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Building a Borderless Class at Swarthmore College

Sunka Simon Swarthmore College associate professor of German studies

At Swarthmore College, Associate Provost and Professor of German and Film and Media Studies Sunka Simon and Associate Professor of French Carina Yervasi, collaborated with Ashesi University Professor Mikelle Antoine to create an interactive online course that examines questions of nationality, globalization, race and ethnicity, and gender and sexuality through the lens of global diasporic communities. Using a “globally-networked learning environment,” the course entitled Re-Envisioning Diasporas was the first synchronous, hybrid course taught between Swarthmore College and Ashesi University in Ghana. The classes worked in joint video-conferenced sessions twice a week to explore how displaced peoples worldwide address these challenging questions while living in a perpetual state of “elsewhere.”

Simon and Yervasi recently co-authored an article about their experience with building a borderless class which appears in the new volume, Globally Networked Teaching in the Humanities: Theories and Practices, co-edited by Simon. Participants from both continents shared their reflections on the course experience.   Yervasi notes:

Carina Yervasi Swarthmore College associate professor of French and Francophone studies

What I’m discovering is that our model of learning is very different from the traditional model of distance learning. Our model is collaborative; it’s not student-professor online learning where the students are interacting with just the professor. [ … ] The students have to write and interact with each other. We’ve used writing, blogs, forums, Youtube, Skype and VoiceThread … I like that we’re using these technologies to connect in new ways.

Plans are in progress to offer an updated version of the course next year.  With a grant from SUNY COIL, the team is supported by course designer Michael Jones, director of the Swarthmore Language Resource Center, who manages the technology resources that keep the groups in close contact.  Both Simon and Jones are actively involved with LACOL’s Language Instruction Working Group.

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