Cultural Series lecture takes a virtual approach to reaching students, global audience
When York College of Pennsylvania closed its campus in early March in response to the spread of the coronavirus in southcentral Pennsylvania, Professor John Weaver never skipped a beat in keeping his students on track with their studies. The Intelligence Analysis professor kept right on point with his syllabus and teaching style, but moved his interactions to a digital focus to serve his students.
“I set up and lecture in my living room just the same way I do in the classroom,” John says. “I take attendance at the start of class, I call on students and they have to respond, and I share slides and whiteboard notes just as I would use those tools in the classroom.”
John has even divided his students into breakout sessions like he’d often do in the classroom, with the ability to jump into groups and give feedback. “I still prefer teaching in a classroom,” he says, “but I’ve seen our students adapt really well to keeping with the routine and style of learning they were used to when we could meet in person.”
Adapting to technology has played a role beyond his lectures. John has found an innovative way to bring a colleague to campus to not only speak to his students, but to lecture as a part of York College’s Cultural Series.
John first met Professor Tom Røseth of the Norwegian Defence University College through a mutual colleague that he had at a conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Whether he’s a guest on a panel or attending icebreaker sessions at one of these conferences, John makes it a point to network and make good connections with others at the event. His interaction with Tom led John to participate in a Fulbright Specialist Program in Norway, and the two even collaborated on a book together.
John’s initial goal was to have Tom spend a week at York College, lecturing with his students and speaking at the Cultural Series on March 31. When campus initially closed in response to COVID-19, the series was pushed to April 30. However, when it was later decided that campus would not be reopening for the semester, John was able to take a more innovative approach to bring Tom to campus virtually via modern technology.
Making an impact
The Cultural Series event, scheduled via Zoom the evening of April 30, focused on the relationship between Russia and China and how these two nations have become closer and stronger over the past two decades. The unique combination of Russia’s expertise in military operations and equipment, compounding the economic clout of China, makes the pair a formidable challenge to the United States and, more broadly, western nations, John says.
Tom’s unique perspective, aside from Norway sharing a border with Russia, is that in addition to his being a Professor of Intelligence Studies, he works for the Ministry of Defence in Norway, combing his theoretical and practical skills.
Not only will Tom’s expertise still be available to students through the video lecture, but John sees this as an opportunity for the College to livestream future Cultural Series events to a broader audience. “I think if we are successful at pulling this off, we should consider this model for future events,” John says. “We can really make an impact and showcase the value of what we are doing at York College by embracing technology, automation, and video teleconferencing.”