Student reports on how higher education institutions in Japan and the U.S. are coping with the COVID-19 pandemicTue, Aug 18, 2020
Waseda University is one of the seven Japanese sponsoring universities of the U.S.-Japan Research Institute (USJI), which was established in 2009 to enable Japanese and American universities and businesses to form an intellectual community that influences the decision-making of the top leaders in Japan and the United States, as well as to encourage mutual understanding between the two countries.
On June 26, 2020, USJI organized a webinar featuring Waseda University President Aiji Tanaka and Frances Rosenbluth, who serves as Waseda’s Vice-President for International Affairs (U.S.) and is a professor at Yale University. In the webinar, the two discussed how higher education institutions in Japan and the U.S. have been coping with the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of providing educational services to their students while ensuring the physical and financial security of university communities.
A video of the webinar is available above.
Below, USJI student interns Mei Hashiba (third-year student at the School of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University) and Nanase Hayami (third-year student at Bowdoin College) write about the webinar and their thoughts on online education in midst of the of COVID-19 pandemic.
An open, more connected world where we see constant cooperation and collaboration
During his presentation of the “Response of Waseda University under the COVID-19 pandemic,” Waseda University President Tanaka mentioned that there were three missions that were placed as the University’s priority, which were: 1. Protect the lives and health of students, faculty, and staff; 2. Provide high-quality education; and 3. Continue research despite difficult circumstances. Waseda University first took action at the end of February in response to the pandemic, in which they canceled events, made changes in their academic calendar, moved all classes online, and gave financial support to students who are in financial difficulty. Tanaka concluded his presentation by sharing the words of Shigenobu Okuma, the founder of Waseda University, saying, “Be ambitious to contribute to the world without regard to the benefits solely to yourself, your family, or your country.” Tanaka also discussed how this idea of helping others is in accordance with one of the ideals of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals that “No one will be left behind,” which has been their core principle when making decisions in response to the pandemic.
Vice President Rosenbluth gave a presentation on COVID-19: challenges for education and society, where she discussed both the difficulties and opportunities for online teaching and education in general. She shared some of the challenges of a remote learning environment, especially for small classes like seminars, where students are encouraged to speak up and have discussions with one another. She also mentioned that even bigger classes, such as lecture-style classes face their own set of challenges since remote learning makes it difficult to incorporate the give-and-take component, which makes it challenging for students to learn effectively. Rosenbluth concluded her presentation by sharing some of the positive adaptations that might happen in society due to the pandemic. Studying and working remotely could improve family-work balance, especially for women who have children. It might also be the case that there could be an increased flexibility in gender roles.
At this point, many of us are aware that there are both negative and positive aspects of online education. As a Japanese student attending college in the States, I am one of the many students who need to deal with time zone differences and many other challenges. I personally think that there is nothing that can compare to a physical, in-person learning experience on campus. However, by using our devices and technologies in the right, responsible manner, I also believe that there are positive sides to online education.
Though we are all living through a very rough time in our lives, I sometimes wonder, what would it be like if we all started viewing this pandemic as an opportunity for collaboration and people coming together? Though it requires a lot of creative thinking, if we, as people living and going through these difficult times, could realize that now is the time to come together instead of pushing each other further apart, there could be hope for an open, more connected world where we see constant cooperation and collaboration within our own communities and perhaps at the international level.
Written by Nanase Hayami
USJI intern and a third-year student at Bowdoin College