Dr. Zohir Chowdhury joined SDSU in the Fall of 2007 as a Tenure-Track Assistant Professor in the Environmental Health (EH) Division in the School of Public Health. Dr. Chowdhury completed a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2004. Prior to joining SDSU, he was a Postdoctoral Researcher and a Lecturer in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley.
Currently, Dr. Chowdhury is teaching a class in the model of Collaborative International Online Learning (COIL). When the COVID-19 pandemic forced students and faculty to transition to online learning, Dr. Chowdhury wanted to see how to utilize the COIL model to create engagement between SPH students and international classes. COIL is a form of an innovative virtual exchange developed by the State University of New York (SUNY), which engages students and professors across cultures to work together in collaborative projects and discussions, making international and inter-cultural experiences within reach of every student at every institution without the need for travel. It is utilized by several universities and has greatly improved access, diversity, equity, and inclusion of a wide range of students who are unable to experience such cultural and international programs.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Chowdhury would go to India with a group of students to be immersed into the Indian culture and language while learning about sustainability and environmental issues from an international perspective. So when the pandemic forced countries to quarantine, Dr. Chowdhury wanted to continue to immerse his students in international issues through COIL.
In collaboration with XIM University in Bhubaneswar, India, and Dr. Elizabeth Abba– Dr. Chowdhury has taught an Environmental Determinants of Health course and a Global Climate Change course through the COIL model. Overall, Dr. Chowdhury reports that SDSU SPH students have enjoyed the interaction with international students and it was interesting to see different perspectives from the students as they dissected why certain interventions may or may not work in the other country. The COIL method has improved students’ cultural interaction and competency while giving them a new dimension to think about the same issue in a different setting. The greatest challenges faced seem to be timezone related communication issues and some language barriers. Dr. Chowdhury expresses that COIL has provided great value to students and that he will be continuing to utilize this teaching approach while continuing to improve his curriculum with learnings from previous classes.