For the first time, Yale students in New Haven and Yale-NUS students in Singapore can enter the same “classroom” and collaborate virtually on group projects.
This spring, Yale and Yale-NUS collectively launched the first-ever joint course for students from the two institutions. Named “China’s Energy and Environmental Sustainability Challenge,” the class is taught live in Singapore by Yale-NUS environmental studies professor Angel Hsu. Hsu and her students are joined by Yale students in New Haven who access the virtual classroom through Adobe Connect software, a web-conferencing tool. This semester, the class enrolls seven Yale-NUS students and six Yalies from the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. The class is open to all Yale students, but only attracted FES students due to its limited advertising, Hsu said.
Students enrolled in the class praised it for providing the chance to hear diverse opinions, but acknowledged that the class does not always run smoothly because of technical difficulties.
“I guess the [Yale-NUS] students are having a better experience than the FES students, as it is taught in-person in Singapore with the professor there, and here we are all joining through Adobe Connect from our respective locations,” Ralien Bekkers FES ’17 said.
The class meets at 7 a.m. Eastern time twice a week, which Bekkers said makes it hard for FES students to meet, get to campus on time and attend the course in a proper setting. All FES students join the online classroom separately from their homes, Bekkers added. The schools need to “step up their game” in terms of technology to make classes a more satisfactory experience, she said.
Farrukh Zaman FES ’17 said Yalies have to start early in the morning for the class while students in Singapore have to stay late. The class begins at 8 p.m. for Yale-NUS students.
Technical problems with Adobe Connect and microphones can disrupt smooth classroom discussions, Bekkers said, though she added that the situation has improved over time.
Jolanda Nava YNUS ’17 also cited technical trouble such as Internet connectivity. She said she hopes the pioneering experiment of a shared classroom will make logistics easier for similar collaborations between the two institutions in the future.
Still, Zaman said the virtual classroom experience is not much different from that of a conventional classroom model, except that it allows for more flexibility in terms of revisiting the lectures because the sessions are recorded.
The course offers chances for students from both sides to interact with one another. For example, all students have to work in a team with one student from the other school and come up with a policy memo on the implementation of China’s soon-to-be-released 13th Five-Year Plan — the country’s highest policy document outlining its social and economic development for the next five years.
According to Hsu, students from both schools will meet in person next month and present their policy memos to Chinese students, experts and policymakers during a joint field trip to China.
“Taking classes together is one of the most powerful ways to bond two institutions: It gives us the opportunity to interact and explore new ideas,” Nava said. She added that one benefit of the class is the chance for Yale-NUS students majoring in environmental studies to interact with graduate students in the same field at Yale.
Milagros De Camps FES ’17 said one strength of the class is its diverse student body and international experience. It also broadens students’ networks to include those within the Yale-NUS community, contacts who may be useful in the future, De Camps added.
Students are also required to post reading responses and comment on their fellow students’ responses. This facilitates an exchange of ideas from both sides and creates learning opportunities, Hassaan Sipra FES ’16 said.
Sipra added that Yale-NUS students are desirable collaborators because they engage actively in the classroom and frame discussions well.
Besides the chance for collaboration, the class allows FES students listen to guest speakers in the course, many of whom are experts who might not travel all the way to New Haven to give a lecture, De Camps said.
All students interviewed said they look forward to more joint classes in the future.
Yale-NUS also has a joint-degree program with FES.