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. (more…)

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Haverford’s recent Teaching with Technology Forum featured eight faculty presentations



Tetsuya Sato, Director of Japanese Language Program, discusses student projects.
Tetsuya Sato, Director of Japanese Language Program, discusses student projects in 3rd year Japanese. 
Top photo: John Dougherty, Associate Professor of Computer Science shows how his students use Voicethread to present their work

LACOL was proud to co-sponsor Haverford’s Teaching with Technology Forum for Fall 2015 which was organized by Instructional & Information Technology Services (IITS).  Eight Haverford College faculty members shared their approaches and experiments in using digital teaching and learning tools that help to increase student engagement with course material, their classmates, and faculty.  Hiroyo Saito, Director of IITS’s Instructional Technology Services and her team work closely with faculty in planning this semi-annual event.

Digital tools discussed by faculty included

  • Zaption
  • VoiceThread
  • Glossary in Moodle
  • Google Sites


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Video conferencing enhances student learning in advanced Japanese at Pomona College

Students in a "90-minute study-abroad" via video conferencing.
Students connect for a “90-minute study-abroad.”

Kyoko Kurita, in Asian Languages and Literatures at Pomona College, has been using video conferencing technology as a regular part of her language and cultural education curriculum since 2004 in her advanced-level Japanese classes. She calls a video conference “90-minute study abroad,” and conducts one or two video conference each semester.

According to Professor Kurita:

A video conference is a 90-minute study-abroad. But it goes beyond that. Even as the ubiquity of the internet reinforces the global linguistic dominance of English, it enables us to learn from other ways of approaching life. Three million people are currently studying Japanese in educational institutions worldwide. So Japanese, also, can be a tool for international communication.”


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Guest scholars join the discussion circle at Williams College: Using Skype in the classroom to connect data to creators

One Topics in Neuroscience discussion connected students at Williams College with both the first and senior authors of the assigned research paper at the University of Bern and McGill University.
One Topics in Neuroscience discussion connected students at Williams College with both the first and senior authors of the assigned research paper at the University of Bern and McGill University.

When undergraduate biology students read scientific papers, they see a tightly woven story connecting a set of data. However, not evident—and just as important for young scientists to recognize—are the ideas behind the experimental design and the challenges, failures, and triumphs of the scientists running and writing about the experiments. At Williams College, Assistant Professor of Biology Matt Carter and his students learn about this hidden world of biology research by engaging authors of the papers they read in classroom discussions using Skype videoconferencing.

After reading the research paper on their own, Topics in Neuroscience senior seminar students spent the first 45 minutes of the three hour long class time discussing the paper and generating a list of potential questions to ask the authors. Then, the authors joined the discussion by Skype using laptops and a room microphone. According to Carter:

Matthew Carter, Assistant Professor of Biology at Williams.
Matthew Carter, Assistant Professor of Biology at Williams.

This part of the discussion was not scripted or organized and became a free flowing conversation about science, experimental work, and personal engagement with the process. Students were able to ask spontaneous questions such as, “Which experiment in the paper was the most satisfying?” This question triggered a fascinating and lengthy answer about how difficult it was to carry out a key experiment and how tremendous they payoff was when it was achieved. Such insights are not contained published paper and would only emerge in this type of discussion session.


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Live video tagging gives real-time feedback to Pomona’s water polo student-athletes

Coach Alex La

Alex La, Interim Head Coach for the Pomona-Pitzer Men’s Water Polo and Women’s Water Polo programs, is regularly capturing matches on video, tagging clips immediately as the game is live and after as well for more in depth tagging. With tagging live, Pomona has been able to show athletes immediately after matches what occurred during the game more intelligently by showing them clips of specific scenarios. Alex and the coaching staff can also use the equipment, through editing, to create movies of specific themes (offense, defense, power-plays etc.) to instruct team members, provide visual aids, and cite specific examples for the student-athletes to learn from and engage with.


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