CWRU-Bilkent Virtual Classroom Initiative

Project Director

John J. Grabowski

Krieger-Mueller Associate Professor of Applied History at CWRU, and Historian and Vice President for Collections at Western Reserve Historical Society.

Domestic Collaborator

Thomas Knab

Chief Information Officer, College of Arts and Sciences, CWRU

International Collaborator

Can Ugur Ayfer

Assistant Director, Bilkent Computer Center


The project developed “Comparative Perspectives on Museum and Archives Administration” (HSTY 328/428), a course that examined the development of museums and archives in the United States and in late Ottoman and early Republican Turkey. The class at CWRU had a real-time audio/video link to a class of undergraduate and graduate students at Bilkent University.

The course focused on introducing students to both historical and contemporary issues that have shaped and are reshaping museum practices in both countries as well as the fostering intercultural communication and understanding. Students from each university paired off to conduct research and then produced independently written final projects comparing one contemporary museum in Cleveland with one in Turkey. Laptop computers equipped with distance learning software allowed the professor to conduct live virtual office hours with students in Turkey and enabled individual students on both sides of the virtual classroom to connect with their research partners.


Several of the student projects were extraordinarily well done, and one, a DVD, was rather sophisticated in its production values and content. All of the final projects indicated that the students had gained significant new understandings of the place museums hold within particular cultures and the forces that are changing museum practice in both the United States and Turkey. The student partnerships fostered increased cultural understanding, and several friendships developed as a result of the course.

Although the management of two separate sets of students proved challenging in terms of overseeing attendance, dealing with separate grading systems and working across a seven-hour time difference, the experience was professionally satisfying and will be repeated in the future.

The communication technology functioned almost flawlessly. At times, significant audio/visual lags occurred during the live course period, and there was a certain degree of difficulty in arranging sightlines and seating in both classrooms so that all students could follow the lecture and also easily see and interact with each other. The virtual office hours worked very well and provided an effective means of mentoring the Bilkent students.


Total funding: $4,300

Funds purchased two laptop computers, three sets of Polycom communication software, and three webcams. Funding also supported faculty travel to Bilkent as well as a later visit to Bilkent by the College of Arts and Sciences’ chief information officer to establish the groundwork for future collaborative projects. External partners helped fund a trip to Ankara by CWRU students and Bilkent students’ visits to CWRU. In addition, Bilkent University covered a $19,500 studio upgrade to support the course exchange.

The project has sustained itself in two distinct ways. First, the experimental course is now part of CWRU’s permanent course registry. Second, it has fostered an ongoing relationship between Bilkent and CWRU. There has been an exchange of visits by IT personnel from each university, and a student and faculty exchange program began in the 2010-2011 academic year.

John J. Grabowski

John J. Grabowski

Krieger-Mueller Associate Professor of Applied History at CWRU, and Historian and Vice President for Collections at Western Reserve Historical Society.
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