October has been filled with lots of accomplishments for the Pakistan Distance Education Enhancement Program [PDEEP] including a week lecture series given by San Jose State University [ SJSU ] faculty through the web-based tool Skype. The lecture series lasted four days and were given to students at Allama Iqbal Open University [AIOU].
The list of speakers included Pakistan Distance Education Enhancement Program [PDEEP] Project Director, Mark Adams, SJSU Lecturer Minna Holopainen, SJSU Professor Bettina Brockmann, and SJSU Sr. Director, Collaboration and Academic Technology Integration Bobbi Makani.
PDEEP Administrative Coordinator, Amethyst Aguilar, interviewed the speakers about their individual talks and their experiences and their responses can be found below.
“The eight guiding principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by Pakistan in 2011, focus on respect and equality—principles that should guide all conversations. Talking about the concepts of inclusion and eLearning in an intercultural online environment show that despite long distances and cultural differences, there is always the potential to create something meaningful together”.
(Professor Brockmann, SJSU)
Professor Brockmann noted the following when discussing inclusion and her talk with AIOU students, “Inclusion of students with disabilities is a relatively new concept at AIOU. There is some uncertainty about how to provide an inclusive academic environment for all students. The workshop of social inclusion of students with disabilities focused on the benefits of eLearning and technology and the potential to create an inclusive environment that provides each student with the opportunity to work toward her or his individual potential”. Brockmann discussion with AIOU students “highlighted how the classroom environment often seems limited to challenge each student on an individual level. There is often the fear that inclusion means that some students are held back. The goal of the workshop was to help students understand that social inclusion strategies in combination with eLearning provide an environment that is beneficial for ALL students. This environment does not only provide the opportunity to foster academic but also social skills. Learning about the challenges and successes of inclusion of students with disabilities in Pakistan result in a collaborative approach to evaluate current strategies and create new ones together”.
“Assessment of student learning demonstrates that the institution’s students possess the knowledge, skills, and competencies consistent with institutional and program goals, and that graduates are equipped with necessary skills to help make them responsible and productive citizens in the society”.
(Professor Makani, SJSU)
PDEEP Program Coordinator, asked Makani about her how working with Students at AIOU is important, and what her talk would center around. Makani responded with “working with the students at AIOU is important because of the possible impact they could have in their community. The students are going to shape the landscape of education in Pakistan for the future and it is important that they learn about what needs to be in place. The talk is focused on assessment of student learning outcomes. This is important because instructors need to know what students need to learn and then to determine IF they are learning. Without assessment, it is extremely difficult to evaluate teaching effectiveness. Teaching is NOT learning and what students learn can only be gauged through and effective assessment process. It requires commitment from university administrators or leads, resource allocation and most importantly, professional development for faculty”.
“This is an invitation for all AIOU and SJSU faculty to explore opportunities for COIL; I believe that everyone has something to share with and something to learn from others”.
(Professor Holopainen, SJSU)
PDEEP Administrative Coordinator, Amethyst Aguilar, asked Professor Holopainen about the importance of speaking with AIOU students to which she responded with, “for very selfish reasons: interacting with AIOU students builds my own intercultural communication skills. Each time I visit AIOU online, I learn something new. An example of the thing I reflected after this lecture was something I said, “seeing people face-to-face,” which of course sounds a bit odd when you are meeting people who might cover their heads. I also try to find ways to both show respect and question gender roles in AIOU classrooms. For example, it is usually men who answer questions first. I will need to remember to invite comments also from women. I think that we in the West have a lot to learn about how Pakistanis construct gender. It interests me a lot.
Holopainen also discussed the focus of her talk given to AIOU, to which she responded with that “this is actually what we started the session with: a discussion about the importance of Collaborative Online Intercultural Learning for our students. In a nutshell, our students need skills to work in intercultural online environments in today’s global marketplace. The rest of our time we spent on discussing the two key skill sets our students need-(1) intercultural communication skills, and (2) skills for working in international online teams- and COIL reviewing AIOU-SJSU COIL projects from Spring 2015 for some ideas on how to participate. This is an invitation to AIOU’s PhD scholars to participate in COIL”.
The talk series and the feedback from each speaker’s experience was overwhelmingly positive and they look forward to more opportunities like such to speak with AIOU students.