PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Connect, a ten-week program of facilitated online discussion among students from Western and Muslim countries, is growing in popularity.

When students log in, they join a videoconference with seven other students from different parts of the world and exchange differences of opinion sometimes in heated discussions. “People teach understanding rather than agreement,” according to Mustafa Marwan, a volunteer facilitator.

Since its start in 2003, about 3,000 students from 80 universities and 20 countries have participated according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Universities pay $1,000 to join and $300 per student; fees are waived for initial trial periods and schools with few resources.

Georgetown and Western Kentucky Universities have joined as have students from the United Arab Emirates and Palestinian territories. Amy Finnegan, who teaches Encounters with the Middle East at Tufts University, designed the course specifically around Connect—to make issues more real.

While language and technology have been problems in some places, a venue for Arabs, Jews and Muslims to interact and gain their points of view is a wonderful teaching tool.

Reported By Dr. Marciene Mattleman, KYW Newsradio

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