On November 11, four university representatives from the West Bank with expertise in technology visited Brandeis to speak with distance learning faculty. The guests were: Dr. Ahmad Awad Amin, Faculty of Education and Head of Methods of Teaching Department from An-Najah National University; Ms. Suba Jarrar, Head of eLearning Department from Al-Quds Open University, Mr. Ghassan Al-Deek, Administrative Director of the Said Khoury IT Center of Excellence at Al-Quds University, and Mr. Isam Ishaq, Technical Director of Said Khoury IT Center of Excellence at Al-Quds University. These guests came to campus as part of the Brandeis-Al Quds University Partnership initiative as well as through coordination with WorldBoston, a local organization which works in conjunction with the U.S. State Department to host delegations of international visitors for cultural and professional exchanges in the Boston area. They were accompanied by a translator and a member of the U.S. State Department, though they were all fluent in English.
The agenda for this visit was to discuss e-learning ventures and best uses of classroom technology. The first portion of the morning consisted of a meeting led by Sybil Smith, Executive Director of the Division of Graduate Professional Studies in the Rabb School for Continuing Studies; Anne Marando, the Director of Distance Learning for the Division of Graduate Professional Studies in the Rabb School for Continuing Studies; David Wedaman, the Assistant Director for Research and Instruction Services; Matt Foster, the Director of Corporate Education in the Division of Graduate Professional Studies in the Rabb School for Continuing Studies; and Daniel Terris, the Vice President of Global Affairs and the Director of the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life. Our guests and other university representatives exchanged ideas and experiences about distance learning through LATTE, the need for support of design-blended learning, and the need to shift away from traditional teaching methods. Brandeis’ classrooms were described as “technology enhanced” and ready to serve a diverse body of students. The uses of LATTE and Moodle were explored in-depth, including communication tools and how courses are structured. The group also spoke about Elluminate, the video and audio-enabled software that students and professors use to see and hear one another in real-time. The guests use the same software in their universities, but commented that the infrastructure is much weaker as they still have to use dial-up modems.
After a brief visit to the server room in Feldberg, the guests joined other Brandeis faculty, staff, and students for lunch and to continue the dialogue. They discussed the on-going Brandeis – Al-Quds University Partnership, differences between their three universities, the Palestinian educational system, as well as U.S.-Palestinian relations. Overall, the event was an exciting opportunity to learn how, halfway across the world, a very different culture is using much of the same technology that we are, and are experiencing many of the same challenges that we have here.