2 online classes aim to stimulate discussion throughout campuses


2 prominent teachers are inviting all Harvard degree trainees to take part 2 University-wide courses this fall designed to trigger conversation and mutual knowing across the campuses. Michael Sandel, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government, will use “Justice: Ethics in an Age of Pandemic and Racial Reckoning,” and Daniel Schrag, Sturgis Hooper Teacher of Geology and Teacher of Environmental Science and Engineering, will teach “Challenging Climate Change: A Foundation in Science, Innovation, and Policy.” Every Harvard undergraduate, graduate, and expert school student can enroll in these online courses. The Gazette talked to Sandel and Schrag to find out about their “One Harvard, One Online Class” offerings and how they hope to make the most of a virtual setting to combine people who otherwise may not have the possibility to find out from each other.

Q&A Michael

Sandel and Daniel Schrag

GAZETTE:How did you both begin to create courses for this spring that are offered to trainees across the Schools? And how did the University’s shift to virtual learning affect your preparation?

SCHRAG:For me, Michael’s course with Doug Melton on “Tech Ethics,” which debuted last fall, supplied the evidence that this sort of University-wide course could be effective. This spring, I went for a long walk with Vice Provost for Advances in Knowing Bharat Anand, and using Michael and Doug’s course as an example, he stated we actually need to have a similar University-wide course model on environment change. And the concept just appeared so certainly an excellent one. For more than a years now, I’ve likewise been discussing how climate change is something that touches every School at Harvard, and needs input from every corner of the University.

Last fall, Michael effectively pulled off his course personally at Klarman Hall at the Service School, and he and Doug did so without a platform such as Zoom, which is remarkable. Being thrust into remote knowing this previous March taught everybody that there are some chances and benefits of Zoom over traditional teaching: frankly, getting people from the Medical School, and the School of Public Health, and the Business School, and the Divinity School, and the College, and the Style School, and the School of Education all together at the very same time, every week.

SANDEL: Environment modification is a course that is preferably suited to being a University course; it will be interesting to bring students from throughout the University into a common discussion from their numerous disciplinary viewpoints about environment modification. I’m thrilled to be in partnership with Dan in this “One Harvard, One Online Class” experiment this coming semester.

When Bharat, Doug, and I discussed our course on tech principles prior to last fall, we quickly recognized that it would lend itself to a University-wide conversation, because it makes use of components of ethics in the humanities, but likewise in the sciences, medication, law, public law, public health, education, and even spiritual matters.

We decided to hold the course in Klarman Hall at HBS, which is a new, spectacular, high-tech variation of Sanders Theater. We didn’t understand whether students from the College would cross the river to participate in. They did. We had about 720 students in total; 600 from Harvard College, and another 120 from the different professional Schools. We did realize, though, that it was harder for trainees from the Schools on the Longwood school to participate in. I hope the new virtual design will make it simpler for them to join us.

GAZETTE:What are your expectations for your courses this semester?

SCHRAG:We’ll have to see how this semester goes and how reliable the Zoom platform is for running these courses. I consider my other half, who’s a doctor, and since March has actually been seeing many clients by video. It will be interesting to see if telemedicine ends up being a type of requirement for our health care since, boy, it’s a lot much easier than going in and waiting in line and parking and all the rest of it to go see your physician for 20 minutes. I wonder if the very same holds true for us. I don’t think we’ll go to teaching by Zoom completely; I believe that would be a tragedy since there’s a lot benefit to seeing individuals in individual, but I do wonder if selective usage of this innovation moving forward will permit us to teach these type of courses more completely, and if it will have a lasting, positive result on our work.

SANDEL: I believe these are great concerns. Dan, you highlight the hopeful side of what has actually become for us a requirement, this experiment in remote teaching. It will be fascinating to see what we gain from it and what educational advantages might include it.

This term I’m teaching “Justice: Principles in an Age of Pandemic and Racial Reckoning.” I’m quite optimistic that the Zoom platform will allow robust, engaged conversation. The concerns we explore in “Justice” are our concerns about worths, consisting of disputes about values. Among the goals of the course is to welcome trainees to reflect seriously on their own ethical and political convictions– to reason and argue efficiently, to convince, and be persuaded by, those with whom they disagree. These are the type of conversations we have actually typically had with students present to one another, in Sanders Theater or Klarman Hall. The obstacle will be to see whether this energetic dialogue, which is a central dimension of the course, can prosper online. I believe it can. There may even be some unforeseen benefits.

SCHRAG:Michael, I’ve seen a few of your “Justice” course when it was conducted in individual in Sanders Theater, and I should state, I’m definitely in wonder of the way you engage trainees in the most respectful method, through these arguments. I know you must have strong sensations one method or another often yourself, but you treat students respectfully and engage them, challenge them in a really open, motivating way. My prepare for this term is to break my class up into smaller discussion groups, offering a lot more people an opportunity to speak due to the fact that they will remain in groups of 6 to eight students. The drawback of that is I will not be there as a moderator. And I wonder about how you’re considering that.

SANDEL: I’m still puzzling my method through this. Thank you for the generous concern; I think about that we are participated in this experiment together, notwithstanding the various subject matters of our courses.

I’m trying to strike that balance by combining discussion with the entire class with little breakout seminar, returning and forth in between the large setting and the small. Some students are comfortable adding to a large group discussion, while others discover it easier to speak up in smaller sized settings. Reconvening the complete class after a breakout session may allow some students who contributed to the small group discussion to feel empowered to speak before the bigger group of their classmates. That’s one format we’ll use. On other days, we’re going to use prepared video excerpts of lectures about some of the theorists, such as Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, for example, and then have little seminar led by teaching fellows.

How comparable or how different is that from the sort of breakout sessions that you are planning?

SCHRAG:There’s a huge quantity of similarity, I think, in general approach. I’ve prepared the core science and technology content for trainees to gain access to through about 60 eight- to 10-minute videos, which I compare to mini science documentaries more than lectures. They explore the basic physics of environment change. How does water level rise work? What were climates like in the Pleistocene epoch, or the Eocene epoch, 40 million years back? And how does that associate with global warming today? How are storms being impacted by environment change? There’s a lot of info transfer, a bit like your discussion of the theorists, through these videos.

Trainees will enjoy 3 or four of these videos every week, but these videos will not be the main focus for the small group conversations. My plan is to invest maybe the first 10 minutes evaluating the significant take-home messages from those videos, you know, the absolute important points that I want everybody to comprehend. Then I desire to shift the class and bring in a voice from the exterior. So, for instance, the other day, I tape-recorded our coworker Naomi Oreskes from History of Science discussing climate skeptics. She’s composed three books on the subject.

The first class, we’re going to listen to Naomi and talk about environment doubters in a conversation with me, on Zoom, for 10 minutes. We will then go into breakout groups to digest some of the concerns that are raised, and after that come back to the primary group, in a way that is really much comparable to what you’re doing. And after that utilize the sections taught by teaching fellows to enable the students to get into the nitty-gritty detail of what remained in those video documentaries.

GAZETTE:There’s been a great deal of discussion in the field of greater education about how to balance the need for asynchronous content, especially for trainees who may be living in a time zone far from their college or university, with simultaneous material that brings people together in discussion. It sounds as if you have actually thought of how to supply a balance of both.

SANDEL: I’ve been wrestling with the question of whether to publish a complete video library right from the start of the semester, and say, if you wish to binge watch, racing ahead, you can. The disadvantage of the binge-watching technique is that it makes it harder for trainees to absorb and discuss this product with me, with their mentor fellows, and with their schoolmates.

SCHRAG:I have another question for Michael. Among the crucial parts of my class is a task, which this year, due to the fact that of the virtual format, will be carried out in small groups. This project is a very useful one: It’s developing a zero-carbon economy, and it forces students to think of this problem in such a way that goes way beyond just a lecture, and into experiential learning. I wonder how that’s going to exercise in this virtual semester, but I’m hoping it’s going to work. Exists anything comparable in your class?

SANDEL: I have actually also been attempting to consider this; how to encourage students to interact, while still providing trainees the option of doing and sending their own work for examination. We’re providing 2 options. One track is the traditional paper choice: three short documents on a series of subjects about ethical questions. This is designed to equip students to compose a clear, analytic, convincing argument about an ethical question, drawing where relevant on the thinkers, but making an argument in their own voice. The other track is one standard paper, and a task that culminates in a podcast, or a video, that develops a convincing argument about an ethical question.

The team of previous mentor fellows who helped me develop this course over the summertime made the point that if we’re teaching students to factor in public about difficult ethical concerns, we need to provide the choice of creating something that might actually be posted online as a contribution to public argument. They motivated me to include the podcast choice. Like a traditional paper, it would evaluate the ethical dimensions of a contemporary concern. However it would remain in a format that might be made offered online, if the trainee desired to. We are likewise offering students the option to operate in pairs, specifically if they wish to do the podcast as a kind of dialogue or argument, with arguments and counter arguments.

GAZETTE:The courses both sound remarkable. Best of luck in this brand-new virtual knowing design. Exists anything else you wish to add?

SCHRAG:I regret to state that in the 23 years that I’ve been at Harvard, I have never sat through a College course in its totality. And, truthfully, seeing parts of Michael’s course that are offered online, I want that I had the discipline to make the time to take it in, in its totality, because it makes you appreciate the amazing wealth of understanding that exists around this University. I’m enthusiastic that our “One Harvard, One Online Class” offerings will unite a few of the fantastic, diverse minds that make Harvard what it is, and might never ever fulfill in our regular mode of mentor.

SANDEL: I feel the same method, and would like to sign up for “Climate Modification.” It’s going to be a fantastic course.

Trainees who would like more info on either course can discover it here, on Canvas: