Princeton’s Global History Lab receives grant to expand open-access virtual classroom for students worldwide, including refugee and migrant learners

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Princeton’s Global History Lab (GHL) is continuing to partner with a worldwide network of universities and NGOs to teach history in these challenging times. Through a series of courses taught in conjunction with these partner institutions, as well as a vibrant program of workshops, conferences and research projects, GHL aims to foster truly global conversations, not only among academics, but also among learners hailing from diverse backgrounds.

Since 2012, GHL has offered its flagship online, open-access course, “A History of the World,” to learners around the world. The course situates the study of global history in a global classroom, encouraging students to learn from and through interactions with peers near and far. Among those peers are refugee and migrant learners in Africa, Europe and the Middle East — making the course an innovative experiment in humanitarian higher education, and fulfilling Princeton’s commitment to be “in the service of humanity.”

In 2019, GHL piloted a second course, “History Dialogues” (HD), which builds upon the work of “A History of the World.” It provides learners with training in additional historical research methods. Learners have embarked on independent research projects that they then shared with their global colleagues, creating new knowledge and narratives that connect local stories to global themes.

Now, GHL has received a $2.4 million multi-year grant from the Open Society University Network (OSUN) to expand its reach to international students at 21 institutions and NGOs worldwide.

Housed in the Princeton Institute of International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), GHL uses technology, pedagogical practices and training in oral history methods to educate students about the history of globalization and prepare them to become knowledge producers for a wider world. GHL was established by Jeremy Adelman, the Henry Charles Lea Professor of History.

“Since we began almost a decade ago, this has been an experiment in global learning, one which includes students in remote and precarious parts of the world,” Adelman said. “This grant enables us to include and sustain many more collaborators and exchanges between them.”

He continued: “One of our core missions is to expand the right to research. In the digital age, everyone is bombarded by information. Turning the bombardment into meaningful knowledge requires research skills. Thanks to OSUN, we can expand the rights of people to have those skills.” The GHL works actively in refugee camps in the Middle East and Africa.

With the grant from OSUN, GHL will partner with OSUN co-founders Central European University and Bard College, as well as a wide range of institutions, including universities, think-tanks, NGOs and research institutions, to deliver GHL teaching and research across higher education institutions worldwide. GHL and OSUN also launched a complementary website, Global History Dialogues, where student-researchers, collaborating with each other and with local instructors, share original oral historical and archival research.

The launch of OSUN was announced at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos in January 2020. OSUN’s aims are to integrate curricula, teaching and research across partner institutions; embed civic engagement into the learning environment; create pathways for underserved communities into higher education; and create an ecosystem of long-term partnerships that will generate innovation and amplify the impact of individual institutions.