2022 President Speaks: What Agnes Scott College learned about recreating in-person experiences online

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Leocadia I. Zak is the president of Agnes Scott Faculty, an impartial nonprofit establishment in Georgia.

How do you present college students with an array of enriching experiences when the world is shutting down? 

A headshot of Leocadia I. Zak, president of Agnes Scott College.

Leocadia I. Zak

Permission granted by Agnes Scott Faculty

 

That’s the query my Agnes Scott Faculty colleagues and I needed to reply because the COVID-19 pandemic started to make its manner the world over in 2020. For our campus, specifically, it was a query that posed an infinite problem. 

Agnes Scott’s schooling is distinguished by an revolutionary world studying curriculum referred to as SUMMIT. Every step of a pupil’s diploma is enriched by added coursework and experiences that put together girls to steer on this planet. 

By means of our International Journeys program, as an example, each first-year pupil spends every week in considered one of numerous locations, most of that are overseas. They examine the vacation spot for a whole semester earlier than they expertise it. In one other program — the Sophomore Class Atlanta Management Expertise, or SCALE — second-year college students spend every week in an Atlanta office, shadowing a enterprise or nonprofit chief.

Each of those in-person experiences add resonance to the worldwide exploration happening within the classroom.

However in March 2020, these experiences got here to a full cease. Solely every week earlier than 300 first-year college students and their college leaders deliberate to unfold out all around the globe for his or her journeys, we made the arduous however crucial determination to postpone all 13 journeys. Touring wasn’t allowed or deemed protected. We additionally moved SCALE to a web based expertise, because it was unattainable for college students to shadow leaders at their workplaces when the leaders themselves have been starting to work nearly. 

And so the “Scotties” of Agnes Scott, like school college students all over the place, headed house to complete their semester on their computer systems. 

The pandemic left the classroom portion of SUMMIT roughly intact. It was the experiential part that demanded revolutionary considering. It could take effort, ingenuity and collaboration to protect the connections that include college students seeing, listening to and doing in the actual world. 

On the time, we stayed optimistic. We moved the journeys forward a couple of months, then repeated the postponement a couple of months later as restrictions and public well being advisories dictated. However when confronted with one more postponement within the fall, we huddled as much as name a brand new play. If the scholars couldn’t expertise points of SUMMIT in individual, we’d do all the things in our energy to make the real-world explorations significant and memorable. 

Immediately, our college took workshops on optimizing instructing within the digital setting. They steadily met to brainstorm methods to carry the various aspects of a journey overseas into pupil houses. Then they teamed up with our journey suppliers, sharing their course content material and pedagogy experience and producing concepts on creating new sorts of experiences that could possibly be shared nearly. 

The journey suppliers tremendously helped. They enlisted the assistance of their on-location employees so a tour of a museum or neighborhood could possibly be livestreamed or, in some instances, filmed and later shared. Importantly, the product would replicate the enter of Agnes Scott college’s content material and concepts. 

What resulted was a wealthy array of digital world immersion experiences that supplanted the spring 2021 journeys. For instance, the scholars who had deliberate to go to Bulgaria took a live-streamed tour of elements of the traditional metropolis of Plovdiv. They walked the streets, so to talk, of Sofia, the capital metropolis. They’d a digital sit-down with girls who shared tales of dwelling in a rustic that after was behind the Iron Curtain. 

These sorts of mini-adventures transcended all locations. Cooks within the Caribbean nearly shared a kitchen with college students in a reside demonstration of how you can prepare dinner mofongo, a conventional dish of Puerto Rico that includes plantains. The famend Black British author and activist Sharon Dodua Otoo led a fascinating dialogue on the current and previous of German and U.S. relations. Students studying about trend in France have been nearly taken to a tucked-away room inside a museum — one thing they’d by no means have seen in individual as a result of the room is just too small to accommodate excursions. 

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