October 30, 2013

Shared Courses

The immersive experience in the Telepresence rooms throughout the 4-VA system provided one of first collaborative efforts between campuses at the inception of the program.  Using this technology, Mason students are able to take classes offered at other schools while Mason faculty teach classes which are delivered to students enrolled at sister 4-VA universities. 


HEBR 101/102:  Shared Language, Shared Understanding

Not surprisingly, at a university with an international reputation, many George Mason students are interested in pursuing studies with an international focus. And while courses in geopolitical interrelations, cultural and religious influences, and current governmental policies can bring students a deeper appreciation of a particular state of affairs, perhaps the most critical element that can bridge any divide is language. A shared language brings conversation and conversation brings understanding.

Sophomore Kenna credits the course with giving her a leg up on receiving a prized internship in Israel.  An international studies major with a concentration in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Kenna is confident that listing Hebrew language skills on her application was key. “I took Arabic my freshman year because Hebrew wasn’t offered; I emailed everyone I could find at Mason to somehow get into a Hebrew course – I then heard Hebrew was being offered as a Distance Learning Course. That was wonderful!”

For Natalie, a religious studies major who has already taken Latin at Mason, studying Hebrew was a critical to her higher education goals.  When she saw Hebrew listed in the catalog as a “Shared University” Course, she jumped at the opportunity. “Learning Hebrew was really important to my education,” says Natalie. “I did a study abroad program in Jerusalem last year without much understanding of the language — I wish I had this course last year!” Nevertheless, Natalie is appreciative of the chance to add Hebrew to her language skills.

The Hebrew class is taught in a state-of-the-art Telepresence room in Mason’s Merton Hall. Virginia Tech Instructor Ester Hallerman and her classroom students in Blacksburg appear on the three screens situated at the front of the tiers of desks encircling the room. Written materials for the day’s lesson – textbooks, workbooks, homework sheets – appear on a screen to the far right. Both rooms are wired for sound, so communications — questions or comments from students in both locations — are effortless.

At the outset of class, Instructor Hallerman chats easily with the students back and forth at the two campuses, checking in on one student who was ill with the flu the previous week. That conversation resulted in Hallerman’s introduction of Hebrew vocabulary words for sickness and health.

Although the class is comfortable taking notes off a whiteboard that Hallerman uses at her home base in Blacksburg, the students were clearly delighted with a surprise visit from Hallerman to the Mason classroom during Tech’s spring break.  “I took the bus up here this week to take advantage of the two different spring break schedules – giving me the chance to meet the Mason students in person,” explains Hallerman.  “But I wanted it to be a surprise – that was key!”

As the Mason students were heading to their desks that day, each looked up — shocked to see their professor standing in front of the room, instead of on the screen.  Their responses were almost identical; “It’s like having a celebrity here!” was the group reaction.

Class member Arielle is grateful for the chance to take the class in whatever format, in person or distance learning. Getting the opportunity to take Hebrew at Mason was critically important for Arielle, who has her future goal set on becoming involved in the Middle East peace process.  “I started to look at transferring to another college because I had to have Hebrew on my resume,” she says. (She has four years of Arabic language from high school.) “I wanted to take this class so badly.  I needed to learn the Hebrew alphabet…and although I have a broad understanding of the Jewish religion already, I appreciate that Ms. Hallerman also brings that cultural depth to the class.  I am so happy to have this class…I love this class!”

Other Mason Shared Courses

Spring 2018

PERS 210-V01 – Intermediate Persian

PERS 330 – V03 – Advanced Persian I

KORE 201-V01 – Intermediate Korean

GAME 399-V02 – Augmented & Virtual Reality


Fall 2018:

PERS 110 – V02 – Elementary Persian – FULL
6 credits
(Shared with James Madison University)
Instructor: Maziar Valamotamed

PERS 202 – V01 – Intermediate Persian II – seats open
3 credits
(Shared with James Madison University)
Instructor: Maziar Valamotamed

FREN 391 – V01 – French for the Business World ***new course offering
3 credits
(offered by Old Dominion University)
instructor: Peter Schulman

HIST 535 – V01/635- V01 – France’s Decolonized Legacy
3 credits
(offered by Old Dominion University)
Instructor: Peter Schulman

KORE 101 – Elementary Korean
for James Madison and Virginia Tech students only
instructor: tba