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Qatar University joins iPodia alliance

iPodia is a model for a 'global classroom'

Qatar University officials
USC President C. L. Max Nikias, Qatar University President Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad, Qatar University Vice President Mazen Hasna and USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos (USC Photo/Gus Ruelas)

Qatar University has joined USC as the 10th partner in the cross-cultural learning platform known as iPodia and the first university in the alliance to represent the Arab world.

“IPodia is a smart idea that enables cooperation across campuses and allows students to cooperate while maintaining their uniqueness,” said Mazen Hasna, vice president and chief academic officer of Qatar University. “At Qatar University, we are developing our technology-enhanced learning strategy, and part of that strategy is to build partnerships in support of using the technology in enhancing student success.”

Launched in 2009, iPodia is a model for a “global classroom,” a platform for classroom across physical, institutional and cultural boundaries. Students at universities worldwide attend the same class simultaneously through audio and video connections, study and comment on the same material online before the class begins, engage in peer-to-peer interaction in iPodia classrooms, work on collaborative projects in cross-campus teams and sometimes travel to classmates’ home campuses to complete class projects.

“The hallmark of iPodia pedagogy is inverted, interactive and international learning in physical classrooms on local campuses,” said Professor Stephen Lu, director of the program.

Lu’s current iPodia class, “Principles and Practices of Global Innovation,” brings together 116 students from USC, Peking University in Beijing, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea, Israel Institute of Technology in Israel and Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani in India.

“Compilers Design” and “Sustainability in the Built Environment,” two other iPodia courses being offered this semester, are collaborations between USC and the Escola Politécnica da Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil. Past iPodia courses have united Chinese and Taiwanese students who might otherwise never have taken such a joint course together.

“Students from countries that normally wouldn’t talk with each other are now studying and working together in iPodia classrooms,” Lu said.

In his class, students study assigned material a week before a class session, they help each other to answer questions as part of discussion boards and identify the toughest sections using online feedback, which allows the faculty member to adjust the emphasis during the class. Then, during class, students ask and answer questions from their classrooms. But Lu also divides students into six-person groups (including students from each university) for more focused discussion. Ten percent of students’ grades are based on how much they teach their peers.

“iPodia is developing new pedagogy to reinvent classrooms on campuses,” Lu said. “And while many universities are globalizing by building classrooms across borders, iPodia is demonstrating a new globalization strategy to create classrooms without borders.”

Qatar University hopes to participate in its first iPodia courses this fall.

“We anticipate contributing to some computing courses on security or energy, especially when it comes to natural gas processing, as well as courses in the humanities,” Hasna said. “Our unique program on gulf studies and mass communication will be of interest to many students in the alliance universities.”

Hasna recognizes iPodia’s interdisciplinary potential.

“First, we brought USC to the world, then we brought the world to us,” Lu said. Now we want to bring the world together. With iPodia we can say to the world, ‘We have a global classroom. Let’s learn together.’ ”

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Qatar University joins iPodia alliance

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