Islamic Studies Virtual Curriculum to be offered in Fall 2015

By Amia Davis, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 19, 2014

Next year, instructors will use projector screens and laptops for more than just presenting PowerPoints and documentaries.

Starting in the Fall 2015 term, the University will expand its Islamic Studies program through a $3 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation by creating the Islamic Studies Virtual Curriculum program.

The University’s Department of Islamic Studies and the Committee on International Cooperation will govern the program, which includes all universities in the Big Ten Conference and the University of Chicago. The committees will establish courses available to all students in the CIC.

Political Science Prof. Pauline Jones Luong, director of the Islamic Studies program, said that in order to test the technology and teaching, the program will offer a small number of courses the first year. The number of courses offered will then increase yearly.

According to Luong, the courses will cover all aspects of Islam, including its theology, history and culture. The courses will be enough for students to earn an Islamic Studies minor.

“It’s going to be broad, but we want to make sure that we include courses that will be offered consistently for students,” Luong said.

Funding for the grant will last five years, but Luong said she hopes the live-streaming of courses within the CIC becomes integrated with the existing curriculum.

Most of the courses students can choose from will be offered through the University, but students can also enroll in any of the courses offered by participating CIC schools, including Northwestern University, the University of Chicago and Purdue University. If one of the courses is not offered through the University, students will have lecture either in a classroom with a large projector screen or on their own personal laptops, depending on the number of enrolled students.

“Our students are going to benefit from this because there are going to be some years where faculty are on leave and cannot teach students, but students will still be able to have access to those courses because of the virtual curriculum,” Luong said.

Loung added that creating the Islamic Studies Virtual Curriculum displays the University’s leadership — especially pertaining to education — which not only enhances the University’s Islamic Studies program, but the programs of the CIC as well.

“We’re the leader in many different ways, but one of the ways we want to be a leader is figuring out how to teach students most effectively through this medium,” Luong said.