Online Summer Programme in Japanese Cultural Studies

In July and August, the Centre for Japanese Studies at the UEA and SISJAC would typically run not one but two residential summer programmes, funded by the Toshiba International Foundation and the Ishibashi Foundation. This is no typical year, however, and unfortunately we were forced to cancel both programmes due to the ongoing pandemic. Given how valuable our participants find these programmes, we were not content offering nothing this summer and instead used this as an opportunity to try something new. We decided to run our first ever entirely online programme, taking advantage of the wealth of platforms, tools and pedagogic strategies that are available and which have become increasingly important as universities switch to remote delivery.

On 16th July, we announced the Online Summer Programme in Japanese Cultural Studies, which drew the highest number of hits on the website this year so far. The programme received 355 applications from a diverse range of applicants, including undergraduates studying Japan-related programmes, PhD students, senior academics, and those with a personal interest in Japan. Applications came from 50 countries across the world, with a significant number coming from central and eastern European countries, our typical area of focus for the Japan Orientation programme, as well as a notable number of UK-based participants. The largest numbers of applications came from India and Poland, with 60 applications from each country. India is a growing market for HE recruitment in the UK and until now SISJAC has not had much engagement with students and scholars in the country. The programme itself ran over two weeks, from 27th July to 7th August. Each day focused on a different topic, featuring a live seminar on Zoom from a leading expert in the discipline. Participants were required to complete five hours’ worth of content per day, including videos, readings and online discussions, in order to receive a certificate of participation. 180 participants received their certificates, which were well deserved after such an intensive fortnight!

The high calibre of the participants is best represented by their “pecha kucha” presentations. Participants were asked to submit a short 3-minute-long video presentation on one of five themes discussed during the course of the programme. The submissions were all of exceptionally high quality and the presentations all completely different, representing the diverse interests of the group. We offered prizes for the best in each of the five categories, but it was incredibly hard to make this decision.

While next year we hope to be able to run our programmes as usual, the Online Summer Programme showed that not only could an online alternative work, it could be hugely successful. Online study is becoming increasingly commonplace, not only because of present restrictions, but also because of the opportunities that they present. Online, we were able to offer the programme to a significantly higher number of people than we normally could and were also able to attract participants from countries with which we have not previously engaged.

The success of the Online Summer Programme demonstrates that SISJAC has an important part to play in promoting Japanese Studies on the global stage, and there is no doubt that this is the first of more online activities to come.

Dr Christopher J. Hayes
Japanese Projects Assistant, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures

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