Student Voices from Global Online Academy
By Jake Clapp, Academic Dean
Every Global Online Academy course has a few things in common: close contact between the teacher and student; opportunities for students to participate in the creation of course content; collaborative and independent assignments; opportunities for students to improve their digital literacy; and a chance to increase, through social interactions and course content, their awareness and understanding of diverse perspectives. That said, every student’s experience is unique.
I had the opportunity to exchange a few emails with some students who took Global Online Academy classes in Semester I (September – December) of 2013. Special thanks to these students for sharing their thoughts: Surina M. (The Blake School, Minneapolis, MN) and Sam H. (Dalton School, New York, NY) who both took Digital Photography, and Riya M. (Pembroke Hill School, Kansas City, MO) who took Global Health and Bioethics.
Riya, what was one of the most interesting ideas or perspectives that you learned in Bioethics?
RIYA: I have learned that there is no way we can feel one hundred percent comfortable making decisions in the realm of bioethics. Whenever we explored a particular ethical dilemma, I would often go into the assignment with a clear opinion. However, after reading a specific case study or reading/listening to other students’ perspectives, I would start to challenge my initial opinion. We recently read about Ken Duke, a prisoner who received a heart transplant. We had to decide (in groups of two) whether he should have received the transplant. Before researching Duke or the organ transplant waiting list, I thought he, like any human being, should be given the opportunity to receive a transplant. When I learned that his status as a prisoner actually helped him receive the transplant and that another individual could not receive a heart transplant because of the enormous shortage of organs, I was no longer “sure.” Eventually, after a lot of discussion and research, my partner and I decided that Duke should not have received the transplant, but it was not an easy decision by any means.
Sam, what were some things you learned by going out into the city and taking pictures? Did you ever have any uncomfortable moments taking pictures in public?
SAM: I think the best thing I learned in this course was that anywhere in the city, there’s always something interesting. There’s a clear difference between going for a walk for leisure, and going for a walk to take photos. When I went out to take photos, I felt that my artistic eye really opened up in a way that I had never experienced before. Now, everywhere I go seems more interesting because of this.
I didn’t have any specific uncomfortable moments while photographing in public, though the street photography assignment (see #3) involved me asking strangers on the street if I could photograph them (in a “Humans of New York” kind of style…).
In what ways did the experience of learning online impact you?
RIYA: Online learning, I believe, is all about independence. Because we don’t “go” to class everyday, we have to be aware of our assignments and deadlines. We don’t get daily reminders to turn-in homework, and we have to remember when to sign into our Google Plus accounts to attend hangouts. I think this experience has made me a more proactive student. I am better about emailing teachers—both GOA teachers and my Pembroke teachers–right when I realize I need help with something.
What assignment do you remember most fondly?
SAM: My favorite assignment by far was Street Photography. Each person in the class had to submit seven photos to his/her blog that they had taken in their city. There was only one boundary–five of the photos had to contain objects from a list (e.g. bicycle, lamppost, other things you would find on the street) that my teacher posted. I enjoyed this assignment because it allowed me to explore the city while continuing my passion for photography.
Image Caption: I stopped to photograph people at the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The plaza at the entrance to the Met. There was a group of street musicians that were performing at the bottom of the steps who had attracted quite a crowd.
What did you enjoy most about your GOA course?
SURINA: While in Digital Photography I really enjoyed the weekly projects we did and how we learned new skills with our cameras and with Photoshop. I also enjoyed seeing my peers’ photographs and seeing how they interpreted the assignment. Everyone was from all around the world, which also made it fun.
RIYA: I really enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of my GOA courses this year. In both Global Health and Bioethics, we explored issues rooted both in the natural and social sciences, but we never confined an issue to just one “category.” In Global Health, for example, we studied the AIDS epidemic. We began by studying the medical side of AIDS, but then we studied the social and economic factors that are inherent to the AIDS discussion. For my HIV research paper, I watched And the Band Played On, a film that documented the scientific community’s frustration at the onset of the AIDS epidemic. I was able to incorporate my scientific understanding of the epidemic and the social concerns addressed in the film to analyze the concept of a “Patient Zero.” By the end of that particular unit, I had a very comprehensive understanding of the subject matter. Similarly, in Bioethics, we address complex issues from different perspectives. Recently, we have been studying organ transplants. Along with learning about organ waiting lists and different medical procedures, we have also learned about the ethical dilemmas many hospitals face in providing organ transplants.
What might you see yourself doing in 10 years?
SURINA: I am interested in advertising/communications and business so I will hopefully in 10 years be working for an advertising company.
RIYA: To be honest, I have no idea! I can only hope that in the next ten years, I will be involved in something I am very passionate about and working to make a positive difference in the world. I don’t see myself sticking to just one discipline. My experience in GOA classes has strengthened my desire to work “in between” different areas of study. I believe only by approaching problems from different angles can we develop practical and innovative strategies to improve the world we live in.