Coming into this class, I had no idea what to expect. I am a business major with no real background or former knowledge on the conflict in Jerusalem, and initially was only taking this class to get my general education credits that were required. After being in this class all semester, writing blog posts, reading articles, watching documentaries, and listening to the thoughts and opinions of my classmates, I can say that I have walked away from this class having actually learned something, which I cannot say about every class that I’ve taken during my time here at IU. I am walking away with a better understanding of a very complicated topic, and also with a new-found initiative to try to stay better informed on what is going on across the globe. This paper focuses on my personal reflections on the class—my likes and dislikes—and any suggestions I may have to better the course in the future.
The one thing that I think that I enjoyed the most about this class was listening to the thoughts and opinions of my classmates during class discussions. As someone who has absolutely zero knowledge on this topic, listening to students who have a real passion for Jerusalem and the conflict surrounding the city was a very enlightening experience for me. We had the privilege of listening to stories from students who have actually traveled to Jerusalem, and also got to listen to a student speak about the struggles that she faced being considered a Palestinian citizen. These discussions and stories really helped me better understand the conflict and put things into perspective for me. I hope that, if anything, these class discussions continue in future classes and hopefully happen more frequently.
Another part of the class that I really enjoyed was listening to scholars we got the opportunity to interact with during the video conferences. I enjoyed listening to their thoughts and opinions about the different topics we had been discussing, and I feel like it was another way for me to really learn about different aspects of the conflict. I also enjoyed listening to the questions that some of my classmates posed to the people that we spoke with.
The group projects that we did at the end of the semester were all very beneficial. I think that being broken down into smaller groups helped stimulate more conversation on the topics that we were discussing in class, and it also made it easier for some students to voice their opinions without having to do so in front of a larger group of people. I enjoyed watching the presentations and seeing the different types of media that students used to present their topics. I liked that everyone got to choose something that they felt was important to them—or something that they could personally connect to when it comes to the conflict in Jerusalem. All of the presentations were very stimulating and I feel like I came away with better knowledge of different aspects of the conflict. I strongly believe that these group presentations should continue in future Living In Jerusalem classes to come.
Although I sometimes found it to be a pain, I do think that the class blogs made a valuable contribution to this class. For me personally, it was much easier for me to discuss my thoughts and opinions on the blog than it was to discuss in class. I could freely state my opinions without feeling like what I was saying was inadequate compared to some students in the class who have very extensive knowledge on this topic. I also enjoyed viewing other students’ blogs. Many went above and beyond what was required when it came to posting. I saw many students post videos and photographs that they thought were appropriate for the class to see, and I thought that was very enlightening. I think that it would have been beneficial if the students who posted these extra videos and photographs got to share them in class so everyone was aware of what they were posting, in case some students had not viewed other blogs. I also think that requiring students to comment on three different blog posts every week turned out to be less beneficial than what we thought they would be. I feel as though most people were commenting on blogs because they had to fulfill the requirement, and not because they had a valuable response or opinion to contribute. Maybe limiting the comments to one a week would be more beneficial, and we would see more thought-provoking comments and questions instead of the standard ‘I agree’ or ‘I disagree.’
Although this class had many very strong parts, other aspects of this course were not as beneficial. I am sure I will not be the first or last person to say this, but Karen Armstrong’s book was very difficult to read and understand for everyone, and even more so for students like me who have no prior knowledge of the conflict or the history of Jerusalem. Trying to keep track of the different people and places discussed in the book was very difficult, and at some points I found myself thoroughly confused as to what was going on. I think that it would be in the best interest of the class if a new book was chosen, or if there were any documentaries of a similar nature that could either supplement or completely replace reading Armstrong’s book or a book similar to it. I think that in most cases it is easier to understand something when you can visually see and hear it, instead of reading and trying to work ideas out in your head. Also, I think that watching a documentary would cut down on the time we took during the course to read Armstrong’s book, and could allow for either more class discussion or more video conferencing.
Another aspect of the class that I did not feel was very beneficial was the conferencing that we did with Ohio State at the beginning of the semester. I feel as though a lot of time was wasted at the beginning of class each day trying to set up the connection between our class and Ohio State’s, or we were waiting for Ohio State to settle into class since their class started later than ours. Although we both listened in on the video conferences, we had no real class-to-class interactions with the group from Ohio State. Also, after our video conferences were done and we began to just have class discussions, we would just immediately mute or end the connection with Ohio State at the beginning of each class. I think that if we had more interactions with them it would have been slightly more beneficial to video conference with them every day, but I believe that the way our class-to-class communication was utilized during this course was not very useful. I think that if this course continues to have this interaction with the Ohio State course, it would be more beneficial to have a combined class blog of both IU and OSU. This would stimulate more interaction between the two courses, and then maybe even stimulate class-to-class discussions via the video conferencing about topics students have blogged about. I think that having the same course going on simultaneously at another university is a very good idea, but it just needs to be better utilized for the idea to have a more beneficial impact.
Overall, I feel like this class pushed me and stretched my boundaries in ways that other classes have not. The general set-up of this class—the blogs, the video conferencing, thought-provoking in-class discussions—was very new to me, and definitely not like the normal lecture-homework-test class set-up that I am used to. Although there were set-backs when it came to using the class technology, I think that it was a good change of pace for me. I can walk away from this class with a better understanding of a topic that I formerly had no knowledge of, and I can also walk away with the realization that I need to make myself more aware of my global surroundings. I have learned a lot from the people we held video conferences with, from my professor, and most importantly from my classmates. I hope that this class continues on and that this project—in some way or another—has an impact on those who are involved.