Pandemic Year Calls for New Global Pedagogies: Academic Innovation in the ROSE Program

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Group photo of ROSE students and parents in banquet room
Thursday, August 5th

In the spring of 2020, Rutgers Global knew that the University needed to pivot in order to retain our sizable international student population who would be unable to come to New Jersey due to the travel and immigration restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The goal was to try to find an alternative to an online-only curriculum for international first-year students, which would offer rigorous pedagogical and curricular opportunities. A solution came in the form of the Rutgers Overseas Semester Experience (ROSE) program, which launched in June 2020 and offered students from China the opportunity to experience their first semester at partner university campuses in three major cities in China: Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. ROSE proved to be a success, and continued for the entire 2020-2021 academic year, enrolling almost 450 first-year incoming international students. 

Beyond the many logistical issues of administering a Rutgers program at a partner institution in another country during a pandemic, there were plenty of academic and pedagogical challenges to tackle to recreate an authentic Rutgers learning experience for students thousands of miles away. The ROSE academic team at Rutgers Global, led by Dr. Fang Du, Assistant Dean for Curriculum Integration, collaborated with multiple academic and administrative units at Rutgers to create a successful academic experience for this student cohort. By employing cutting-edge pedagogy and high-impact educational practices despite the time difference, physical distance, technology glitches and other challenges, representatives of the STEM, Business, and Language Engagement Programs (LEP) programs at Rutgers worked together seamlessly and tirelessly on pedagogical and curricular explorations, course design, and assessment plans. 

Dr. Mark Ge, Program Coordinator at  Rutgers Global, shared that STEM courses such as math, computer science, physics and chemistry were offered onsite parallel to the online sessions. To ensure consistency and comparability in courses, well-designed teaching guidelines were provided to all instructors with specific teaching requirements and learning outcomes, while allowing flexibility in the assessment tools used in each course. Canvas was used as the primary course site, along with some secondary online platforms, such as Mylab, Autolab, and ELearning to provide students and faculty with easier access to textbooks, assessments, assignment/exams, and more. 

Rutgers Business School offered several business-related courses that were well received by ROSE students. According to Dr. Denis Hamilton, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice and Director of Management Education, these courses utilized adaptive, self-paced, interactive, and team-based applied learning approaches. 

The Language Engagement Project (LEP), an initiative of the Division of the Humanities in the School of Arts and Sciences, develops innovative approaches to foreign language learning in higher education. For ROSE, the LEP offered a virtual learning experience in the discipline to students, pairing small groups with Rutgers student-ambassadors. In discussing this partnership, Dr. Doaa Rashed, Associate Teaching Professor in Department of English and Director of Language Engagement Project, noted, “key goals of this experience were to affirm and enhance Rutgers’ commitment to language and culture, contribute to cross cultural awareness and understanding, and develop overall global competence.” 

Overall, a well-designed LMS, experienced multi-lingual TAs, access to other available support resources, and periodic reminders were critical in helping first-year ROSE students to overcome academic transition challenges and master college level courses. 

Research on college student success points to the first year as a critical stage to cultivate students’ study habits and sense of institutional belonging, particularly for underrepresented and international students. “After two semesters of pedagogical explorations and implementation, our assessment results indicate high levels of student satisfaction, strong student retention rate and dynamic faculty development artifacts,” said Dr. Fang Du.

But an important question must also be: what did the students think? As evidenced by the testimonials provided by ROSE students below, the innovative pedagogical and curricular approach seemed to work well. 

Student Testimonials:

ROSE Beijing
My day usually starts with a computer science or mathematics course taught by professors from Peking University, and then I will review my homework. I usually relax and rest at nighttime. I am taking Computer Science, Mathematics 135, both are onsite courses in ROSE Beijing. I am also taking online courses, such as Intro to Management and EAD II, with my Beijing ROSE peers. 

I like the atmosphere of ROSE Beijing program. We have amazing professors, the program coordinator has been helping us, and the classmates are also excellent. For me, the most challenging part is to find a balance between student activities and course study, but I think I did a good job. Peking University is one of the best universities in China, and my friends envy me.

--Haoyang Li, RBS

ROSE Shanghai 
My days at ROSE Program are always busy. Onsite courses are scheduled on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, while online courses are depending on students’ own schedules. I am taking three online courses. One of them is RU-Fit, which is an asynchronous course. The other one is Basic Composition (with reading), synchronized; the last one is Mathematics 251, another synchronous course. The onsite courses I am currently taking are Computer Science and Chemistry.

In person instruction is more convenient since remote classes are always scheduled after midnight, due to the time differences. This is a special year, and we all have experienced a lot of changes. Although this change is not what I expected, the ROSE program keeps me learning in an innovative way. It has been challenging, but I enjoy it very much. The most pleasant part is that I can spend some time in Shanghai, a new city for me in China, and I can also meet new friends and teachers.

I feel most pressure when there is a technical difficulty. The most surprising thing is that Rutgers University is working hard to provide the international students with the opportunity to study in Chinese universities and make our Rutgers experience more colorful. The ROSE program is truly great, and my experience is very international.

--Xinyue (Rita) Fan, SAS

ROSE Guangzhou 
I'm taking four remote courses, half of them are synchronized, and the other half are asynchronized. I'm also taking onsite classes, in which I can interact with classmates and professors. For me, being able to participate in the ROSE program is a special opportunity and also an honor. I enjoy the atmosphere provided by the ROSE program. I think the most challenging thing is to find the motivation to study. I have a very similar experience with my friends who are enrolled in Chinese universities, because we are all studying on Chinese campuses. Compared with those who are enrolled in foreign universities, I definitely have a better learning experience as their courses are all remote.

--Yubo Su, SOE

I want to thank Rutgers University for providing us with in person learning opportunities. As far as I know, not all international universities can provide Chinese students with similar options. Because of this, we can make many friends before we come to Rutgers University and take care of each other when we arrive in the United States. We look forward to studying at the Rutgers campus in the United States as soon as possible.

--Yifan Lv (Ivory), SAS