The Virtual Sabbatical

Some faculty who have trouble traveling, or being away from home, are finding new and interesting alternatives to a traditional sabbatical. Technologies such as Skype, YouTube, and Facebook are making it easier than ever to connect with anyone, anywhere, at any time. They’re also facilitating new learning experiences for faculty and students. How have you used technology for personal or professional development?

Wired Campus

September 1, 2010, 05:53 PM ET

The Virtual Sabbatical

By Paige Chapman

Patricia Easteal took a sabbatical in England last year—without ever stepping foot outside her front door in Australia.

The University of Canberra law professor took the digital trip as part of a research project exploring a different take on the hoary academic tradition. She relied on Skype and YouTube to communicate with Durham University students and faculty members.

Could the sabbatical of the future be virtual?

“We did not undertake this project with the intention of advocating it as a replacement,” Ms. Easteal said. “We were simply testing it as an alternative, especially for groups that have difficulty traveling and/or being absent from home for a long time.”

Her one regret? Not having the chance to listen to the grand organ music at the nearby Durham Cathedral, a place BBC reported to be the country’s “most beloved building.”

Though she isn’t aware of other universities trying something similar, she hopes the idea will catch on.

“Hopefully, this will help people think outside of the proverbial box,” she said. “They can, indeed, develop international collaborations, networking, and be a visible part of another university community without leaving home.”

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