Athena Alchazidu is one of the first teachers from Masaryk University to teach pilot online course as part of the European Digital UniverCity (EDUC) alliance. In autumn 2020, alongside her colleagues from Pécs, Ecuador, and Richmond, she offered the first two courses focused on the culture and society of Latin America and on indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities in South America.
“At the beginning of the semester we had no idea what to expect from the new teaching format. At the end of the semester we teachers all unanimously agreed that we would continue with EDUC courses because it was an amazing experience, not only for us teachers but also, and primarily, for our students,” says Athena Alchazidu.
Even though about 20 students from MU and 20 from Pécs and Ecuador were enrolled in both classes, they were conceived of as seminars. The use of Zoom break-out rooms kept the discussions going, and, according to the teachers, debates grew increasingly lively every week.
“Our evening class often ended up lasting half an hour, once even a whole hour longer than scheduled because the students from the different universities wanted to talk; that a student from Brno could chat with a student from Ecuador was something totally new to them. As they worked in small teams, they talked about more than just the assigned topic. A few times my colleagues and I peeked inside their virtual classrooms and found them talking about the pandemic and how it had impacted the daily lives of people in their countries,” says Alchazidu, laughing.
EDUC has opened up wonderful opportunities for international cooperation
The teachers of these joint courses received positive feedback from students. Students especially appreciated the fact that they could talk about their studies and work on their collaborative assignments with their foreign classmates in real time.
The teachers often invited foreign guests to join in on the classes, for example, members of South American ethnic minorities. They first presented their culture directly from the place they live, and then they held discussions with the students and answered their questions.
“The students were really excited about how the course was designed. Take, for example, the feedback we received when at the end of our final lesson an Erasmus student from Poland studying at MU thanked us for the wonderful new experience with this learning format,” says Alchazidu.
Athena Alchazidu plans to continue teaching EDUC courses in the future. Now in the autumn semester she is offering joint courses through the MU Language Centre with colleagues from Pécs and Nanterre. In the spring she will teach classes that loosely follow these courses with academics from Potsdam and Cagliari. It is likely that teachers and students from universities in Peru and El Salvador will soon join the two existing courses, which will take on an even greater international dimension.
“EDUC has brought to our university wonderful opportunities for developing international cooperation, and I am so glad that we have a project such as this here. And it was introduced right on time, as online learning become a major focus due to the pandemic. My wish is that as many MU students and teachers as possible try interuniversity courses because they provide wonderful intercultural and interdisciplinary experience. They also bring participants growth, both professionally and personally,” adds the lecturer from the Language Centre.