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JAMCO Online International Symposium

30th JAMCO Online International Symposium

February 2022 - March 2022

For a Sustainable World – Responses to the COVID-19 Crisis

Readers’ Feedback

Shigeru Aoki
TV Producer
PhD Student, Tokyo Institute of Technology

The emergence of the omicron variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus from late 2021 has reignited the pandemic across the globe with no prospect yet of this alarming situation receding anytime soon. As Professor Iiyoshi rightly observed, ‘In Japan, unfortunately, the main response of universities to the pandemic has been to swing between direct and online or hybrid teaching according to the number of COVID cases.’ There is still no saying when most universities will be able to resume full face-to-face to teaching.

It is my understanding, however, that Kyoto University already possesses the basic skill – the ‘unconstrained, free-ranging tool’ (tobidogu in Japanese) which Professor Iiyoshi refers to – that is needed to overcome this crisis. This ‘unconstrained, free-ranging tool’ consists in ways of using ICT and knowledge and experience of educational innovation. Kyoto University has participated in the global edX remote university education network for more than a decade and, together with its experience of providing remote learning opportunities for Japanese people through JMOOC/Gacco, may be considered well placed to perform a leading role in the post-COVID-19 remote-learning reform of higher education both in Japan and globally.

Looking at Kyoto University’s remote KyotoUX courses, all are content-rich and highly polished. The Ethics course, for example, employs such innovative approaches for whetting the students’ interest as the use of the cartoon medium for which Japan is justly famous. The Statistics course takes up the statistical techniques required for genetic analysis, thereby conveying the subject in a deeply interesting way together with some of the latest scholarly findings in that field. The syllabuses, educational goals, study periods, etc., are also all displayed appropriately in these highly polished educational services.

Nearly twenty teaching and research staff members are introduced on the Kyoto University Center for the Promotion of Excellence in Higher Education website. The center serves as an organ for both research and university reform with its staff tackling each step from the planning of educational content to its evaluation and revision. This is very different from the many universities which have entrusted the implementation of remote teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic to only a single member of their teaching staff, and have accorded insufficient attention to producing attractive content and evaluating the content produced.

The University Social Responsibility course described in the paper is of special interest. I could not agree more with the statement that universities have ‘the responsibility to tackle and seek solutions to global economic, societal, cultural, environmental and other problems together.’ As educational institutions, they are expected to undertake recurrent and lifelong learning programs for adults, and engage actively with SDG’s and other such goals. Japanese corporations, too, have recently begun to engage more actively in corporate social responsibility (CRS) activities, and issue statements on issues ranging from social contributions to human rights problems at overseas production bases. Much is to be expected of Kyoto University’s university social responsibility initiative.

Lastly, two points not addressed in this paper should be mentioned. One is the question of what educational impact is to be expected from the educational content produced by Kyoto University. Long-term studies are required on this matter. It is very much to be hoped that the effectiveness of remote learning, its special strengths, etc., can be subjected to continuing research in order to provide clear answers this question. The other is the matter of cost. Even if the cost of producing some item of content is high, its cost-effectiveness will improve according to the more students who use it and longer it can be used. There is a great need for cost comparisons with face-to-face teaching, comparisons of educational performance, investigations of the costs entailed by the localization of language for different users, and of the personnel costs of expert staff, and so on and so forth. Multi-faceted assessments of these kinds will be required.

I believe Professor Iiyoshi and Kyoto University have much to contribute for this recent progress in uses of remote education triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic to continue in the years to come.

Shigeru Aoki

TV Producer
PhD Student, Tokyo Institute of Technology

Born in 1950, Shigeru Aoki majored in education and audio-visual education at the Yokohama National University and the Graduate School of International Christian University. He joined the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) where he was involved in a number of TV program productions as program director, senior producer, and division director at various divisions including Cultural Programs, Lifelong Learning Programs, Economy and Information Programs, NHK Archives, and School Broadcast Programs. He was temporarily transferred to Japan Broadcast Publishing Co. Ltd. (current NHK Publishing Inc.), where he was responsible for digital publication at Multimedia Promotion Office. After returning to NHK, he worked at the Programing Department and held Secretary General posts at the Japan Prize (international competition for educational content), “ABU Voyage to the Future” (international co-production project of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, ABU), and “Educational Fair”— NHK’s annual autumn festival open to the public.

He currently studies sociology of religion as a PhD student at Department of Social and Human Science, Tokyo Institute of Technology

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