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A Night We Will Never Forget

This is a long blog post. If you are not interested in serious things, go directly to the Potluck part. You can find it easily near the first photo.

Approaching the end of the week, we spent our last day before final presentations on understanding how online courses are conducted here at Cronkite. Three things most impressed me.

First, offering online degree programs is far more complicated than simply putting recorded classes online. When the instructor’s presence in terms of time and space changes, teaching changes accordingly. Dr. Julie Greenwood, Vice Dean of Educational Initiatives at EdPlus at ASU, pointed out that while teaching in person an instructor might shift their content and method based on the situation of the moment, but that’s not possible for online teaching. In order to achieve effectiveness online,  the professor needs to break down expected learning outcomes into extremely detailed, measurable teaching points to avoid randomness.

Second, this was the first time I’d heard about the new profession of Instructional Designer. DeAnna Soth, Instructional Designer, and her colleague Matt Robinson, Media Manager, work  closely to build up course structures and rubrics to ensure quality online teaching. While media technology brings great challenges to the established education system by converting real-time teaching to numerous copies of the teaching moment, new professions and possibilities emerge in the course of this transformation. 

Third, it is equally surprising to know that conducting online course involves so much work. Rebecca Blatt, Cronkite Assistant Dean; Julia Wallace, Frank Russell Chair in Journalism and Jessica Pucci, Assistant Dean and Professor of Practice at Cronkite, told us their own teaching experiences, anecdotes and lessons they’ve learned in online teaching: how to engage students across time and space, how to give hundreds of students feedback, and how to constantly update and refine their course content.  The meaning of teaching has far gone beyond preparing and delivering  knowledge. Management and control become significant and indispensable components for effective teaching – online or in person.

After classes, it was finally time for our long-expected potluck dinner. Dear Dawn and lovely Alma drove us to the lovely house of Dr. Shah, our generous host. 

The beautiful house of Dr. Shah. Photo by Väino Koorberg

The fruit-laden orange tree, the elegant cat watching us from the poolside and the spacious living room were our first encounter with the house. But we chose the kitchen as a site of scholarly collaboration: happily cooking and bravely eating. 

Cheers, my SUSI friends! (Can anyone tell me what’s in the dish to the left of the sausage? It was SOOOOOOOO delicious!)

The atmosphere of party turned from cozy to sweet when Shree, our Nepalese guru, showed us how to create the sound of rainfall with friends (I’ll use it in my class!). Joanna, the beauty from Lebanon, linked us along the poolside with her national dance. (Confession: at that moment, I secretly expected someone would fall into the pool given how quickly we were stepping.)

With sweet music drifting through the. night air, the most thrilling moment came when Basil and Väino presented the SUSI scholars’ hand-crafted art pieces to our dear Dawn and lovely Alma. The paintings were made by us all to tell a story of friendship, thankfulness and memories of numerous hot moments. Dawn and Alma, you will remember us for this night, right? And thank you for everything!

The colored dots are the fingerprints of the 17 SUSI scholars who spent their month at Cronkite. Special credit should be given to the artist Andreea and her agents, Luis and Väino.    

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