders; and a recommended proposal and approval process for GLPAs.

Global Learning Education (GLE)

"Global Education as the enlargement of possibilities for living together in complex, diverse, uncertain and unequal global societies."

Vanessa Andreotti, Canada Research Chair in Race, Inequalities and Global Change, UBC

Global Learning Education seeks to support students so that they are able to: 

  • Respect, value and learn from (and with) different knowledge systems and cultures (whatever their originating perspective)
  • Recognize the historical and relational nature of our globalized world and the challenges we face collectively
  • Understand the ways that they are affected by and implicated in structural global inequities
  • Strive towards a just and sustainable future that holds the ongoing realities of imperialism and colonialism to account


We have developed the shared principles for Global Learning Education below as a means to direct our programming guidelines and overall vision for Global Learning Education. While we recognize that not all will relate to this approach, our goal is to support faculty and staff to identify ways that they may be able to connect the learning experiences created for students to these shared principles. In this context, Global Learning Education is not solely about crossing borders, but rather about entering the boundaries between diverse perspectives and peoples in order to learn from one another and to create new possibilities for future relations. 

The shared principles intentionally account for how interactions between diverse peoples have been shaped by colonial and imperial relations. This implies grappling with messy, complicated, uncomfortable and contested realities within educational institutions more broadly. By utilizing an approach that accounts for historical relationships and structures that are based on inequities, we hope to incorporate a variety of perspectives that will enrich the way we approach Global Learning Education at Ryerson, including but not limited to social justice education, decolonial and indigenous knowledge and pedagogies, and intercultural learning and engagement.

This approach is connected to the essential work that many in our community are already doing. Our commitment at Ryerson International is to ensure that the primary modes of intersection between interrelated yet unique projects are explored with care, taking direction from those already leading and contributing to these processes at Ryerson (for example, the Office of the Vice President Equity and Community Inclusion and all of those across campus that are centring indigenous perspectives and initiatives, from the TRC Committee to the Aboriginal Education Council).

  • Focus of Student Learning - To engage with today’s complex and interconnected social, cultural and economic challenges both at home and abroad.
  • How Analysis is Approached - Assess how we are all implicated in these challenges in different ways, while centring analysis that is “systemic, multi-layered and multi-voiced” (i.e. avoiding simplistic solutions). More details on this are available on the EarthCARE Global Justice blog, external link, opens in new window.
  • Framing of the Learning Process - Engage and learn with/from diverse knowledge systems and perspectives, while nurturing local and global community building and critical reflection.
  • How We Relate With Others - Committed to creating and maintaining equitable, sustainable and balanced partnerships with the organizations and communities that Ryerson collaborates with, placing special attention and care in contexts shaped by heightened power imbalances. 
  • Historical Legacies - Incorporate an understanding of global social justice that accounts for the ongoing harm produced by the legacies of imperial and colonial relations on a global scale.
  • Solidarity Not Dependency - Centre dispositions of co-learning, co-creation and solidarity, and move away from dispositions of paternalism and dependency.
  • Moving Beyond Nation-State - Recognize that global learning does not only equate movement of students across nation-state borders, but also an engagement with indigenous nations and knowledges across Turtle Island and the world.
  • Inclusive and Accessible - Welcoming to all Ryerson students, providing our diverse student body with programming that they are able to identify with, contribute to and participate in. 
  • Collaboration With Our Community - Respect and encourage input from Ryerson students, staff and faculty members, many of whom have their own understandings of global and intercultural learning based on lived experience.

As our first entry point when exploring GLE it is important to consider how we may be able to create experiences that foment an ‘ecology of knowledges’ (Santos, 2007). This is a difficult but essential task that seeks to (Stein, 2017):  

  • Grapple with the diversity of knowledge systems and the reality of the unequal valorization of knowledge within educational institutions
  • Value a particular knowledge system for the interventions that it may enable within a specific context (as all knowledge is “context-specific, partial and provisional”)
  • Understand one’s inability to ‘know’ and ‘understand’ everything and learn how to accept ambiguity and not knowing
  • Provide the opportunity for multiple knowledges to equitably coexist (i.e. not about valuing one over the other, nor synthesizing one into the other, nor replacing one with the other)
  • Recognize the interdependent nature of all knowledge systems

Another way of approaching an understanding of Santos’ ‘ecology of knowledges’ is by considering learning across, between, within and from diverse perspectives and worldviews.

  • Across: what are the similarities and connections?
  • Between: what can be found in the space between, i.e. what is missing from both?
  • Within: what is unique to each knowledge system? What internal conversations and critiques exist? 
  • From: what have I learned about my own understanding? How might it shape my perspective?

What these approaches may mean and look like in practice is something that many educators and practitioners in the field are currently exploring, a process that we hope to be part of and contribute to.

  • What perspectives and knowledge systems are relevant to incorporate into the learning experience for students? (i.e. in relation to the topic and/or location of the GLPA).
  • Are you able to include the work of local and/or regional experts and educators that represent diverse perspectives to the subject matter as typically understood at Ryerson?
  • What international variations in professional practice may exist and how can you explore the background of local practices?
  • Who is available and appropriate to teach and share diverse perspectives with students? (yourself? someone else at Ryerson? regional educators or collaborators?)
  • How can your programming be accountable to local knowledge and perspectives from the region you will be visiting with students? What different worldviews may be present in the region?
  • How can you support students in understanding different worldviews that may be completely new and/or difficult for them to recognize as valuable or applicable knowledge to their field of study?
  • Are there any activities (real-life or simulated tasks) that you can include that examine diverse perspectives and cultural understandings associated with the topic(s) at hand?
  • How can you support students to explore what may be uncomfortable for them, i.e. uncertainty and the fact that not all knowledge is commensurable? (i.e. accepting that there is always more than one possible answer or solution).
  • Does the program connect to GLE shared principles? How does it consider today’s complex and interconnected social, cultural and economic challenges globally via it’s topic and learning objectives (either implicitly or explicitly)?
  • Does the programming recognize that not all cultural markers can be easily equated to nation-state boundaries? (i.e. often different cultures, worldviews and knowledges co-exist within a single country or region).
  • Are you able to provide opportunity for student participants from diverse backgrounds and social locations to share relevant knowledge and experience in relation to the program content? 

GLPA Model Typology

Key Defining Features

  1. Program Type
  2. Program Activities
  3. Program Home
  4. Student Criteria
  5. Participants
  6. Location
  7. Partner Type(s)
  8. Local Involvement
  9. Funding
  10. Logistics
  11. Outcomes

Included in the template above are the key defining features that shape different models for Global Learning Programs Abroad. Our intention of approaching a typology through a list of key defining features is meant to allow for creativity and flexibility, rather than creating prescriptive models that must be adhered to. Below you will find various model examples that demonstrate how differences in the defining features shape the nature and quality of the learning experience for students. 

Questions to Consider for Each Defining Feature:

  1. Program Type: Are you able to grant credit to students? Include the GLPA in an already existing course? Or create a new course entirely? What are the benefits of creating a for credit option versus a not for credit option? What are the challenges of each?
  2. Program Activities: What are the key components of your programming? Activities to consider include workshops and trainings provided by partners, on-site classes, site visits, student projects (collaborative or individual, scholarly or creative), research, conference attendance, among others.
  3. Program Home: Is your programming conducive to a single academic department or program? Are there other programs at Ryerson that may connect academically to the topic? The broader the pool of potential applicants the more likely that the program will be successful in terms of recruitment.
  4. Student Criteria: What application and participation criteria will you utilize for students? Considerations include student status (full or part time), level of study (undergraduate, graduate, etc), particular skill set, etc. See section on Participation and Preparation for further guidance.
  5. Participants: How many students are you able to accommodate (minimum and maximum)? Faculty and/or staff participation? Local participation (student or otherwise)?
  6. Location: Considerations include conduciveness to learning objectives, accessibility (see section on Participation and Preparation), health and safety (see section on Planning and Logistics), partners and collaborators, etc.
  7. Partner Type(s): See section on Partnerships and Collaboration. Possibilities to explore include educational institutions, government and/or professional bodies and networks, cultural organizations, NGOs and/or community-based organizations, alumni associations, private enterprise, etc.
  8. Local Involvement: If local participants are incorporated into the programming, how will this be done and within what types of activities? What key aspects of programming require support from local collaborators (i.e. language interpretation, research and creative projects, etc)?
  9. Funding: How will students cover their costs for participation? Is their funding available at Ryerson either for the program as a whole or for individual applicants? Is fundraising a consideration (either individually or as a group)? Will students be responsible for covering the entire cost or a portion of the cost? See section on Participation and Preparation.
  10. Logistics: This refers specifically to the duration, timing and repetition of the programming. When will travel occur, for how long, and on a recurring basis? See section on Planning and Logistics.
  11. Outcomes: What planned and/or potential outcomes may result from the program? For example, student projects (scholarly or creative), sharing with the broader community (publication, presentation, online, etc), development of new institutional partnerships or expansion of current relationships, certificate or recognition for participation, academic credit or notation on transcript, etc.

Global Learning Program Examples

Defining Feature Global Learning Program Abroad Model Example
1. Program Type Curricular, for credit
2. Program Activities Student project + conference + site visits
3. Program Home Single academic program
4. Student Criteria Undergraduate + graduate, full-time
5. Participants 10 students + one faculty member
6. Location Single country destination (urban city)
7. Partner Type(s) University partner + professional networks + Ryerson alumni
8. Local Involvement Local Students provided language interpretation + overall support
9. Funding Ryerson (grant) + home faculty (conference costs) + student contributions
10. Logistics

Two weeks in country, three weeks project preparation prior to travel

  • May/June
  • Once a year
11. Outcomes Group projects led to creative output by students presented online and at various events across Ryerson
Defining Feature Global Learning Program Abroad Model Example
1. Program Type Curricular, for credit
2. Program Activities Community-based research + on-site classes
3. Program Home Transdisciplinary (two faculties, multiple programs)
4. Student Criteria

Undergraduate, full-time

Training provided in participatory research methods + anti-oppression

5. Participants Six students + one staff member
6. Location Multi-destination (urban and rural) within one country
7. Partner Type(s) Community research program of partner university
8. Local Involvement Local student research collaboration + language interpretation
9. Funding Faculty level funding (flights and accommodation of students) + student contributions
10. Logistics

One month pre-departure training, one month in country

  • August
  • Once a year
11. Outcomes Completion of joint student research project and conference presentations + scholarly publication by program lead
Defining Feature Global Learning Program Abroad Model Example
1. Program Type Experiential, co-curricular
2. Program Activities Team competition + student projects + site visits + workshops and trainings
3. Program Home Zone learning, transdisciplinary, university-wide
4. Student Criteria Undergraduate and graduate, full-time and part-time
5. Participants 16 students + two staff members (half Ryerson, half partner university)
6. Location Multi-destination (urban centres), host country + Canada
7. Partner Type(s) University partner
8. Local Involvement Co-designed project by both universities, students collaborate at all levels of programming
9. Funding Ryerson (grant) + partner university (grant) + student fundraising
10. Logistics

One month total, two weeks partner university, two weeks Ryerson

  • June
  • Once a year
11. Outcomes Student participants received a certificate + recognition in their extracurricular record
Defining Feature Global Learning Program Abroad Model Example
1. Program Type Experiential, co-curricular
2. Program Activities Creative project (research, design + implementation)
3. Program Home Single academic school, multiple programs
4. Student Criteria Undergraduate, full-time
5. Participants Seven students + sevent faculty and staff from all three participating universities
6. Location Multi-destination, three countries in total
7. Partner Type(s) Two partner universities
8. Local Involvement Multi-institutional project with students + leads from each university collaborating at all levels of programming
9. Funding Ryerson (grant) + private donors
10. Logistics

Travel was disbursed throughout March, May and June

  • Eight days first host, five days second host, 10 days Ryerson
  • One time project
11. Outcomes Presented at various international festivals + new institutional partnerships developed

Roles and Responsibilities

Roles Responsibilites

GLPA Program Lead

(Any full-time Ryerson University staff member - RFA, CUPE, MAC or OPSEU)


  • Receive confirmation of support from the Faculty and/or Department lead (VP, Dean, Chair, Director, etc.). This process may be different depending on the Faculty or Unit. 
  • Review the GLPA Guidelines and resources, ensuring that program design, planning and implementation are in alignment. Maintain consistent and ongoing communication with Ryerson International in relation to the types of support you require.
  • Maintain working relationships based on GLPA guidelines with all collaborators and partners throughout the planning, execution and evaluation stages of programming. 
  • Determine the key defining features of your program model (see section above).
  • Assess risk level of destination (via International SOS) and submit a Travel Risk Management Plan if necessary. (See Risk Assessment and Management in the Planning and Logistics section).
  • Develop GLPA learning objectives, itinerary, budget, logistics (including accommodations and transportation), marketing and promotion.
  • Lead student application and selection process, as well as pre-departure activities (in collaboration with RI prior to departure and in collaboration with local partners/collaborators in country).
  • While abroad, serve as primary point of contact for students in need of academic, cultural and/or personal guidance, both on a scheduled and emergency basis. 
  • Responsible for problem-solving and addressing any issues that arise in country with support from Ryerson’s partner International SOS (*the main point of contact for all emergency and health concerns that may arise).
Faculty and Academic Department
  • Dean (or department director or chair) is responsible for reviewing and approving faculty and staff GLPA proposals (with support from RI if requested).
  • Support faculty and staff in order to ensure the success of all approved GLPAs (may include academic advising, logistical support, etc).
  • Is responsible for faculty and/or staff salary while abroad and the hiring of any additional staff (whether RU or in-country).
  • Assist with program promotion, student recruitment, application review, and program evaluation, when possible.
  • Is responsible for covering any program costs that run over budget.
  • Is responsible for ensuring that the GLPA complies with all appropriate university policies and protocols.
Ryerson International
  • Supports faculty and staff in the development of GLPA initiatives, serving as advisors and facilitators to the RU community (including establishing and adhering to timelines, alignment with GLPA guidelines, and more).
  • Supports faculty and staff in assessing the risks associated with travel and ensures that a Travel Risk Management Plan is completed when necessary.
  • Supports faculty and staff with partnership identification and maintenance (including negotiating institutional agreements when necessary). 
  • Is responsible for the creation and maintenance of RU community resources, training, workshops, seminars and other professional development opportunities to support GLPA initiatives.
  • Is responsible for the creation and delivery of mandatory pre-departure sessions and additional student facing programming.
  • Is responsible for supporting the promotion of GLPA opportunities to students as well as fostering a community of global learning more broadly on campus. 
  • Advocates for and administers funding programs that support faculty, staff and students in developing and participating in GLPAs. 
  • Is responsible for developing, reviewing and updating GLPA guidelines based on experiences of Ryerson community and scholarly advancements in the sector (i.e. best practices, ethical considerations, etc).

Proposal and Approval Process

All GLPAs must be approved by the home unit or department of the program lead. Depending on the Faculty or department, this may occur at the level of VP, Dean and/or Chair/Director. It is recommended that a proposal is submitted to your home unit at least 10 to 12 months prior to the planned activity. In order to facilitate the process we have included below recommended items to include in your proposal. More information based on each section of the proposal template can be found throughout the GLPA resource section.

Initial proposal should include:

  • Key defining features of the GLPA based on the GLPA model typology above
  • Learning objectives and/or course syllabi (if applicable)
  • Draft budget (including minimum students required) 
  • Draft itinerary (typically includes details regarding the timeframe of the activity, accommodation, transportation, field trips and experiential learning activities, classroom times and locations (if applicable), groups meals, etc)
  • Potential or confirmed partners and collaborators (is an agreement required?)
  • Student participation eligibility and overall criteria
  • Initial risk assessment (via International SOS)
  • How does the proposed activity follow RI’s GLPA guidelines? Key aspects to highlight at this stage include:
    • Ability to maintain equitable and balanced partnerships
    • Collaboration with local experts and educators
    • Topic specific learning objectives and potential to connect to  Global Learning Education
    • How to ensure inclusive programming (location, content, timing, costs, etc)