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Distance Learning Around the Globe
Written by Angela Kim | Published. 2020.07.20 16:45 | Count : 2483

Ever after the Covid-19 crisis has precipitated the global lockdown of education institutions, online learning seems to be growing exponentially. In response to substantial demand, assorted online learning platforms are offering free access to their services, marking a cornerstone of modern higher education. Before the obligatory transition, online courses subsisted in many meek forms, from Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) to single modules or full online bachelor’s and master's degrees offered. Yet as the transition to online education is accelerating today, even the offline interaction education program, Model United Nations, is beginning to reemerge as a virtual conference. Through discussing worldwide concerns, high school students are bringing rapid development to the current education and the world. 

Hosted between July 6th to July 8th, Intercontinental Model United Nations (ICMUN) 2020 had its first online conference with the aim of promoting global and peaceful solutions to the most challenging issues we face today. Within the "free, virtual, and nutritious” Model United Nations, as Rolando Kattan, the co-Secretary General explains, high school students worldwide interacted with each other inside their assigned committees via virtual platforms such as the Zoom meeting. There were a total of six committees--Security Council, World Health Organization, European Union, Social, Cultural, and Humanitarian Committee, Crisis Committee, and Historical Crisis Committee: League of Nations--with two chairs per committee. Specifically looking at the European Union committee, one could find the two agendas: “Rebuilding the European economy after the pandemic,” and “Reforming the European Union to seek fair participation.” Reading along with the chair reports of both these agendas, one will then gradually gain an intellectual grasp on how to strengthen market discipline, reduce moral hazard and safeguard financial stability whilst preserving the essential role and attractiveness of European sovereign bond markets, particularly considering the aftermath of Covid-19 and Brexit. Most importantly, through online conferencing, one will learn about the political and economic conflicts occurring within the European Union as much as he or she would have offline.

[Top Page of ICMUN’s Standing Committees and Topics. Screenshot by the writer]

As it could be seen in the rejection of the Constitutional Treaty, in the 2005 referendums in France and the Netherlands, in the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, and the 2008 Irish referendum, Euroscepticism has always been prevalent within the European Union. So too, may the Brexit be attributed to “the culmination of three decades of Euroscepticism cloaking a nation in its suffocating embrace,” as Tim Shipman put it (982-983). Brexit constitutes the first time a state has voted to exit a major supranational institution and has since left the United Kingdom’s role in a globalized world in a state of uncertainty. Now more than ever, reforming the European Union to maintain a fairer system based on solidarity is in need. On the other hand, Covid-19 has undermined European societies, and their health systems brought economic destruction. However, as Covid-19 has proven to be an opportunity as well as a challenge in the current higher education, it also presents that an effective EU response built on solidarity may fortify pro-EU opposition forces in the East and strengthens established parties in the West against their populist opposition. 

Yet sometimes, those opportunities did have stumbling blocks when it came to online conferencing. As Rolando reaffirms, although it was free and affordable if only one had access to the internet connection, “the difference in time zones and the fact that an individual’s schedule and commitment were capricious” made it difficult for this year’s ICMUN to hold European Union committee’s conference.

[The writer head-chairing the European Union Committee. Screenshot by the writer]

Indeed, learning through online communications oftentimes causes major disruptions in internal assessments, which could sometimes result in the cancellation of public assessments or their replacement by an inferior alternative. From a different perspective, many see the experience of working and teaching from distance as an important opportunity to learn from this exceptional situation and to propose more flexible learning possibilities. They attempt, for instance, to explore blended or hybrid learning, and mix synchronous learning with asynchronous learning. This unplanned and unprepared experiment in distance teaching and learning has even led to the capacity building of the staff and faculty in educational institutions such as ICMUN 2020. While there are many questions yet to be solved regarding online education, this experience may have opened a new horizon of opportunities for teaching and learning.



Angela Kim
Freshman (Grade 9)
Yantai American School

Angela Kim  student_reporter@dherald.com

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