Harvard's Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, where I worked for most of my time as a Ph.D. student, caters to several audiences: graduate students just learning to teach, junior faculty finding their way in the classroom, and senior faculty who are interested in exploring new pedagogical frontiers or renewing and reinvigorating their teaching. But most of these interventions are focused on undergraduate education; projects related to the actual teaching of graduate students are few and far between.

One notable exception was a project that I worked on in the Spring of 2016. Music professor Emily Dolan came to the Bok Center with a unique challenge: she and McGill professor Jonathan Sterne were teaching a collaborative graduate seminar, which would connect not only students from multiple disciplines, but from multiple universities. While many colleges have undertaken remote lectures or self-paced, internet-based courses, this situation was relatively unique: a discussion-oriented graduate seminar that depended on real-time communication, and which combined both in-person and online conversations. Emily worked with my colleagues and I throughout the semester to test various experiments with what we came to refer to as the "Digital Bridge."

She and Jonathan Sterne recently wrote an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education detailing their experiences. Here's a quick passage about the problems, and the lessons learned:

It is certainly poignant that — with all the advanced technology and resources at our disposal, and all the money our universities have been spending on it — the biggest challenge in the end was facilitating a comprehendable conversation among our students. If our universities could achieve the stability and speech quality of late 20th-century landline telephony with whatever digital platform their tech offices adopt next, we will be delighted.

In the meantime, sound remains one of the greatest barriers to good, networked pedagogy.

To further contextualize the article, I'm posting two of the short videos that I made this past year about the project, featuring reflections from Emily and her graduate students. These segments amplify and deepen some of the lessons that she and Jonathan detail in their column.

LINK: "Two Campuses, Two Countries, One Seminar"



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