Students at the University of Haifa and the University of Georgia recently participated in the same course in comparative health systems, saw each other and interacted in real time – even though they were thousands of kilometers away. The new and specially designed transatlantic course via videoconferencing brought about a new experience for the students.
“I feel like a tourist in my own university!” said Shani Alkushi, a Haifa graduate student, whose watch said 4 p.m. But for some of the students in the course, the day had only just begun. “We’ve had our coffee, and we’re ready to work,” said Gretchen Parrott of Georgia.
The course on global health was being given by Prof. Richard Schuster, Center for Global Health director at the US university, who came to the Haifa university with six American graduate students who chose to take the course in Haifa alongside Israeli students. The Georgians waved to their Haifa classmates and the session began.
The University of Haifa entered a cooperative agreement with the University of Georgia in April of last year. This course is just one of the advanced collaborative endeavors between the two. This transatlantic course is fully recognized toward the students’ degree requirements. The students were able to interact as in any other class, including questions for the lecturer.
“This is new technology, and it’s very exciting. Part of what we’re learning about globalization is that education can be globalized – that half of the class can be in one location and the other half of the class can be ten thousand kilometers away,” said Shuster.
The students themselves were not at all overwhelmed by the experiment.
“It’s very exciting to be part of it,” said Theodora Brandon, who took a break from her medical studies to acquire a master’s degree in public health and is now in Israel.
“We’re discussing among ourselves here and we also do a lot via the Internet with discussion posting,” she added.
“We see the people on the monitor rather than being with them in person, but we are still able to communicate very effectively.
There were quite a few questions and concerns about how it would work at first – hoping that there wouldn’t be technical hitches, and unsure whether we’d be able to communicate with the professor and ask questions. But that was all cleared up when we saw that it is running smoothly,” said Parrott.
University of Haifa rector Prof. David Faraggi, who is spearheading its international activity, said a full degree program in public health in partnership with the University of Georgia is planned for 2013. It will facilitate student exchanges, online courses and full video-conference courses.
“It’s a natural step for us to take advantage of this new technology to build collaborations such as this one. We want our students studying in Haifa to know they will have the opportunity to meet and learn with students from abroad. Our university is taking its place on the international map – in its research and in educational innovation,” concluded Faraggi.