The Covid-19 pandemic has created significant changes in people’s ways of living and thinking. These changes, however sudden and unexpected, also have a silver lining: it gives us the opportunity to adopt new habits. Henceforth, when we gradually return to the “new normal”, we can have more freedom of choices. That tendency clearly reflects on how we organize classes. Today, “classroom” is no longer just a space confined within four walls and accompanied with only physical learning devices. The concept of “classroom” has now become more flexible with diverse platforms while ensuring the quality of teaching and learning.
Considering the changes in students’ needs and learning behaviors, Fulbright University Vietnam has developed a hybrid model with a considerable investment in teaching facilities. The offline-online hybrid format promotes autonomy in learning and sustains equitable access to knowledge and students’ participation in classes.
Maintain inclusive education in the current context
Although the pandemic has been quite contained, people are still concerned with the infection risk . To a certain extent, the pandemic has unwittingly created some barriers for people to access education, dividing students into different groups of different wants and needs: students who are in quarantine, students whose parents are not comfortable to let them join in-person classes, those who are eligible and have the desire to study on campus, etc. So, as a student-centered institute, Fulbright needs a timely response. “The investment in infrastructure for this hybrid learning model is an immediate measure of the university’s board of directors, to be able to bring the most equitable access to education for all students,” Ms. Cao Ngọc Thiên Trâm (Academic Affairs Manager, Undergraduate Program) affirmed.
The hybrid model helps solve the real struggle of students during this uncertain time, as in the case of Ms. Nguyễn Thị Lan Anh, a student of the Master of Public Policy 2023 (MPP2023), Majoring in Leadership & Management. Being a wheelchair student, Lan Anh was concerned about how to manage her basic needs including accommodation and transportation during the time of study on campus while the number of Covid cases had been rising. “All my worries were relieved when Fulbright announced the hybrid learning format. I have been able to be at home and study online with my classmates. Quickly, our online learning students formed a group to support each other. This course is quite challenging for online learners like us, but with the support of our classmates and lecturers, we’ve gone through it together.”
Human-centered learning system
The hybrid learning model requires substantial investment in terms of finance and human resources to establish a system of wide-ranging user-friendly equipment. From the beginning of Spring semester until now, Fulbright has equipped four hybrid classrooms and expects to complete the remaining six rooms in the near future. To ensure the productivity of this model, it demands a high quality visual, sound, and interactive complex.
In addition to the 85-inch screen that projects the online participants, the class is also equipped with an “interactive whiteboard” as an alternative of the traditional board where teachers and students in both platforms can write and draw without any interruption and delay.
The dual camera system, one focusing on the lecturer and the other catching the activities of the entire class to bring a sense of the physical environment to online students. The first camera is set from the student’s perspective to make the lecturer’s delivery as lively as in-person experience, while the second camera has a 180-degree filming function which covers all happenings in the classroom. The footage will be “live edited” by Stream Desk Mini.
Sound is such an important element in a hybrid learning environment, especially in arts-related classes like Dance and Performance Production taught by Instructor Alexander Tú Nguyễn. The sound system includes: speakers and mixers that deliver quality audio output both in class and on the virtual platform; wireless microphones for the teacher and 2 to 5 microphones for students in class depending on the scale and particular requests of the students.
“For me, if there is any opportunity to reach more people with dance, I will do it. To have a hybrid system that welcomes virtual students to join the class, it’s amazing. And I think not many universities in Vietnam have established that kind of model,” Instructor Alexander Tú Nguyễn shared.
Although the limitation of online participation is undeniable in comparison with in-person learning, this new format has received several positive feedbacks from students. “I think the equipment and tools to assist lecturers in lesson delivery, discussion with students and content demonstration are all good. For the faculty, with an equal number of offline and online attendants as in Mr. Kinho’s Research Methods and Statistics class, it’s wonderful that he can ensure such effective interaction with both groups. I am very satisfied,” Hồ Hoàng Khôi Nguyên, Student of the Class of 2024 shared.
Embrace changes in the working progress
The current version of the hybrid structure is the result of untiring hours of efforts from Fulbright’s lecturers, technicians and administrators in making trials and adjustments to the pilot classes. Even so, the operation team is always prepared for the changes according to the particular requests from the lecturers and students when this model has been put into practice.
For simple requests, the operation team immediately offers a backup plan. “As in the case of the Master of Public Policy class, when there was a higher demand in class discussion, we increased the number of microphones to seven instead of three as in the original plan,” Mr. Nguyễn Quang Hà, Director of Information Technology explained. For the more complex requests being collected through feedback forms, the operation team will take them into careful consideration and make decisions based on financial and human resources.
The technical team works closely with IT assistants to ensure the hybrid system is well-prepared before the classes. “This is a new work-study role at Fulbright that I have the opportunity to take on. The IT advisor guided me carefully to set up and maintain a perfect hybrid environment. Since it’s a new format, some problems may occur, but those are quickly fixed with the prompt support from the technical team,” Lâm Vũ An, IT Assistant, Student of Class of 2025 excitedly shared about his new role.
Fulbright is one of a few Vietnamese institutes pioneering in establishing hybrid classrooms, so not only students but also the lecturers have to “learn” to adapt. This model requires lecturers to manage the participation of both offline and online learners, and to re-design their teaching materials to be suitable for dual platforms. “A teacher joked that this model demanded a new level of multitasking, I can understand how teachers are “’struggling”, but thanks to this system and the efforts of our beloved teachers, F0 students at Fulbright are still able to join the class instead of being completely absent like in other school,” Trương Lê Quỳnh Hoa, IT Assistant, Student of Class of 2025 shared.
A completely new model of pedagogy as an adaptive measure toward the “new normal” situation offers such great opportunities but also comes with several challenges. Like our saying at Fulbright about fixing the plane while flying it, we truly embrace and nurture the tradition of making improvements and resolving any problems that may arise throughout the course of our establishment. That spirit enables our community of leadership, faculty, administration and students to constantly learn and adapt to achieve more equality in education.
Fulbright University Vietnam is delighted to announce the publication of the second issue of the Fulbright Review of Economics and Policy (FREP), an international journal published on the platform of Emerald Publishing. Link to the journal’s inaugural issue can be found here. The second issue is a collection of the best papers selected from the FREP virtual workshop held on September 15, 2021 on the theme of “Policy responses for sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery.”
As we all know, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is more than just a global health crisis. Besides having already claimed millions of lives (WHO, 2021), it has had multi-dimensional impacts on the economy and society that have uncovered serious vulnerabilities in our national and international systems and have shown how sensitive we are to severe natural shocks and diseases (OECD, 2020).
During this unprecedented time, governments worldwide have struggled to balance the goal of saving lives with that of keeping the economy open. Fiscal and monetary stimulus programs have been introduced to ease the economic depression and to relieve the burden on people, especially disadvantaged populations. At the heart of the pandemic responses are governments around the world, which have proven their vital role in mitigating the immediate and long-term impacts of COVID-19.
Even though the pandemic is far from over, it is about time we reflect on several lessons and experiences that would help us move forward into the future. Calls for resilient and sustainable recovery have arisen with the clamor to “Build Back Better,” which urges resilient, inclusive and environment-friendly recovery post-disaster (Hallegatte, Rentschler, &Walsh, 2018). In this sense, governments’ post-pandemic policies and actions should target more than just economic revitalization but the other aspects of public governance, public service delivery, green development and social equality and justice.
In the FREP virtual workshop on “Policy responses for sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery,” Fulbright University Vietnam was able to gather many speakers and participants from across the globe to present and lead insightful discussions on policy responses to issues on equitable development, economic or fiscal resilience, climate change, sustainable climate finance, single-parent families, mental health education, community-based and -driven approaches during the lockdowns and early periods of the pandemic and their interlinkages for a sustainable post-COVID-19 recovery path. The speakers presented their insightful analyses of the COVID-19’s significant impact on policies: how different governments responded to the pandemic would signify the route to recovery.
FREP is Emerald Publishing’s new journal in the fields of economics and public policy. FREP is a peer-reviewed, open-access international scientific research journal that aims to promote publications that employ rigorous analytical tools and advocate for evidence-based policy. The journal is hosted by the Fulbright School of Public Policy and Management at Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) and sponsored by FUV.
My beloved students,
Yet another extraordinary school year has ended at Fulbright. As I write these words, I recall the many emotions shared by our Fulbright community members during last year’s End of Year Celebration. On that occasion, we gathered to look back on the Co-Design year, which had been marked by both immense excitement and trepidation. It was those experiences that had helped us grow and prepared us for an ever-changing world.
This year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we are not able to gather on Crescent Campus. I believe, though, that more than ever, on this special day, we are together in spirit. I write this letter in honor of the tradition we have started: the end of the school year remains an opportunity for the Fulbright community to reflect on the moments that have shaped us throughout the past year and to prepare ourselves for the years ahead.
While the Co-Design Year has taught us to survive and thrive under uncertainty, the unprecedented nature of the current crisis once again underscores the importance of being equipped to deal with the unknown.
The first lesson I want to share with you is something perhaps we have all heard before. To quote Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.” What we have witnessed during this crisis has reinforced his view: individuals and communities that are willing to adapt to unexpected circumstances are most likely to weather the storm.
Thus far, Covid-19 has proved to be the most difficult test to the resilience of our Fulbright community members. You might still recall how anxious we all were as we were forced to close our campus for months. There was a lot of debate over our decision to move an entire quarter four online, embracing a form of learning for which even the global higher education community is not fully prepared. But pushing past our initial misgivings, Fulbright faculty and students have co-designed an exciting online learning experience, all the while maintaining the community spirit of “learning together, growing together.”
In the process of adapting to these sudden changes, we have learned a valuable second lesson: resources are not the most important factor when solving a problem. Instead, the wise allocation of resources is the true factor that determines success. Vietnam is its living proof. While many developed countries in the world still suffer the catastrophic impacts of Covid-19, Vietnam, with its remarkably limited financial and healthcare resources, has overcome the epidemic without a single casualty. As international experts explained, the strategic and decisive allocation of resources to early prevention measures is at the root of Vietnam’s success.
In a recent discussion with U.S. university leaders, President of Harvard University Lawrence Bacow underscored this point. The challenges of Covid-19, he believed, have prompted the university community worldwide to seek to “do more with less resources.” This statement by the head of the school with the most abundant resources in the world is a meaningful reminder to the Fulbright community. “Doing more with less” is more than a solution to the immediate crisis. It will be our compass as we navigate a turbulent future.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought us more than just hardships. It has also revealed acts of kindness from compassionate people all around us – people we do not always recognize in ordinary times. Moreover, social distancing has allowed us to slow down, to spend more time with our loved ones, and to take better care of the community we live in. There is also beauty in finding each other in our most genuine and vulnerable moments – when we met online, for instance, with our bare faces, messy hair, or wrinkled clothes.
More than ever before, the pandemic has caused us to value deeply the community we are building together. Love, mutual care, and even sacrifice for the community have allowed Vietnam and many Asian countries to overcome the first wave of the pandemic. Similarly, our solidarity, civic-mindedness, and sense of belonging are the forces that help Fulbright overcome this crisis with confidence and excitement.
This Fall, Fulbright will open its doors to our new students. As we watch the Fulbright community continue to grow, I hope each of us will warmly welcome our new members with love, care, and encouragement, much as Fulbright community has done for two decades.
I wish you a summer filled with joy and meaningful projects!
Dam Bich Thuy
President of Fulbright University Vietnam