The University of Northern British Columbia has recently completed delivering what is believed to be the first university course ever delivered to Japan via videoconferencing technology. The course, an Introduction to Gender Studies, was delivered in partnership with Gakushuin Women’s College, which has had a long relationship with UNBC.
Above: Students in the UNBC classroom are joined by more than two-dozen joining from Tokyo.
The twelve students at the Prince George campus were joined by a further 28 participating in Tokyo, all of whom had previously attended UNBC for coursework in the English language. “We all had a sense we were part of something historic,” says UNBC professor Jacqueline Holler, who delivered the course and just recently returned from Tokyo where she met the Japanese students for the first time “in real life” and delivered the course’s final exam. “The technology provided a spectacular platform and there was less than a half-second delay between the two sites. Outside of the scheduled lectures, students also connected with each other via skype to discuss readings and course content.” The course provided an interdisciplinary study of the role of gender in the structures of society and personal identity.
“In delivering this course, I gained a renewed appreciation for the importance of cross-cultural communication to gain understanding and possibly challenge perspectives we may take for granted,” says Dr. Holler. “As a pilot project, I think this course has provided further evidence of the need for a university like UNBC to be rooted locally while reaching out to the world.”
The course also provided evidence for how new technologies, such as high-definition videoconferencing, can expand opportunities for UNBC to reach students around the world, as well as in its own region. “This course was history-making for both countries and I'm grateful to professor Holler, our IT department, and our English Language Studies program: all of them stepped up and made this pilot possible,” says UNBC President George Iwama, who UNBC signed an MoU with Gakushuin in Japan earlier this year. “Combined with our experience in delivering courses via video conference to our regional campuses and through the Northern Medical Program, this international experience demonstrates possibilities for serving remote communities in British Columbia and beyond.”