Launched by the University of Toronto Scarborough, the Global Classroom series brings together students from around the world in a collaborative online format for cross cultural engagement and learning.
Problems and Purpose
At this virtual workshop, student participants and activist speakers from South Africa and Canada shared their stories and ideas on the topic of food security activism during Covid-19.
Key goals of the workshop included the following:
- Create a participatory space for students to connect in new ways
- Democratizing global knowledge
- Facilitate South / North cooperative learning
- Internationalization of knowledge
- Learning from each other in crisis context
- Function democratically online
- Sense of global connection
- Hope for the future
- Re energize everyone in global classroom
Background History and Context
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Global Classroom: Food Security Design Jam was a collaboration between the University of Toronto Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa, and the Vancouver Design Nerds, BC, Canada.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Student participants were invited directly by workshop organizers, with 25 "tickets" reserved for students from South Africa and 25 for Canadian students. Eventbrite was used as a registration platform, allowing for this division of registration by country to ensure a balance of participants from both locations.
Methods and Tools Used
The Vancouver Design Nerds were hired to design and implement an engaging and participatory process for students at the Global Classroom. VDN opted to customize a Design Jam process for this event. A Design Jam is a method for collaborative idea generation. This method is rooted in Design Thinking, and provides a framework to achieve the type of global cooperative learning outlined in the goals of the Global Classroom event.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
This event required a series of key elements:
Recruitment and guidance for activist speakers
Speakers were recruited by organizers, with the intention of creating an inclusive and safe space for activists to share their lived experience related to food security during covid-19. Representatives from the universities in Canada and South Africa were responsible for this recruitment, and VDN led the process of conversation and guidance to shape and frame the storytelling experience from the speakers perspectives. We aimed for 3 key elements in each speakers' story: Challenges, Activities, and Opportunities. Challenges represented the obstacles to food security being experienced, Activities were the specific actions being undertaken to address food security, and Opportunities were the possible actions that could be taken in the future.
Recruitment and training of student facilitators
University organizers recruited 4 students from each of the partner schools. VDN was responsible for training these 8 students to prepare them to facilitate breakout group sessions during the event. VDN presented two, thirty-minute training sessions, including onboarding to MURAL, a virtual collaborative whiteboard platform, an introduction to design thinking and the specific activities of the jam, as well as the basics of "tech hosting," or providing technical support for virtual meetings. This process not only enabled the Global Classroom event to be more productive and engaging, but the students are also now able to put this skillset on their resume as "honourary design nerds." Student facilitators were remunerated for their time.
Participatory process design and facilitation
The participatory process, or Design Jam, applied during the event was designed and facilitated by VDN. An active listening activity was introduced prior to the speakers, inviting all participants to take notes on the Challenges, Activities and Opportunities mentioned above. Speakers were given 10 minutes each, followed by approximately 35-40 minutes in breakout rooms. Each breakout room was guided by 1 trained student facilitator, who led 4 participatory activities using the MURAL platform:
- Onboarding to MURAL
- Introductions + Synthesis
- Dialogue Q1
- Dialogue Q2
Following these activities, VDN led an open "share back" where participants were invited to un-mute themselves and speak to the insights generated in their breakout group activities and dialogue. An anonymous option to share was additionally provided using the survey platform Mentimeter.
Professional "tech hosting" for virtual event
Finally, since the event took place virtually on Zoom, VDN provided tech hosting services to ensure a smooth technical experience online.