It has been sixth weeks since the term began, and we are getting along with online learning. However, the students may not have a knowledge that many teachers, who seemto becalmly lecturing in the cloud classrooms, actually have just overcome various difficulties. With many international teachers and staffs, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literaturesneeds to put more effort intocoordinating classes and solving specific problems acrossspace and time.During the outbreak of Covid-19, eightpost-doctoral fellows of the Tsinghua-Michigan Society of Fellows who teach at the Institute for World Literatures and Cultures (IWLC) were visiting family or taking vacations in different countries. The online teaching experience of Dr. Julianne Van Wagenen is representative of what the fellows have been through.
In the winter vacation, Julianne was travelling in the Philippines, scheduled to go back to Beijing on Feb11th. However, due to the outbreak of COVID-19, her flight was cancelled and she encountered a lot of difficulties such as inconvenient transportation, langauge barriers, no laptop, poor network and extra costs due to itinerary changes. In order to teach online according to Tsinghua’s working calendar, she tried her best to overcome all these difficulties.
Julianne made some changes to her itinerary, re-booking flights to Santiago. The new term of Tsinghua started in the time of herjourney. She bought a new laptop in Australia, learned various kinds of online teaching technologies, and downloaded reading materials that she had prepared for her students. Finally she managed to starther teaching in a hostel in Auckland on her way to Santiago.
Dr. Van Wagenenisteachingin a Auckland hotel
Dr.Van Wagenen is teaching a course “World Poetry: The Power and Limites of Sight and Expression, Re-Reading the The Divine Comedy with Jorge Luis Borges”to the IWLC sophomore students this semester. This course is an introduction to Dante Alighieri’s 14thCentury masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, through the lens of the 20th-Century Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges.
For the first class, Julianne thinks “It went well. I could share my screen and students could see my powerpoint clearly. I also used breakout rooms for my students to have small conversations in Zoom and I could go into their rooms and listen in.”
Now six weeks have goneby, and Julianne has settled down.Her IWLC students are satisfied with the course. SUN Yining, a sophomore from the IWLC class, said, “The courses taught by Dr. Van Wagenen have always been substantial in content and clear in logic. I can feel that she has made various preparations in advance to ensure the smooth progress of our class. In addition, our Office Hour runs normally through Zoom, allowing us to discuss the course, papers, presentations, etc. with our fellowafter class.”
Julianne holds that in the online classroom “there is still something missing”, “the classroom energy, that ability to see if someone hasn’t understood or has a question written on their face that they aren’t asking”. Nevertheless, considering the circumstances, she expresses that it has been very lucky for us to have the technologies and platforms of online teaching,allowing the teachers and students to meet as scheduled in such a critical time.
Julianne Van Wagenen completed her PhD in Italian Studies at Harvard University.She was the principal at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society’s research lab in Digital Humanities.Her research interestsinclude modern mythology, Italian and US counterculture, the cantautore and singer-songwriter, the Far West in cultural imaginations, science and fractalized reality in modern and postmodern US, English, Italian and Argentinian literature, the chess set in literature, representations of the infinite, data-curation, and the importance of medium in research, teaching and publishing in the Humanities. Dr. Julianne is currently the Michigan Society of Fellow at Tsinghua and the managing editor of the Pirandello Society of America’s PSA Journal.The courses she teaches are Postcolonial Writing: Between the Nation and Relation, and The Power and Limites of Sight: Reading the Divine Comedy with Borges, which respectively focus on colonial literature and Dante Alighieri’s masterpiece, The Divine Comedy. She helps students make a logical combing of their essays, improving their writing skills. Meanwhile, she is committed to stimulate students’ research interest through textual study and comparative reading.