The “Penn-in-Grahamstown” course is a new class which is a hybrid of online learning and on-site immersion, according to the director of Academic Summer Sessions Eli Lesser.
The new course is designed to intersect with Grahamstown’s National Arts Festival in South Africa, which celebrates music the students will learn about. Students will first participate in an online class before attending the festival.
Carol Muller, who will be teaching the course, is a veteran on the online forum, having taught multiple summer music classes online through the College of Liberal and Professional Studies.
Muller, a Music professor, believes Penn classes are moving away from the live classroom — and she embraces that. “The online format is fantastic, especially for arts and humanities,” she said.
Online classes allow students to access documents such as music clips and encourage more extensive dialogue through blogs and discussion boards, she said. “A minute can be used in two ways rather than one” in an online course, she added.
The first two weeks of online teaching will allow students to “connect and get a lot of background information” which will give them the foundation they need to properly appreciate and understand the Grahamstown Festival. The two weeks will allow students to return home for the first part of the summer while still learning the material they need, “so when they’re on the ground they can really focus” in South Africa, Lesser said.
“The way the LPS classes are structured, you have the ability to access tons of internet sources and interactive materials,” College sophomore Jessie Hornung wrote in an email. Hornung was able to take Muller’s “World Music and Cultures” class during a past summer. Hornung was so impressed by how Muller “was able to make the subject matter exciting even through the web” that she has since taken one of Muller’s courses live at Penn.
According to Hornung, live classes offer lectures and hard copies of notes, but an online class allows students “to explore more media sources and generates more conversation between … classmates and professor,” wrote Hornung, who added that the hybrid course sounds ideal.
LPS summer classes are equal in expectations, academic rigor, difficulty and instructor quality to Penn’s live classes, said Lesser. However, Muller admitted that aspects of online courses are superior to live classes.
Though “Penn-in-Grahamstown” is a new class, there has already been a “huge positive enrollment” and “spots are filling up,” Lesser said.