In Summer Session, Students can Take a Yale Course From Afar

Students from around the world will have the opportunity to take a Yale course this summer even if they are unable to come to campus.

The University is embarking on an experimental pilot program to offer Yale Summer Session courses, all taught by noted Yale faculty members, through an online platform. The overall program involves four Yale Summer Session courses, with two of the four courses available for credit. The five-week, for-credit courses are open to current college students and others beyond college. Students apply for admission to the courses as they would for any in-resident Yale Summer Session course.

The two courses being offered online for credit are:

“Introduction to the Politics of the Mideast,” an overview of state formation, political institutions, economic development and other topics in the Middle East and North Africa, taught by political scientist Ellen Lust; and

“Computational Finance,” an advanced undergraduate course in asset pricing taught by economist Donald Brown.

Both of these online courses will be taught in Summer Session B, which begins on July 4. (Click here to apply to these courses.)

Yale University campus, Image credit: Yale University.

The two other courses involved in the experimental program are:

“Brains of Genius,” an examination of the nature of genius led by music historian Craig Wright. Wright will teach a section of his course to an online class beginning May 30. This online class will be comprised of Yale staff members who have agreed to complete all of the required work and assignments in exchange for the opportunity to take this course with Professor Wright. The Yale staff members will also provide feedback on the online program.

“Jazz and Race in America,” led by musician and composer Tom Duffy, a study of the evolution of jazz — from its precursors in the music of Africa through its beginnings in New Orleans to its fusion with rock in the 1970s. Duffy will be using the online platform to support the course he is teaching in-residence during session B. Although his students will be based in New Haven, he will include online-only components to his course this summer in an effort to experiment with what is known as a “hybrid” learning model.

“These are popular courses which have been taught before during the summer,” says William Whobrey, associate dean of Yale College and dean of Summer Session and Special Programs. “The faculty members are very excited about teaching their courses online in a format that allows them to retain a high level of interactivity with their students, which is how they are accustomed to working with students in New Haven.”

The program will later be evaluated by the Course of Study Committee to determine its success and evaluate whether it should be expanded in the future, says Whobrey.

The University’s decision to offer the online summer courses followed discussion with administrators and faculty at peer institutions that also offer online learning for course credit, says Whobrey.

“We were convinced that online learning has come far — technologically and pedagogically — in the last five years,” he says. “It’s no longer a situation where you watch a video online and take a quiz. For our courses, there are required class sessions where students are expected to be online at specific times, when they can engage in classroom interaction. It’s an intensive course experience, with the main difference being that students do not have to be on the campus.”

Students in the courses are held to the same standards as in-resident students, notes Whobrey. To guard against cheating, for example, students who live within 200 miles of the campus will be required to come to Yale to take an exam, while those who live further away are required to have a proctor during test-taking. Lust will conduct one-on-one oral exams at the end of her course.

The online classes will be kept small, with no more than 25 students in each class. Students are allowed to take only one course.

Wright, the Henry L. and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Music, says teaching his course online is a way of expanding his personal “outreach experience” with students in the United States and around the world.

“The method of engaging in education around the world is changing radically and rapidly, almost every day,” says Wright. “I am not creative, but by teaching this course, I come close to creativity.  It allows me to share a world view that most others have not considered: how and why it is that some individuals are supremely accomplished and have changed the course of human history.”

Wright, Duffy, Lust and Brown will teach their courses through a platform provided by Pearson Education, a global leader in providing research-based print and digital programs to help students learn. Students will be able to access course readings, message boards, video tools and other offerings, in addition to having live, synchronous class-time interaction with their professor, notes Lucas Swineford, director of digital media and dissemination at Yale. Swineford helped research and coordinate the technological aspects of the pilot program.

“We’ve spoken to individuals at peer institutions that have been doing online courses for a long time, and have learned from them some best practices,” says Swineford. “We’re taking a cautious approach, and will evaluate carefully what does or doesn’t work.”

“If our pilot program is a success, we may find new mutual opportunities for online learning in conjunction with the universities where we have international partnerships, such as the University of Peking, the National University of Singapore and Monterrey Tech in Mexico,” says Whobrey. “There is no doubt that new technologies are impacting education, and it is an adventure for us and our faculty participants to explore this summer how effective online learning can be.”

This article is written by: Susan Gonzalez.

Source: Yale University.

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