Intercultural Communication Center (ICC)Waseda University

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Event Report: The Future of Learning – Adapting Discussion Events to the Online Format

V.L.
ICC Student Staff Leader

Introduction

Hello everyone, this is V.L. from the ICC! I hope you all are having a nice week. Today I am writing about my experience planning our 17th collaboration event with Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU), on July 3, and sharing how we coped with the online environment. I hope you will enjoy this report, and that it can be useful for you in the future!

Motivation behind the Event

As ICC organizes TMDU events twice a year (see our events last year here), we made sure to bring a variety of topics! Despite different backgrounds, we wanted to start with a topic that we share in common with TMDU: the fact that we are all students.

As we all have experienced COVID-19 and seen how it impacted our life as students, we decided to set the theme so participants can discuss their experience as students, and further lead to discussions about “the Future of Learning.” As the experience of online and in-person learning was a common language that participants had, we believed it would be a chance for students to share and hear from others about this transition.

New Challenge for this Event

As the event was held online this year, we took time to read the participant surveys from our past two online events. (Thank you to all who answered our event questionnaires. It helps us a lot to improve our events!)

What we noticed was that participants wished to be able to communicate with more students, not just the few in the Zoom room they start out with. While the breakout room functions help us to promote interaction in smaller groups for better control of time and discussion topics, we have noticed that participants wanted to meet more students, especially when there are more than 40 as in this session 

We wanted to solve this issue, and understood that the desire to meet and communicate with more people was especially strong when classes were mainly held online with limited opportunities to meet in person. We also worked on helping our participants keep in touch after the event. 

In order to do so, we created a new system for participants to meet as many students as possible, while making sure we do not all get tired of repeating self-introductions. Instead of staying with one discussion group of 4-5 students for the entire event, we have implemented a system where groups discuss the questions within their group and then share ideas with another group. This way, we could assure a greater flow of communication, without reintroducing to new members. 

Instagram post of the event

After implementing changes from previous input, we did see through the questionnaire results that it was well received by students, as some even stayed after the event (in the Zoom session) to communicate with students they met. 

Looking Back

It has almost been a year since I started to work at the ICC as an SSL (Student Staff Leader). As I started my year as a graduate student online, I could deeply relate with students desire to meet people in person, as it is one of the important aspects of university life. By working at the ICC, I was able to see students joining online events and afterwards coming to our lounge to meet in-person. We all are doing our best in this time to reflect the values that ICC has: to create opportunities for students to meet many people and learn about new cultures.

Planning this event also helped me to see the preparation work and the resilience needed to move from in-person to online events. It was also a chance for me to understand “引継ぎ” (hikitsugi = handing over a job to another person) culture in Japan. I worked with another SSL, S.H., this year, and we were able to successfully organize this event, thanks to the comments of participants and SSLs from last years’ online event. Referring to past events helped us to improve this recurring event, and to make sure it adapted well to the online environment, all to better fit the world of tomorrow.

 

Event Participants (Photo by ICC)

 

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