A new virtual exchange course at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is looking to build relationships between students separated by thousands of miles, all through the lens of a webcam.
The class, named “Women in the Qur’an,” is the first course being offered through Nebraska’s Global Virtual Project, a new program that connects students from different nations in seven separate courses. For this course, UNL is partnering with the University of Nizwa in Oman. These courses focus on a number of topics, including modern languages, journalism and ethnic studies.
“Women in the Qur’an” takes a focused approach to feminism in Islam, according to Abla Hasan, one of the course’s instructors. She said the course asks students to analyze the Qur’an’s text to learn more about its positions on women’s rights, education and marriage.
“We are trying to step back a little bit from culture to examine things in the Qur’an,” said Hasan, an assistant professor of practice in modern languages and literatures.
This is Hasan’s third time teaching the course, however this is her first time teaching the class in a live setting. Hasan said this will bring about a new way to teach in an academic setting.
“We are entering a new era in higher education, we can know the other,” Hasan said. “In Oman, we are connecting with people in the Middle East.”
This connection, Hasan said, allows students to analyze and share theories with one another, while creating a personal connection with their classmates.
“In a state of providing theories to one another, you are getting to know one another,” Hasan said. “Instead of discussing things about the other, whoever that person is, you will have personal access to that person.”
Hasan made it clear that the class will not be structured as UNL versus Oman. Rather, she hopes to get students to work together in an academic setting. One way she hopes to do this is through a class presentation, where a student from UNL will be partnered with a student from the University of Nizwa.
In addition to allowing students to directly discuss theories with each other, Hasan said she believes this class will help to eliminate stereotypes the multinational students may associate with each other.
By using technology to facilitate these discussions, Hasan hopes to build a relationship between people who might not have had the chance to meet otherwise.
“Especially for students from Oman, it is a mutual opportunity for one person to know the other,” Hasan said. “All of these ways of stereotyping another, the way to break these stereotypes down is to make a personal connection with the other person. By the end of the year, we want them to be best friends.”