The JDP and the COVID-19 pandemic – Spring 2021 semester update
February 16, 2021
RU and AU academic advisors have conducted several consultations with all RU JDP students that have been continuing AU classes remotely from their respective countries of residence during the fall 2020 semester. The fact many online lectures have been conducted as live sessions has been a big challenge for students based in completely different time zones. They all had to juggle time in trying to follow the classes, completing assignments, and balancing all that with their daily lives. We are appreciative of the patience and flexibility all the students have shown and admire the hard work they have achieved in adapting to this ever-challenging condition.
In the light of the still serious pandemic situation, AU has decided to continue most of its classes online in spring 2021 semester, while expanding in-person classes in select areas (such as sciences and performing arts). As it became clear that for JDP students most classes will continue online, and acknowledging the challenges of attending classes from different time zones, AU also included RU JDP students into a limited number of those who could apply for on-campus accommodation in AU for spring 2021 semester.
In discussing the prospects for spring semesters, academic advisors and administrative staff from both universities talked once again and discussed different possibilities with RU students, weighing advantages and disadvantages of the respective options. Having also consulted with their families, all JDP students from RU finally decided to continue with online classes during the spring 2021 semester as well.
The staff from both universities understands that these were no easy decisions to make. Looking ahead to the fall 2021 and beyond, we are continuing our joint efforts to look for optimal solutions that prioritise respective students’ academic progress while also taking full account of the restrictions and concerns that the on-going pandemic situation presents.
The JDP and the COVID-19 pandemic
October 15, 2020
From its very start, Ritsumeikan University’s and American University’s Joint Degree Program (JDP) aimed to cultivate globally minded leaders. The corner stone of the programme is the opportunity it provides for students to spend an equal amount of time in the US and Japan during their undergraduate degree, thus enabling them to gain a deeper understanding of both countries and cultures. For this purpose, much time invested by the academic and administrative staff involved in managing the JDP focuses on coordinating student affairs to ensure that each student can seamlessly transition between American University (AU) and Ritsumeikan University (RU), while working towards obtaining a degree that is jointly awarded by two universities.
The COVID-19 pandemic with consequential lockdowns and travel restrictions has had a tremendous impact on JDP, just as it did on so many other aspects of higher education across the world. Since February 2020, both AU and RU staff spent many hours discussing potential options for and with the students to minimize the impact on their studies. Without an end in sight, and given the constantly evolving situations in both Japan and the US, this has proven to be challenging but also revealed the unique strength of the JDP, underpinned by its ability to devise flexible solutions supported by both institutions.
While the decision to shift to web-based classes during the spring 2020 semester was taken relatively quickly by both universities, uncertainty about what the following semesters would look like remained. Relevant staff from both universities continued to plan for several scenarios and consider possible options with and for the students, while analysing implications that each of these could pose for students’ academic progress. In doing so, the RU student advising team organised several meetings with its JDP students, who were supposed to continue their studies in the US. While most students wanted to continue their studies at AU as usual, whether on-campus classes could be a possibility when the semester resumed remained a big question. That is why, all efforts were made to keep the possibility for physical travel for those who wished, and to explore other options at the same time. These included taking AU courses online, exceptionally changing the sequences of semesters that students take at AU and RU
(for the normal sequence of semesters see here
), or taking a leave of absence while ensuring that students face no disadvantages when they resume their studies.
When the AU made the decision to cancel all of its study abroad programs and offer all fall semester courses online with no on-campus experience, it became clear that unfortunately RU’s JDP students could not travel to US, and AU’s JDP students could not come to Japan. Consequently, the RU students opted for taking AU classes online, while AU students decided to change their semester sequences or to take a leave of absence.
Regardless which path students opted for, these were tough decisions to make. In responding to this challenging situation, the advisor teams from both universities continued to work tirelessly to assist students and their guardians to make informed decision and to help keep students on track academically, despite prevailing uncertainty on many fronts.
In the light of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, co-existing with this virus requires all of us to take difficult steps to navigate the uncertain times ahead. Meanwhile, staff from RU and AU is aware that many lessons have to be continuously learned from the responses so far and remains committed to analysing what worked well and what needs improvement as we move forward.