The COVID-19 pandemic caused both public and private sectors to find innovative ways to continue their services this year, and the IAUNRC was no exception. During a typical academic year, both graduate assistants and graduate students give live classroom presentations by traveling to local schools or inviting teachers and students to the Hamilton Lugar School building. However, due to COVID-19 mitigation efforts being enforced by both local school districts and IU, it became clear that in-person visits would not be happening this fall. It thus became necessary to find new and creative ways to continue outreach efforts. Fortunately, a local teacher gave the IAUNRC a suggestion at the beginning of the year that was incredibly constructive.
"I contacted one of the teachers that we have worked with in the past to see if we could do a virtual lesson with her students, and she told me that she could really use videos for her e-learning network," said Emily Stranger, a graduate assistant with the IAUNRC. "The virtual lectures seemed like a given, but it hadn't crossed my mind to make videos. I thought it was a great idea."
Fortunately, the IAUNRC already had experience giving virtual presentations via the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC) network, an online platform that connects students and educators throughout the world. The IAUNRC had a library of presentations on hand, complete with scripts and PowerPoint presentations, readily available for presenters to use during CILC lectures. "It occurred to me that all we needed to do was record these presentations using video software and make them available somehow for teachers to download and use asynchronously," said Stranger. With the help of graduate assistants Mike Krautkraemer and Clare Angeroth Franks, several of the presentations were recorded.
The IAUNRC did not stop there, though. Stranger decided to take it a step further by recording "How-to" videos to accompany the craft activity packs readily available for download on the IAUNRC website. The packs, created by IAUNRC graduate assistant Cristina Palmer, provide step-by-step instructions for creating an assortment of do-it-yourself handicrafts related to Central Eurasia, including a model Mongolian ger and a Finnish himmeli. Each craft activity pack also includes detailed information about the concept behind each craft, including regional knowledge and interesting facts. You can find these craft activity packs, and an assortment of lesson plans, here: Lesson Plans: Resources: Inner Asian and Uralic National Resource Center: Indiana University Bloomington
Stranger immediately began making videos based on the activity packs. She said it was not easy at first, though. "I am not the most technologically savvy person, but it turned out to be pretty simple," she said. "First, I used my camera phone to record myself making the crafts, then I recorded myself narrating short PowerPoint presentation using the 'record' option in PowerPoint, and finally I put it all together using video editor software that came with my computer." Once Stranger finished, she created and uploaded the videos to the IAUNRC Vimeo account.
The IAUNRC continued to produce videos based on teacher requests. Several educators mentioned that their students would be interested in learning about Central Eurasian holidays, so the IAUNRC asked this year's FLAS recipients to record short, 10-minute videos about holidays in their region of study. They were quick to offer their expertise and made videos over the Thanksgiving holiday break; Alina Williams created a video about Hungarian Santa Claus, Quentin Swaryczewski fashioned one about Estonian holidays, and Jeanne McGill created a video about Finland. You can view both the craft activity videos and the videos about Central Eurasian holidays on the IAUNRC Vimeo account here IAUNRC (vimeo.com)
In a final effort to reach as many classrooms as possible, the IAUNRC began sending emails to teachers throughout Indiana that included links to both the craft activity packs online and the Vimeo account. The feedback from teachers so far has been positive. One local teacher was quick to reply after receiving the links, writing in an email: "This is amazing! Thank you so much! We've just switched to all virtual learning until January (fingers crossed), so these will definitely be useful! I just shared them with my team. Somewhere around 180 students will have access to them!"
With the possibility that a vaccine for COVID-19 will be made widely available in the spring, the IAUNRC staff are hopeful that they will once again be able to make in-person visits to classrooms throughout Indiana. In the meantime, however, the video option and virtual visits will continue to be an important facet of this year's outreach efforts. It is also likely that they will remain even once the pandemic subsides.
"I think this pandemic has really shown how much can be accomplished virtually, and I think we're going to see a lot of businesses and other entities continue to utilize virtual networks even when COVID-19 is no longer a looming threat," said Stranger. "Therefore, I think this will keep the IAUNRC on top of current trends, as well as allow us to reach an even wider audience than before."