Teleconferencing Brings Students Together Across Continents
|Rami Khouri (AUB) conducting a teleconferencing
session with Ralph Begleiter(University of Delaware)
Better known as a syndicated columnist and editor-at-large for The Daily
Star, Rami Khouri has been teaching an innovative course at AUB, along
with another journalist-turned-professor, former CNN correspondent Ralph
Begleiter at the University of Delaware. Throughout the semester, 14 AUB
students have been electronically discussing issues of media and politics
with a group of honors students at the University of Delaware (UD). "Helping
students in both countries see and understand the other culture in more
complex and nuanced ways," is how Rami Khouri described the main
idea behind this transnational academic experience.
The concept for the exchange grew out of Assistant Professor Roman Kulchitsky's
course on US Foreign Policy in the Middle East, in which different experts
came in to lecture. When Khouri spoke to the class on media and politics,
it was a big hit, and from that experience emerged the idea. Knowing that
Ralph Begleiter had been seeking to teach a class jointly with university
students in the Middle East, Khouri talked with him about doing a joint
course between AUB and UD. What resulted was a partnership between Begleiter's
Global Agenda foreign affairs class and Khouri's Media and Politics class
in the Political Science and Public Administration Department.
Each student group had separate reading lists, lectures, and guest speakers,
such as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, at UD and
Brent Sadler, a current CNN foreign correspondent, at AUB. The two groups
came together for a total of nine teleconference classes throughout the
semester. The format for these sessions evolved over time, until it settled
on five minutes of comments and questions from UD students and then five
minutes from AUB students. The simultaneity of teleconference technology
allowed students here to see and hear the students in Delaware in real
time. As Kulchitsky put it, this technology "removes distance as
As Professor Begleiter explained it, "To me, the great benefit was
to see flashbulbs popping in the minds of our students as they exchanged
ideas and opinions every week with students living in a very different
culture thousands of miles away." In addition, AUB students were
paired with Delaware students to do a joint research paper.
One of the major challenges with a course of this type is the cost involved.
UD covered half the costs and, on AUB's end, the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal
Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud Center for American Studies and Research (CASAR)
cosponsored the course. CASAR Director Patrick McGreevy pointed out that
this course "fits in with our mission of increasing understanding
between the US and the Middle East."
The last teleconference class was held on May 4. Students from both UD
and AUB expressed surprise that the groups were not so different from
each other and had many of the same views. Concerning how the course changed
them, one Delaware student said that as a consumer of media, she would
make more of an effort to look at things from the other perspective and
think to herself, "How would it be seen in Beirut?"
The professors are also collecting pre- and post-survey questionnaires
from the students to get a sense of what worked and what didn't, how the
course has impacted them, and to learn more about the process. As Kulchitsky
remarked, "This is not about using technology for the sake of using
technology, but about the learning opportunity that the technology creates."
Regarding the possibility of future similar courses, Begleiter said, "The
best outcome would be that someone, perhaps the university itself, would
want to endow this concept so it would become an absolutely standard occurrence..."
During the wrap-up session, one AUB student said the class was "an
amazing experience we may never have again." From the observations
of both the students and the professors involved, it is hoped that this
will not be the case.