Message from International Christian University (ICU) , No2

Update: September 2, 2020

ICU was one of the first universities in Japan to start online teaching in response to the COVID-19 crisis. ICU faculty members used applications like Zoom for synchronous classes and used prerecorded videos for asynchronous classes.

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Message from ICU , No.2(September 1, 2020) 

The Online Classroom

- ICU's New Space Created with the Culture of Dialogue -

Yoshito Ishio, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts

2020ml_no1_img01.jpgICU was one of the first universities in Japan to start online teaching in response to the COVID-19 crisis. ICU faculty members used applications like Zoom for synchronous classes and used prerecorded videos for asynchronous classes.

For most ICU faculty members, the transition from conventional classroom instruction to online instruction was a difficult adjustment because this situation was their first experience with teaching in the online format. Liberal arts education at ICU has emphasized the importance of dialogue between instructors and students as well as between students. Many faculty members including me initially thought that effective dialogue was possible only through face-to-face interactions. Therefore, there was considerable anxiety among faculty members that online instruction would not produce learning outcomes on a par with that of the physical classroom.

What became apparent by the latter half of the spring term was that our faculty members were very resourceful in creatively providing meaningful interaction with students through the online format. In fact, many of them turned what initially seemed like disadvantages of the online experience into advantageous educational features.

2020ml_no1_img04.jpgHere are some examples of online teaching and learning that took place at ICU. In synchronous classes, instructors gave lectures using Zoom, and students were able to interactively ask questions. In large classes, instead of students asking questions orally, which might create confusion, students used the message board on Zoom and wrote their questions for the instructor to answer. Many faculty members said that they received more questions through this method than in conventional face-to-face classes. These examples show that interaction in online classes is not only possible but also potentially very effective. Apparently, some students found it easier to ask questions online than in the classrooms.

We also found that discussion among students could take place effectively online. In the physical classroom, we typically divide students into groups of five people for discussion. Using Zoom, we divided students into small groups called "breakout sessions" in which members of each group were able to engage in discussion among themselves. This online discussion was quite effective. In fact, many faculty members found that students often stayed in the breakout sessions to continue the discussion even after the class period ended. The long hours at home may explain their enhanced desire to engage in discussion with classmates, but this example also shows that the online environment could potentially encourage more dialogue than the physical classroom environment.

2020ml_no1_img03.jpg It was very unfortunate that the COVID-19 crisis forced many international students from abroad to return to their home countries mid-way through their study-abroad plan at ICU and forced other students to cancel their plans to come to Japan. It was heart breaking to see their educational plans cancelled. However, ICU's internationalism was maintained through our online classes. First, students who returned to their countries continued to participate in our online classes, creating an opportunity for international dialogue between them and domestic students. For example, an anthropology class had students participating online from the U.S.A., India, Belarus, and the U.K. Japanese Language Program courses had students participating online from the U.S.A., South Korea, the U.K., China, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Malaysia, and Germany. Second, online classes made it easier for ICU's instructors to invite specialists and professionals from around the world to lecture to our students. Although the coronavirus pandemic made it difficult for people to move across international borders, ICU was able to offer a new type of connectivity and dialogue transcending national borders by making creative use of the online form of instruction.

Another interesting example of online instruction by our faculty members incorporated information from outside the classroom effectively. As instructors are not confined to the classroom in online courses, they can move to the places directly related to the content of the lecture with portable Wi-Fi. An archaeology professor live-streamed from an excavation site on the ICU campus where the Jomon Period pit dwellings and potshards were found. It was an exciting on-site lesson that riveted students who were watching the online lecture.

The reason why our online classes were more effective than we had originally imagined lies not just in our faculty's innovative efforts. ICU students also contributed greatly to the success of many courses. ICU has had a culture of dialogue between students and faculty members. One example is the widespread use of what we call "Comment Sheets." Students typically fill out these sheets at the end of each class period in order to provide feedback to their instructors about the session and ask questions. This tradition has nurtured a culture of incorporating students' voices to improve instruction. This culture worked to our advantage during the spring term of online teaching. Many students engaged in constructive efforts to improve instructors' teaching methods by offering various suggestions for improvement. Many students also expressed their heartfelt appreciation for faculty in providing education during a difficult period. This expression of appreciation also motivated faculty members to deliver impactful content. I believe this dialogue-rich culture at ICU provided a virtuous cycle in our online classrooms.

ICU's online classes are not stopping the 'Dialogue'

Short Videos

Profile of Dr. Yoshito Ishio

Dr. Ishio received his MA in sociology from Baylor University in 1991 and received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Minnesota in 1995. His area of specialty is political sociology. He conducts research on American patriotism. He served as the Director of the Service Learning Center, the Chair of the Sociology and Anthropology Department, and the Director of the Graduate School Public Policy and Social Research Program before becoming the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts in April 2020.

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