The University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, is a global leader in providing innovative learning for local and international development education and research.
Through the Capacity Development and Extension (CDE) program of the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), the UoG offers a suite of undergraduate DE courses in communication process to approximately 1000 students per year. Increasingly these students come from around the world, although the majority are undergraduate students studying at the main Guelph campus.
At the Masters and PhD level, graduate courses and student research projects typically address communication, learning and community engagement processes as they relate to the areas of environment, agriculture, food, and rural communities, in Canada and around the world. Through our partnerships with government and non-governmental organizations as well as the private sector, students are engaged in community-based learning projects involving multi-media and collaborative inquiry projects.
In 2006, the University of Guelph has created a CFI-funded “Multi-Media Lab for Rural Communication” within the School of Environmental Design and Rural Development for the enhancement of communication and media studies in agriculture and rural development. In past years, research has involved collaboration with a wide range of local, national and international institutions engaged in the scholarship of communication for development.
Each year, graduate students complete community-engaged research projects in areas involving participatory video, rural radio and digital technologies for participatory learning and action. Our students engage in 3-6 month research project abroad, or conduct their fieldwork locally in Canada.
Faculty-led research projects address social media for international agri-food innovation, the integration of radio and new information and communication technologies in South Asia and capacity development for rural radio research in Africa. Local projects emphasize support for strengthening rural broadband deployment regional innovation in southern Ontario, social media for agricultural innovation and knowledge mobilization for sustainable rural development.
The evolution of communication studies and its nexus with development studies (ie. community development and international development) are key dimensions of our teaching. In class, we examine the fundamental principles, theoretical perspectives and practices existing currently, and historically, in the field of communication for social and environmental change.
For example, in the graduate course CDE6420 Communication for Social and Environmental Change, theory and practice are interwoven. Students explore and use various types of media including graphics, print, radio, internet and video media. Attention focuses on media as both message (content) and medium (carrier, including technology as product and process of global development). The praxis or application of theoretical foundations discussed in this course is developed through individual and group learning projects which enable students to interact with external resource persons and collaborate with community organizations.
Networking our teaching and research work in communication for social and environmental change globally is the motivation for our recent involvement in the Glocal Classroom where four universities on four continents collaborate to teach and learn using the WWW. This pioneering initiative involving Sweden (Malmö University), Australia (Flinders University), South Africa (University of Stellenbosch) and the University of Guelph (Canada) offers us a new experience in communication and development studies. We are truly communicating and learning glocally.